ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa will hold an important meeting today to discuss the situation in Islamabad, sources said.
The two will discuss the sit-in being held on the Faizabad Interchange by a religious group, which has entered its 21st day today despite the commencement of a security forces operation on Saturday.
The army chief was on a visit to the United Arab Emirates and cut short his trip to reach the country last night, sources said.
Govt orders Army deployment
The Ministry of Interior issued Saturday night a statutory regulatory order (SRO) to authorize the deployment of the Pakistan Army to aid civil power to control the law and order situation in the Islamabad Capital Territory.
The SRO — issued in light of the request of the Islamabad Capital Territory Islamabad Administration, dated November 25, issued by the ministry under Article 245 of the Constitution, read along with Sections 4 and 5 of the Anti-Terrorism Act and section 131-A of the Cr.P.C — authorized “the deployment of sufficient number of troops” as “to be determined by the Commander 111 Brigade” in effect from November 25 until further orders.
In response, however, the Pakistan Army said while its troops are “fully ready to perform the assigned task in line with its institutional obligations”, there are “few aspects meriting deliberation prior to the deployment”.
The police force “has not been optimally utilized to its full capability” in “dealing with [the]protestors”, the Army noted.
In addition, “Pakistan Rangers, backing […] police as 2nd tier force physically deployed with police in Islamabad, have not been given written instructions as agreed for their employment.”
The Army added that its troops are “traditionally not just used for dispersal of crowd/protestors but to quell commotion”.
Therefore, their deployment “needs to be clarified in the context of item 6 of Supreme Court judgment dated November 23, 2017, with regards to civil petition no 2983 of 2016 (Sher Jamal and others vs Wali Sardar and others)”.
Also, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) “restrains [the]use of ‘firearms’ during clearance operation”, as per Item 8 of its “judgment of writ petition number 3914 of 2017”.
The operation that had commenced early Saturday morning to clear Faizabad Interchange from protestors staging a sit-in was put on hold later in the day — suspended at approximately 2:30 PM local time, according to reports.
The situation, nevertheless, remains tense in the federal capital. Protests in various parts of the country have also erupted after the operation started.
The protests are being held against the change in the finality-of-Prophethood oath in the law when the government passed the Elections Act 2017 last month.
The change — dubbed a clerical error by the government — was immediately fixed as an amendment was passed later.