Army called in to secure capital

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"They have fired tear gas shells [at security forces], they also cut the fibre optic cables of cameras that were monitoring their protest".

It's unclear why Pakistan would block social media sites, but it could be related to recent protests in the country.

The protesters have been blocking the Islamabad expressway, the main road into the capital, since November 8, demanding the resignation of Federal Law Minister Zahid Hamid over a perceived softening of the state's position on blasphemy.

Hamid initiated a change to electoral laws that altered the wording of an oath sworn by lawmakers.

TRT World's Liz Maddock reports.

8500 police and paramilitary rangers and frontier corps were deployed to clear the demonstrators. Protesters said four of their activists had been killed, but police said there had been no deaths.

By nightfall, small protests had spread to other cities, with gatherings and limited clashes reported from Pakistan's largest city, Karachi, as well as in Lahore, Gujranwala and Faisalabad.

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While Facebook, Twitter and Youtube were blocked across Pakistan on internet browsers, Geo.tv had received reports from certain users who are still able to access the services.

Markets and shops were closing in the megacity, Pakistan's commercial hub, as alarmed residents stayed inside while clerics called for more demonstrators to come and help protect the dignity of the Prophet Mohammed.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) ordered private television channels to go off air during the clash, besides blacking out social media.

The army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, advised Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Saturday to "handle the Islamabad dharna peacefully".

As the dialogue failed to produce any results, we also saw Islamabad High Court issuing contempt of court notice to Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal for failing to end the sit-in, which we, understand should have been issued to the organisers of the protestors who were not ready to show any flexibility in their stance having no basis as their demands were also already met by not only restoring Khatam-i-Nabuwwat laws but making them more effective. The police action and reaction from protesters, who camped out at the venue for the last 20 days, sent scores of injured police and protesters to hospitals with injuries caused by stoning and respiratory problems from tear gas.

The sit-in had previously cost the life of an eight-year-old child whose ambulance could not reach a hospital in time due to the blocked roads.

"Politically driven procrastination has its own costs and this is what the government is paying", analyst Imtiaz Gul said.

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