ISLAMABAD: Several religious parties “contacted India” as deadly clashes ensued between Islamic protesters and police and paramilitary forces on Saturday that killed at least one person and injured 200. The Pakistani government later called in the army to control the situation.The country’s Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal claimed that protesters “contacted India”.
“Why they did it, we are looking into it. They have inside information and resources that are being used against the state,” Iqbal told a Pakistani daily Dawn News.
The admission came amid intense scrutiny faced by the country from several international quarters over sheltering terror outfits.
Earlier on Thursday, Mumbai blasts mastermind Hafiz Saeed was released from jail in Pakistan. India and US strongly condemned the act, with the later calling for his immediate re-arrest and prosecution.
“They are not your average citizens. We can see that they have various resources at their disposal. They have fired tear gas shells [at security forces], they also cut the fibre optic cables of cameras that were monitoring their protest,” added Iqbal.
At least 200 persons, including 137 security personnel, were injured in the clashes as police tried to disperse the demonstration on Saturday. Forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets and demonstrators blocked roads and burned police vehicles around the site of the sit-in. As the violence intensified, protests sprouted in the major cities of Lahore and Karachi, as well as smaller towns across the country.
The interior minister claimed that the government, acting on court’s order, was trying to evict protesters from Faizabad since last Friday.
“We have made all peaceful efforts, but we are forced to act as the group has not budged. These people do not know that anti-Pakistan elements are using this to spread malice against Pakistan,” said Iqbal.
“We are all Muslims and believe in Khatm-i-Nabuwwat. There is no threat to Khatm-i-Nabuwwat,” he asserted.
“Khatm-i-Nabuwwat” – an oath that election candidates must swear – is what triggered the clashes.
Pakistan`s law minister Zahid Hamid reportedly amended a clause in the oath. Protesters allege that the changed clause is regarding belief in the finality of Prophethood. Demonstrators have linked it to blasphemy – a highly contentious issue in Muslim Pakistan – and claim the oath was softened to enable the participation of Ahmadis, a long-persecuted Islamic minority sect.
It is a charge that Hamid has denied. “God forbid, we can’t even think of doing such a thing.”
With AFP and PTI inputs