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Islamabad Issues Ultimatum to Rioting Mob

by AFP
Aamir Qureshi—AFP

Aamir Qureshi—AFP

Security sources say if the mob does not disperse, law enforcement agencies will forcibly remove them.

Islamabad deployed thousands of police and paramilitary forces after giving a rioting mob of Islamists two hours to disperse a days-long sit-in on the streets of the capital, sources told AFP on Tuesday.

Several thousand demonstrators have been camped at Islamabad’s main Constitution Avenue close to key government buildings, including the presidency and parliament, since late Sunday. Supporters of executed assassin Mumtaz Qadri, who was hung on Feb. 29, say they have submitted a list of demands including the execution of a female Christian blasphemy convict.

“An operation will be conducted if the participants of dharna do not disperse in a few hours,” a security source said on condition of anonymity. “Leaders of the protesters have been given a notice in this regard,” he said, adding that they had been given two hours to disperse. If they do not, he said, “law enforcement agencies shall take action” by removing them.

A legal notice issued to the mob and seen by AFP accused them of attempting “to frustrate the government’s drive against terrorism.”

A police source said more than 5,000 security forces would be deployed, including the paramilitary Rangers and Frontier Corps with reinforcements from the Punjab police. Army troops are already standing guard at government buildings near the protest site.

Qadri was hanged for killing then Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer over his call for blasphemy reform. But the execution has exposed deep religious divisions in the conservative country of 200 million. An estimated 25,000 supporters of Qadri forced their way into the capital Sunday from Rawalpindi, where they had gathered to offer prayers for the former police bodyguard.

By evening they were engaged in violent clashes with police and paramilitary troops, who used heavy tear-gas shelling in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent them from pushing closer to the city center.

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