Pakistan calls in army as Islamabad protests turn violent

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The security forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets as the protesters continued to block the roads to Islamabad.

The court said the protesters tortured policemen while a report submitted by the IG police said a child lost his life because he could not get medical treatment due to road blockades.

In an unprecedented move, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority ordered all private television channels to go off air for airing a live feed of the police action on the protesters.

The developments come hours after, amid tough resistance and nationwide protests, security forces suspended the crackdown on the Islamabad protesters, who had been blocking the main entrance from the city of Rawalpindi to the capital since early November.

Roughly 8,500 elite police and paramilitary troops in riot gear began clearing the 2,000 or so demonstrators that have occupied the Faizabad interchange for over two weeks, soon after dawn.

As the clashes intensified, Pakistan's powerful military chief phoned the prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to urge the situation be handled "peacefully", military spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor said on Twitter.

Recent reports suggest that protestors have returned to Faizabad Exchange, where they are being addressed by their leaders.

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Dawn said nearly 8,000 security personnel started operation at 7 am after last deadline ended on Saturday.

"We can see that they have various resources at their disposal".

Later in the day, security forces appeared to face difficulty clearing the crucial intersection as more and more supporters joined protesters at the site, a bridge between the capital and Rawalpindi.

The protesters have been demanding the resignation of Pakistan's law minister Zahid Hamid over changes made in the finality of prophethood oath in the Elections Act 2017 passed in September 2017.

Protesters in groups of various sizes also took to the streets in Lahore, Faisalabad, Multan, Khanewal, Layyah, Vihari, Dera Ghazi Khan and others cities in Punjab province and in the northwestern city of Peshawar, as well as in southern city of Hyderabad, to show solidarity with the Islamabad protesters.

Smaller demonstrations were breaking out in Lahore and other cities, according to local media.