Protests erupted across Pakistan on Saturday, compelling the government to call out army troops and paramilitary rangers after nightfall to restore order in cities and towns filled with angry crowds.
The nationwide protests developed after security forces in the capital launched a crackdown on thousands of religious demonstrators. Conflict began when police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at demonstrators camped on a highway interchange outside Islamabad, who fought back with clubs and stones. Hundreds of injuries were reported, with at least two people dead, according to accounts.
The demonstrators called for a federal minister to be fired over a religious controversy, but by midday, many protesters were demanding that entire government step down. By evening, police had retreated and the protesters had regrouped, with more supporters joining them.
The protests began over a proposed change in election laws that weakened an oath that all candidates for public office must repeat, swearing they believe that Muhammad was the final prophet. Pakistan’s population is 95 percent Muslim.
The government swiftly apologized for the “clerical error,” but the protest leaders continued to push for the firing of the law minister, Zahid Hamid.
The protests were spearheaded by a movement dedicated to defending the honor of Muhammad and the country’s strict laws against religious blasphemy.
2017, The Washington Post · Nov 26, 2017 -