Photographer: Aamir Qureshi/AFP via Getty Images

Pakistan Calls Army Into Besieged Capital Days Before Bond Sale

  • Military deployment "preventive measure" after violent clash
  • Roadshows on for overseas bond sale to bridge widening deficit

Pakistan’s federal government called in the army to help police control deadly Islamist protests in the capital city, just days before the nation attempts to push through a crucial overseas bond sale.

Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa

Photographer: Aamir Qureshi/AFP via Getty Images

Authorities fear escalating violence and the military deployment is a "preventive measure" after two policemen were killed and several people injured in clashes Saturday, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal said by phone. The troops will be deployed in Islamabad and the adjacent city of Rawalpindi, which is where the army headquarters are based, he said.

Earlier on Saturday, army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa called Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on the phone and suggested handling the protest peacefully, army spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor said on Twitter. The government also suspended the broadcast of all non-state television channels as protests spread to other cities including second biggest Lahore and the financial hub of Karachi.

"We are aware of reports that the Pakistani government has taken action to block Twitter service, as well as other social media services, and that users are having difficulty using Twitter in Pakistan," Twitter’s public policy team wrote on its account at about 10:30 p.m. in Islamabad. "We are monitoring the situation and hope service will be fully restored soon."

Clerics and supporters of a little-known right-wing religious group -- Tehreek-e-Labaik -- have been blocking a main highway for more than two weeks, effectively besieging Islamabad. The group is demanding the resignation of Law Minister Zahid Hamid for making changes to an oath lawmakers have to take. Hamid tweaked a declaration that Muhammad is the last prophet of Islam -- a move seen to accommodate the persecuted minority Ahmadiyya Muslim sect, which believes in an additional prophet after Muhammad. Within days, the government withdrew the change in the oath, fearing a backlash by religious groups.

Tehreek-e-Labaik protester throws a tear gas shell back towards police.

Photographer: Aamir Qureshi/AFP via Getty Images

Police have failed to clear the protesters despite an order from the high court to end the protest. The Finance Ministry and central bank officials are currently holding roadshows to issue global bonds and sukuk in the coming week, to help bridge widening deficits and prop up declining dollar reserves.

— With assistance by Ismail Dilawar

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