As security forces, including the Islamabad Police and the Frontier Constabulary, started operation on Friday morning to clear the main interchange from the protesters of the religious groups, including Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYR). In their first attempt the law enforcers had succeeded to vacate some of the area.
But protestors later forced the security forces to retreat because the law enforcers doing duties in the first tier could not get support from the second line of defence and made a failed attempt to clear the main entry and exit point of Islamabad and Rawalpindi from protesters who are demanding resignation of law minister.
The main Faizabad Interchange remained a battleground for hours but till Saturday afternoon, the first tier of FC and police personnel had succeeded to force the protesters to run away from the main area over the Faizabad Bridge because of heavy baton charge and tear gas shelling.
The FC and Islamabad as well as Rawalpindi police had launched the operation from four sides — Express Way, Sohan Area, Club Road and Inter Junction Principal (IJP) Road - and the forces from all sides were led by a superintendent of police.
Soon after the protesters gain strength in numbers as many of the seminaries students and some youth of the Rawalpindi joined them and attacked the FC and police, the first tier of the security personnel had become tired by that time. They kept on waiting for fresh enforcements but till the time the FC and police personnel standing in the second and third tiers had withdrawn from their positions because of heavy tear gas shelling. As a result of no coordination between them, the first tier had to retreat .
The contingents of police and FC looked disappointed and dejected because of the weak chain of command of Islamabad police and the Islamabad Capital Territory Administration (ICT).
A police official wishing anonymity said Faizabad operation had repeated the episode of the police action made on the night of August 30, 2014 when the protesters of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Pakistan Awami Tehreek had attempted to attack the parliament. He said that police had succeeded to disperse the protesters from the main Constitution Avenue but because of the weak coordination and ill-planning, the protesters got a chance to reinforce and police had to move back. “We are very disappointed with the way the police high command had dealt with the protesters as dozens of our colleagues had sustained serious injuries,” the official said.
The police and FC personnel despite their serious efforts failed to capture the main stage established by the TLYR leader on the bridge of the Faizabad Interchange. Secondly, the police failed to disconnect the sound system of the main stage and during the operation, TLYR leadership started fiery speeches to boost up the morale of their followers.
On Saturday evening, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal appeared on a number of TV channels and defended the operation, saying the protesters were falling prey to a foreign conspiracy against the country. The protesters had inside information, which the general public did not have and resources that are being used against the state, he said.
He at the same time said the government was still open to negotiations with the leaders of the protesters. He said the government had made utmost efforts to resolve the matter peacefully but to no avail. A number of warnings were given to them before the crackdown. He added the protesters wanted chaos and anarchy in the country.
The minister said there was no justification for the protest as the Khatm-e-Nabuwwat law had already been strengthened by the parliament.
The minister stressed the government had started operation to clear the sit-in as part of its legal obligations after the Islamabad High Court ordered the capital administration to vacate the area. He said that the government was trying to clear the area with the use of minimum violence as they needed to ensure the fundamental rights of people of twin cities.