Top civil and military officials on Sunday decided against the use of force to disperse protesters in Islamabad, opting instead to engage in political negotiations with agitators in the capital, a highly-placed source told LiveNews2.
There has been no official confirmation of the development.
Chief of Army Staff Qamar Jawed Bajwa, who flew in from the United Arab Emirates, attended the over two-hour-long meeting headed by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, along with Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal and Director-General (DG) Inter-Services Intelligence Naveed Mukhtar.
The officials decided to engage in protest leaders “with influence”, the source said, adding that the use of force against protesters has been discouraged in favour of a political settlement.
The meeting was held at Prime Minister House to discuss the unstable law and order situation in the capital in the aftermath of a botched operation to disperse protesters at the Faizabad Interchange on Saturday.
Rangers were given charge of the Faizabad operation today in a bid to control the chaos in the capital. Around 1,000 Rangers personnel, who were deployed in Islamabad yesterday, have been repositioned to the frontlines of the security operation.
Islamabad police and FC personnel, who were yesterday on the frontlines, have been relegated to back positions, as decided in a meeting of police, capital administration and Rangers officials on Saturday night.
News channels to be restored: Pemra
It was decided in the top-level meeting that private TV news channels ─ which had been taken off-air for about 28 hours ─ would be permitted to go on air again, LiveNews2 reported.
Pemra issued a notification to this effect after the meeting, saying that all news and current affairs satellite TV channels have “immediately been restored”.
“All distribution networks have been directed to restore these channels on their original positions immediately,” the Pemra press release said.
The federal government also issued a policy directive asking Pemra to take channels off air if they violate the agreed-upon guidelines regarding coverage of the Faizabad sit-in in Islamabad, as well as protests elsewhere in the country.
The guidelines have been sent to the Pakistan Association of Broadcasters, the Pemra statement added.
Schools, universities closed
The All-Pakistan Private Schools Federation (APPSF) announced that all private schools would remain closed on Monday and Tuesday, Nov 27 and 28, in light of the “prevailing situation”. They are expected to reopen on Wednesday, Nov 29, according to APPSF President Kashif Mirza.
The Punjab government on Sunday said all public and private schools, colleges and universities in the province would remain closed on Nov 27 and 28 as per a Higher Education Department notification.
The Islamabad administration also issued directives that all educational institutions would be closed on Monday and Tuesday, LiveNews2 reported.
On Saturday, a day-long operation was launched by the Islamabad police, with the help of Frontier Constabulary (FC) personnel and other law enforcement agencies, against religious protesters who have all but paralysed the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi for over a fortnight.
Saturday’s operation culminated with the Interior Ministry sending out a formal requisition for the deployment of military troops in Rawalpindi and Islamabad.
The Pakistan Army on Sunday morning said that it is “fully ready” to assist the federal government in an operation against protesters who remain camped out at the Faizabad Interchange even after the operation.