Pakistani police warn Islamist rally to disband within hours

AP News
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Posted: Nov 17, 2017 9:16 AM
Pakistani police warn Islamist rally to disband within hours

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistani police on Friday warned an Islamist rally near the capital, Islamabad, to disband within hours to avoid a crackdown but the estimated 5,000 protesters appeared unfazed.

The warning came a day after a court asked the rally organizers — the small Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah party — to end the days-long protest that has disrupted life in Islamabad and inconvenienced commuters, forcing them to find alternate routes.

The demonstrators began camping out last week at the main Faizabad crossing, which links the garrison city of Rawalpindi with Islamabad. They have been demanding the removal of the country's law minister, Zahid Hamid, over a recently omitted reference to the Prophet Muhammad in a constitutional bill.

Hamid has apologized, saying it was a clerical mistake that was later corrected. Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal has dismissed the protesters' "unreasonable demand" for Hamid's ouster.

On Friday, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, who runs the party behind the rally, told the gathering that he would not end his demonstration until Hamid is fired.

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The rally has drawn criticism from residents in both Islamabad and Rawalpindi.

"These extremists are occupying a main road," said Syed Kumail, who works for a private firm and commutes from Rawalpindi to Islamabad. "Life has become miserable for me because of this."

The police have put up shipping containers and road blocks to prevent the rally from pushing deeper into Islamabad.