ISLAMABAD: The army was called in to secure key buildings on Constitution Avenue after participants of Mumtaz Qadri’s chehlum overran the federal capital as they marched on Parliament House on Sunday night.

Protesters clashed with police and other law-enforcement personnel all day long. According to a police estimate, at least 60 people were injured in clashes with the unruly mob. They included 13 FC, 11 Rangers and 17 police personnel.

Law-enforcement agencies put up feeble resistance as they fired teargas at protesters from afar. The demonstrators marched from Liaquat Bagh in Rawalpindi, where the chehlum was held, and forced their way into Islamabad, removing the containers put in place to block their path.

The mob ransacked everything in their path to Parliament House, wrecking metro bus stations and damaging vehicles as well as private and public property on their way. The demonstrators then congregated at D-Chowk, the same spot where PTI’s sit-in was held in 2014.

However, as protesters breached the high-security Red Zone at around 9pm, military spokesperson Lt Gen Asim Bajwa announced on Twitter that “Army has been requisitioned by the govt to control situation and secure Red Zone.”

Additional Deputy Commissio­ner retired Capt Sattar Rasani told Dawn that the army was called in to protect important buildings such as Parliament House, the Presidency, the Prime Minister’s House and the Supreme Court, under Article 245 of the Constitution.

He said this was the second time the military had been requisitioned in the federal capital after it was called in to defend these buildings during the PTI sit-in in 2014.

Reporters at the scene described the military deployment, saying that soldiers had gathered near the Pakistan Secretariat by around 10pm, but did not engage the protesters.

By midnight, several thousand protesters had gathered in D-Chowk and laid a charter of 10 demands before the authorities. They insisted that all Sunni leaders and clerics, who were in prison on various charges, should be released forthwith and that Mumtaz Qadri should be ackno­wledged as a martyr by the state.

Although PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari condemned the violence on the streets of the capital, no government functionary, including Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, issued any statement regarding the melee that ensued in the capital on Sunday.

Published in Dawn, March 28th, 2016