As negotiations between the protesters, led by the little-known hardline group Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah Pakistan, and the authorities broke down last night, thousands of policemen and paramilitary troops fired tear gas and rubber bullets at the crowd and burnt their camps in Faizabad. He said none of the police carried firearms to avoid loss of life, instead using tear gas and a water cannon to disperse the protesters, although witnesses said a police van came under attack and was set on fire after two police officers aimed assault rifles at protesters.
Associated Press quoted Pakistan's hospital officials as saying that more than 100 people were injured during the operation, a lot of them from police.
Protests also have spread to nine other cities and towns, including Pakistan's southern port city of Karachi.
The government swiftly apologized for the "clerical error", but the protest leaders continued to push for further action, especially the firing of the law minister, Zahid Hamid.
Zubair Ahmed, a spokesperson of the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan, said the protest would not be called off until the demands of the protesters were met. While the local hospitals have confirmed that most of the injured Islamists have already been released 20 protestors are still admitted with serious injuries. The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority ordered suspension for violating media regulations displaying live coverage of a security operation, the statement said by the regulator. Some protesters could be seen throwing stones at police.
At least one person was killed and over 200 injured after police moved in to break "blasphemy" protests.. The images showed an area engulfed in thick smoke from tear gas and black smoke from burned tents.
About 100 protesters were arrested Saturday, said Fakhar Sultan, a police officer in Rawalpindi city.
Five motorcycles and one auto belonging to the police personnel were set alight by the protesters, police said, adding that the vehicles were personal property. They also ransacked a newly built metro bus terminal near the venue.
State television stations reported that security forces had temporarily suspended their operations.
However officials are quoted in other reports confirming that several people were killed.
Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal said the protests were part of a "conspiracy" to weaken the government, which is still run by the party of ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif - removed by the supreme court in July over financial irregularities.
A U.S. official warned on Saturday against repercussions following the release of Pakistani extremist Hafiz Saeed accused of masterminding a 2008 assault in Mumbai, India.
Finally acting upon court orders, the Islamabad police, with the help of Frontier Constabulary (FC) personnel and other law enforcement agencies, had launched an operation against protesters, who had amassed at the Faizabad Interchange ─ which connects Islamabad to Rawalpindi ─ on November 8.
Information for this article was contributed by Zaheer Babar, Adil Jawad and Iram Asim of The Associated Press.