Using water cannons, tear gas cans and slings, they managed to wrest control of a large area. Dozens of burned tents. Thick columns of smoke and tear gas could be seen from afar when protesters and police officers clashed, and each side used stones and sticks.
But at noon, the balance seemed to have changed the protesters, who were still controlling the main part of their camp. Dozens of officers were among the wounded, authorities said.
On Saturday, Mr. Rizvi stood on a trailer, shouted through a microphone and accused the authorities of working on behalf of the United States.
"Trump says to change blasphemy laws Are you acting on his orders?", He asked the police, adding: "Come back, come back!"
While the protesters stood firm, he became bolder and urged his followers to paralyze the entire country.
The superior court of Islamabad ordered the government last week to clear the exchange. But he has been reluctant to use force, fearing that violence could give more oxygen to hard-line Islamists.
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The government has also refused to fire Mr. Hamid, and negotiations for a peaceful end to the protests have been unsuccessful. Reversing the change in the law has not been able to calm the anger of religious leaders, especially Mr. Rizvi, who has used the controversy to expand his influence and reach.
Local media reported that demonstrators in Rawalpindi had damaged the entrance to the house of Nisar Ali Khan, a former interior minister. Authorities said the protests had closed a highway connecting Islamabad to the eastern city of Lahore. Hundreds of protesters in Lahore burned tires and fought with police, and there were clashes in the southern port city of Karachi, according to media reports.
Pakistan's politically powerful army has urged the government to act with caution. According to a military spokesman, the army's chief of staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, called Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Saturday.
Urged him to "handle the protest peacefully, avoiding violence on both sides, as it is not in the national interest," said spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor.
Afrasiab Khattak, a prominent politician and newspaper columnist, said in an interview that the protests represented a coordinated effort to overthrow the government.
"It's not a spontaneous protest," he said. "It is a movement very well planned by the religious right and its followers in the state system to use the clashes in Islamabad as a trigger for riots in other parts of the country, especially in the province of Punjab."
Punjab is the country's most prosperous and populous province and the political power base of Nawaz Sharif, the former prime minister and leader of the current ruling party. Mr. Sharif resigned in July, after the Supreme Court disqualified him from holding office after a corruption investigation.
However, it remains popular and his party has ruled out calling early elections, a demand from opposition political parties.  Sir. Khattak said the protesters belonged to the Barelvi sect of Sunni Muslims, who formed most of Sharif's support. "But now, the Barelvis have faced the Sharif party," he said. "It's the end of the game."
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