Pakistan minister quits to end standoff with right-wing group
Islamabad: A Pakistan right-wing party agreed to end a three-week long protest calling for the resignation of the nation’s law minister after the government of Shahid Khaqan Abbasi agreed to their demands.
Abbasi’s administration and leaders of the little-known party, Tehreek-e-Labaik, signed an accord on Monday, the ruling party’s senior leader Raja Zafarul Haq said. The government agreed to accept law minister Zahid Hamid’s resignation and will act against those responsible for changes in an oath for lawmakers, he said.
Clerics and supporters of the group have been blocking a main highway for three weeks, effectively cutting off Islamabad. The group demanded the resignation of Hamid for changing the wording of the oath taken by lawmakers. Hamid amended a declaration that Muhammad is the last prophet of Islam—a move seen to accommodate the persecuted minority Ahmadiyya Muslim sect, which believes in an additional prophet after Muhammad. Within days, the government reversed the decision, fearing a backlash from Islamic religious groups.
Violent clashes between government forces and the protesters led to the deaths of eight people over the weekend, while army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa met Abbasi on Sunday and advised against deploying the army, Dawn television channel reported. Abbasi’s administration ordered paramilitary forces known as the rangers to clear the protesters.
“It’s a must that they end protests in all cities immediately,” Haq said by phone. Hamid gave his resignation to the premier “voluntarily,” state-run Pakistan television channel reported on Monday morning.
Pakistan’s army has played a key role in the nation’s history, leading four military coups since independence from Britain in 1947. Bloomberg
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