Pakistan Islamists to end sit-in after reaching deal with government


Islamist activists, who had been rallying in Islamabad for weeks, reached an agreement with the government to end their sit-in protest late on Monday after the law minister offered his resignation.

"An agreement has been reached with the government and we will end the sit-in today," Pir Zubair Kasrui, secretary of information for the hard-line Islamist party Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah, told journalists.

Kasuri said that because Law Minister Zahid Hamid had offered his resignation "our leaders will soon make an announcement to end the sit-in."

State television reported that Hamid had late Sunday offered his resignation to Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

Protesters reached a six-point agreement with government, seen by journalists, which came two days after bloody clashes between police and the religious hardliners left six people dead and more than 200 others wounded.  

The protesters had been demanding the removal of Hamid, whom they accused of blasphemy for changing the text of an oath for parliamentarians which they perceived to be a softening of the official stance towards the minority Ahmadi sect.

The change - which has already been withdrawn by the government - involved removing the reference to Muhammad as the last prophet of God, which the majority of Pakistan's Muslims believe to be true.

Ahmadis insist that they are followers of Islam, however Pakistan declared the group non-Muslim in 1974 for regarding their sect's founder, Ghulam Ahmad, as a prophet. Orthodox Islam holds that there can be no prophets after Muhammad.

Political analyst Saad Mohammad described Monday's agreement as a "very disappointing end." 

"The power of the state has gone to such low levels that 2000 people can bring it to its knees and dictate the terms for any settlement," Mohammad said. "It was an unlawful gathering and they should have been dispersed. But they got away with it. This will have huge ramifications for the future," he added.

Blasphemy is a sensitive issue in Pakistan.

In 2011 a governor of the central province of Punjab was killed by his own police guard for speaking against the laws.    (dpa)

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