Pakistan’s Qadri calls off protest after deal with govt

Friday, January 18, 2013
[GFX ©]
Islamabad: Pakistan's coalition government on Thursday negotiated an end to a four-day protest in the nation's capital led by firebrand cleric Tahir-ul Qadri against the country's political leadership.

Thousands of supporters danced and burst burst into cheers as Tahir-ul Qadri, a Canadian-Pakistani cleric whose protest challenged the country's political establishment, said he had reached a deal with the government.

He called the agreement "a great document in the history of Pakistan's democracy," he said.

Cleric Tahirul Qadri triggered a political crisis by launching mass protests in the capital four days ago calling for electoral reforms to clean up Pakistani politics.

According to a copy of the agreement released by his spokesman Qadri has managed to persuade the government to dissolve parliament before a scheduled date of March 16 so that elections, due in May, can take place within 90 days, and also to discuss electoral reforms.
The protest was the longest single political rally in Pakistan's history, and shut down the capital's main business district for four days. Demonstrators equipped with blankets and tents sat through cold nights and rain, refusing to leave until their leader's demands were met.

Qadri kept a tight rein on the protest. The cleric had his own security teams secure access to the avenue, conducting body searchers and demanding identification of anyone who tried to enter the area.

Thousands of police and armed paramilitary rangers had remained on alert in case the estimated 50,000 protestors had tried to break through the barricade of metal containers protecting the nation's parliament building.

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