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Pakistani gov't reaches accord with influential religious scholar to end protest


09:03, January 18, 2013

ISLAMABAD, Jan. 17 (Xinhua) -- Pakistani government and a powerful religious scholar reached an agreement late Thursday that peacefully ended a four-day sit-in outside the parliament house in Islamabad, local media reported.

A 10-member government's negotiation team held talks with Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri, who had on Sunday led thousands of his supporters from the eastern city of Lahore to protest in Islamabad. "Today is the day of victory for the people of Pakistan and the marchers. Your sacrifices yielded results," Qadri told his thousands of marchers, including women and children.

Both sides unanimously agreed that the assemblies will be dissolved before March 16 and new elections will be held in 90 days.

The"Islamabad Long March Declaration" was signed by the government's negotiation team and Qadri inside the bullet-proof container of the religious leader. The negotiation team later took the draft to Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, who endorsed and signed the accord.

Official sources said that President Asif Ali Zardari also approved the agreement.

Qadri announced the declaration which said that pre-clearance of all candidates will be carried out and only eligible candidates will be allowed to take part in the elections. The Election Commission will decide about the candidates.

The declaration said that the government and Qadri's political party "Awami Tehrik"or People's Movement will present two candidates for the post of prime minister who will lead the caretaker government.

The reconstitution of the Election Commission will be discussed in a meeting on Jan. 27.

The declaration said that electoral reforms will be introduced before the coming elections to ensure transparent, fair and free elections.

All cases against the organizers and participants of the marchers will be withdrawn, the declaration said.

Qadri, chief of the Tehrik Minhaj-ul-Quran, had demanded the federal and provincial governments to quit and dissolve the national and provincial assemblies. He had also demanded a new election commission.

Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, leader of the government's team, congratulated Qadri for organizing the biggest and peaceful march. He said the government had been sincere to find out a negotiated solution to peacefully end the march.

Information Minister Qamar-uz-Zaman Kaira said on the occasion that the agreement is the victory of the people of Pakistan which will also give a message to the world that the country's leadership can find out solutions to their problems.

The government had earlier refused to talk to Qadri but started talks on Thursday as his protest had disrupted life in Islamabad and some coalition partners advised the government to hold talks with the cleric.

Qadri returned from Canada last month after staying for five years and getting Canadian nationality. Under a recent ruling by the Pakistani Supreme Court, dual nationality holder cannot run for elections.

He had spent millions of rupees on campaign advertisement in newspapers and on television for his march.

Days after his return from Canada, Qadri spoke to a mammoth gathering in Lahore on Dec. 24 and gave the government time till Jan. 10 to carry out electoral reforms. After the government did not respond to his demands, he started the march.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik earlier warned of possible militants'attacks on the marchers. He claimed that Taliban had planned attacks on the march.

However, the protest ended peacefully. The police used tear gas to disperse the marchers when they tried to reach the parliament building on Tuesday.


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