Pakistan cleric ends protest after government concessions

Thu Jan 17, 2013 6:40pm EST
 
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By Mubasher Bukhari and Mehreen Zahra-Malik

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - A Muslim cleric with a history of ties to the military who has been calling for the Pakistani government to resign reached a deal with the administration on Thursday that will give him a say in the electoral process ahead of elections.

Muhammad 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.

He has been pushing for the military to play a role in the formation of the caretaker administration that takes over in the run-up to scheduled elections.

"We have reached an agreement," Qadri, who supported an army coup in 1999, told supporters camped out near parliament. "Allah granted us a victory and now you can go home."

Qadri persuaded 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, according to a copy of the agreement released by his spokesman.

A government source and officials in the ruling Pakistan People's Party said Qadri's demand that the army be consulted on the make-up of the interim administration had been rejected.

But it was agreed that the ruling coalition and his party must reach a "complete consensus" on the proposal of a caretaker prime minister.

Qadri's appearance at the forefront of Pakistan's political scene has fuelled speculation that the army, with its long history of involvement in politics, has tacitly endorsed his campaign in order to orchestrate a soft coup against a government it sees as ineffective. The military denies this.   Continued...

 
Sufi cleric and leader of the Minhaj-ul-Quran Muhammad Tahirul Qadri addresses his supporters from behind the window of an armoured vehicle after his meeting with members of Pakistan's coalition government on the fourth day of protests in Islamabad January 17, 2013. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro