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Pakistani Islamists End Protests After Law Minister Resigns


Protests demanding the resignation of Law Minister Zahid Hamid had grown increasingly violent in recent days.

Pakistani Islamists were celebrating a victory over the government after the country's law minister resigned under pressure from fundamentalists who had been demanding his ouster during a three-week-long protest rally.

After Zahid Hamid's resignation, the Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah party said its members were dispersing peacefully from protest camps across the country on November 27 under a deal with the government.

"Our main demand has been accepted," Ejaz Ashrafi, spokesman of the Tehreek-e Labaik Ya Rasool Allah group, told the Reuters news agency early on November 27.

Protests demanding Hamid's resignation had grown increasingly violent in recent days, with six people killed and more than 200 others injured.

The Islamists claimed Hamid was behind what they called a blasphemous bill to amend the country's electoral oath because he omitted the name of the Prophet Muhammad from the parliamentary bill. Hamid apologized and blamed the omission on a clerical error.

Outgoing Pakistani Law Minister Zahid Hamid
Outgoing Pakistani Law Minister Zahid Hamid

Violence in Islamabad had prompted Pakistan’s Interior Ministry on November 25 to authorize the deployment of "sufficient troops" from the country’s military to "control law and order" in the city until further notice.

About 2,000 protesters had maintained the protest camp since November 6, blocking a main road into Islamabad that is used by thousands of commuters.

Early on November 26, it was clear that the protest rally had grown to even larger numbers, including several thousand members of the Tehreek-e Labaik Ya Rasool Allah party.

Protests also spread to nine other cities, including Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi.

Despite the operation involving 8,500 elite police and paramilitary troops in riot gear – and the use of tear gas and batons by authorities – the security forces on November 25 were unable disperse those at the protest camp.

With reporting by RFE/RL Radio Mashaal correspondent Abdul Hai Kakar; Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa, and BBC