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Qadri-govt accord ends protest in Islamabad

The government and Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri reached an agreement late Thursday that peacefully ended a four-day sit-in outside the parliament house in Islamabad.

A 10-member government’s negotiation team held hectic talks with Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri, who had on Sunday led thousands of his supporters from the eastern city of Lahore and started 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 the Prime Minister, Raja Pervez Ashraf, who also 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, filtration and their scrutiny will be carried 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 peoples movement will present names of two persons for the prime minister to lead the caretaker government.

The reconstitution of the Election Commission will be discussed in a meeting on January 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 withdrawal, the declaration said.

The opposition Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) lashed out at the government and Qadri for signing the agreement, saying that both had laughed at each other over the past few days but now they signed the agreement.

Qadri, chief of the Tehrik Minhaj-ul-Quran, had demanded the federal and provincial governments to quit and to 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 five years and getting Canadian nationality. Under a recent ruling by the Pakistani Supreme Court, dual nationality holder cannot run for elections. He had also issued a religious decree against the Pakistani Taliban and their violent approach in London in March 2010.

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

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

Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, had earlier warned of possible militants’ attacks on the marchers. He had claimed that Taliban had planned attacks on the long-march and that the security agencies had traced a call from the Taliban leadership, issuing instructions for a hit of the marchers.

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

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