Pakistan Islamists call off protests after minister resigns

Pakistani Islamists who clashed with police at the weekend have called off national protests after the resignation of Law Minister Zahid Hamid.

Reports from Islamabad and other cities say protesters are starting to leave.

They have been blocking a main road in the capital for weeks demanding Mr Hamid be sacked for blasphemy. He apologised for what he called an error.

At least six people are believed to have been killed when clashes erupted on Saturday and some 200 were injured.

The civilian government is being criticised for backing down in the crisis, which raises new questions about the military’s role in Pakistani politics.

“On the assurance of the Chief of Army Staff, we are calling off the sit-in,” protest leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi told several thousand demonstrators from the Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah Party in Islamabad on Monday.

The law minister was accused by the protesters of blasphemy after a reference to the Prophet Muhammad was left out of a revised version of the electoral oath.

He called it a clerical error.

Protests against Mr Hamid had gone on for weeks and spread from Islamabad to other cities like Lahore, Peshawar and Karachi.

During Saturday’s clashes, the government also suspended private news channels and blocked certain social media networks.

  • The politics behind Pakistan’s protests
Clashes in Islamabad

“The decision to resign was taken in a bid to steer the country out of the prevailing critical situation,” Mr Hamid was cited by Pakistan’s Tribune newspaper.

According to the Dawn newspaper, the protesters have in turn agreed not to issue a fatwa, or Islamic religious ruling, against the minister.

The government gave way on a range of demands, including freeing arrested protesters and paying for the clean-up operation.

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