Pakistan Law Minister Resigns to Avoid Civil War
Pakistan’s Minister Resigns After Forgetting Muhammad in Constitution
Pakistan law minister resigns, Islamists celebrate victory
Pakistani Islamists celebrated their victory over the government and called off their sit-in on Monday after the country’s law minister resigned, caving in to the fundamentalist protesters who have been demanding his ouster in a three-week-long rally.
After Zahid Hamid’s resignation, the Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah party, which was behind the sit-in in Islamabad and protests in other cities and towns across Pakistan, said they were dispersing peacefully under an agreement with the government.
The development underscored how a small Islamist party was able to pressure the Pakistani government and force it to accept its demands through a protracted standoff that started earlier in November.
The Islamists had demanded Hamid’s resignation over an omitted reference to Islam’s Prophet Muhammad in a parliamentary bill. He apologized for the omission in the bill, saying it was a clerical error that was later corrected.
But the Islamists persisted, taking to the streets and setting up their sit-in at the Faizabad intersection on the edge of the Pakistani capital. The Islamists effectively blocked the country’s key highway, the Grand Trunk Road motorway, linking Islamabad with the eastern Punjab province and the northwest, disrupting life and forcing commuters to look for alternate routes.
Clashes erupted on Saturday when riot police tried to disperse the Islamabad sit-in and descended on the protesters with tear gas and batons, leaving six dead and dozens injured.
The violent crackdown also triggered solidarity protests by Islamists in other Pakistani cities and towns, leading to what could have been a major political crisis that could have paralyzed many urban areas.
Hamid, the law minister, submitted his resignation to Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi late on Sunday after security forces held back from another attempt to disperse the protesters, three security officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to talk to the media.
Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal told Justice Shaukat Sadiqui of the Islamabad High Court on Monday that the government signed an agreement with the rally organizers to avoid a “civil-war like situation.”