ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – A Pakistani hardline Islamist group on Monday said it would call off nationwide protests after the government agreed to its demands and the law minister resigned, following weekend clashes between its supporters and police that paralysed major cities.
The government climbdown will be seen as an embarrassment for the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party ahead of elections likely in mid-2018, and underlines the power of religious groups in the nuclear-armed nation of 207 million.
Seven people were killed and nearly 200 wounded after a police bid to disperse protesters in Islamabad failed on Saturday, spurring demonstrators wielding sticks and iron rods to block key roads and motorways in other cities.
“Our main demand has been accepted,” Ejaz Ashrafi, spokesman of the Tahreek-e-Labaik group, told Reuters. “Government will announce the law minister’s resignation and we will end our sit-in today.”
Law minister Zahid Hamid handed in his resignation to Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi “to take the country out of a crisis-like situation”, state-run news channel PTV said on Monday. Hamid is set to give a detailed statement later.