Pakistan strikes deal with opposition cleric

Canadian-Pakistani Tahir-ul Qadri calls off four-day protest in Islamabad after government makes concessions.

    A cleric demanding electoral reforms and a fight against corruption in Pakistan has called off a four-day street protest in the capital, Islamabad, after a deal was reached with the government.

    "I congratulate you. Today is the day of victory for the people of Pakistan. You should go home as peacefully as you came here," Canadian-Pakistani academic and preacher Tahir-ul Qadri told his supporters after signing the deal with the prime minister.

    Qadri had called on tens of thousands of his followers camped outside parliament to remain in place while he held negotiations with officials on Thursday.

    "The government constituted a committee and ten members of that committee, all from the ruling coalition partners ... went into a meeting held inside the bomb-proof container where Qadri has been sitting for the last four days," Al Jazeera's Kamal Hyder, reporting from Islamabad, said.

    "While Qadri has been sitting inside that container, women and children have been sitting outside in pounding rain, waiting for good news."

    Caretaker government

    Qadri demanded the government be dissolved and replaced by an independent caretaker government in consultation with the military and judiciary to implement key reforms before free elections can be held.

    A negotiation team member said the government agreed to dissolve the National Assembly a few days before its term ends in March, giving 90 days until elections are held. That gives time to make sure politicians are eligible to stand for election, he said.

    The government also agreed that the caretaker administration, which normally precedes elections, would be chosen in consultation with all parties, the negotiator said.

    A declaration laying out the agreement between the government and Qadri was signed by Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf as well as the high-level government officials who made up the negotiating team, an official in the prime minister's office said.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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