Law minister Zahid Hamid resigns as govt reaches agreement with agitating parties

(Javed Hussain/Dawn)

After the weeks-long protest that virtually paralyzed the capital and saw several people losing their lives, the government has finally given in to the demands of protesters camped out at Faizabad Interchange, with Zahid Hamid resigning as the Federal Law Minister.

The minister’s resignation came in the aftermath of Saturday’s bot­ched operation against protesters at Faizabad and successful negotiations with leaders of the demonstration, official sources and state broadcaster PTV say.

The law minister’s resignation was the chief demand of the agitating parties, who have been staging a 19-day protest sit-in in the capital to press the government for his removal.

The resignation came as part of an agreement reached between the government and the protesters overnight on Sunday. The agreement followed after a two-day face-off at Faizabad Interchange and other parts of the country between protesters and security forces that saw at least six people killed and hundreds injured.

Agreement between Government of Pakistan and Tehreek Labaik Faizabad Dharna

According to PTV, the minister presented his resignation to Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to bring the country “out of a state of crisis”.

Abbasi is expected to accept the minister’s resignation later in the day, sources told DawnNews.

“I made the decision to resign in a personal capacity,” Hamid was quoted as saying by government sources.

The protesters amassed at the Faizabad bridge belong to various ‘religious’ parties, including the Tehreek-i-Khatm-i-Nabuwwat, Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLY) and the Sunni Tehreek Pakistan (ST), and had been calling for the sacking of law minister Hamid and strict action against those behind the amendment to the Khatm-i-Nabuwwat oath in the Elections Act 2017 ─ which had earlier been deemed a ‘clerical error’.

Sanitation workers clean up as the protest nears it end.— DawnNews
Sanitation workers clean up as the protest nears it end.— DawnNews

Containers being removed

Following the agreement, the protest leaders are likely to announce an end to the sit-in at a press conference expected shortly.

Security forces are still present at the site.— DawnNews
Security forces are still present at the site.— DawnNews

The protesters at Faizabad started packing up their belongings and police started removing containers placed around the protest site around 8am. However, the protesters forced authorities to block the area using containers again, saying they will not allow the roads to be opened until the sit-in is formally called off by the protest leaders.

Deciding against using force

On Sunday, the federal government tasked the Punjab Rangers to handle the agitated protesters in Faizabad and other parts of the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi. Around 1,000 Rangers personnel were deployed in Islamabad.

Earlier, the civil and military leadership had decided against use of force to disperse protesters, during a meeting at the Prime Minister House. Authorities decided to engage protest leaders “with influence” instead, saying the use of force against protesters had been discouraged in favour of a political settlement.

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