Pakistan's fiery cleric, govt strike deal

Qadri

No candidate will be allowed to start his campaign until he gets pre-clearance from the poll panel, the agreement said.

The agreement further said the proposed electoral reforms will focus on Qadri's demand for enforcement Articles 62, 63 and 218 (3) of the Constitution, the Representation of Peoples' Act and a Supreme Court judgement for free and fair polls.

The two sides also agreed to withdraw all cases registered against each other during Qadri's protest and to ensure there are "no acts of victimisation and vendetta". Qadri asked his supporters to disperse following the signing of the "Islamabad Long March Declaration".

Other government leaders who addressed the gathering, including Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira and Commerce Minister Amin Fahim, described the agreement between the two sides as a "victory for democracy".

The cleric's supporters began celebrating and shouting slogans after he announced that the two sides had reached an agreement. The talks were held inside Qadri's bulletproof container.

Footage on television showed Qadri and the government leaders, visible through the large windows of the container, engaged in hectic consultations.

Earlier in the day, Qadri extended a deadline he had set for the government to act on his demands to quit and dissolve the national and provincial assemblies after being contacted by emissaries for a dialogue.

The head of the Tehrik Minhaj-ul-Quran organisation urged his supporters not to leave till the talks were completed and a written agreement was hammered out.

He said he had set only one condition for talks ¿ that Interior Minister Rehman Malik should not be part of the government delegation.

"We will leave only after victory," he said. Qadri and his followers have been staging a sit-in near parliament since Tuesday.

Since he marched from Lahore to Islamabad with his supporters, Qadri has set several deadlines for action on his demands that have been consistently ignored by the government.

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