Qadri strikes deal with govt, calls off protest

Pakistan's fiery cleric Tahirul Qadri Thursday announced that an agreement has been struck with the government to end his four-day protests that had increased pressure on the country's fragile coalition government.

After five hours of talks with a 10-member team of federal ministers and leaders of parties in the Pakistan People's Party-led government, Qadri told his supporters that the two sides had finalised an "Islamabad Long March Declaration". Qadri said the document would be read out at the site of the protest on Jinnah Avenue, the main boulevard of Islamabad, after it was signed by Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf.

The team that negotiated with Qadri included Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira, Law Minister Farooq Naek, Commerce Minister Amin Fahim, Religious Affairs Minister Khurshid Shah, PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and senior Muttahida Qaumi Movement leader Farooq Sattar.

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. Qadri had given the government a 90-minute deadline to act on his demands by 3 pm. As the deadline ended, he addressed his supporters camping on Jinnah Avenue and said he had given the government time till 3.45 pm.

The head of the Tehrik Minhaj-ul-Quran 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.

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