Tehrik-e-Minhajul Quran chief Allama Tahir ul Qadri Thursday announced lifting the four-day siege of the capital, Islamabad, after he signed a four point agreement with the government regarding his demands of revamping the electoral system and Election Commission, dissolution of parliament and appointment of an interim government .
The agreement, dubbed as Islamabad Long March Declaration, was reached after four-hour talks with a 10-member delegation representing leaders of the ruling People's Party and its allies. After the successful negotiations between the committee formed by the government and Allama Tahirul Qadri the agreement was signed with him by all members of the negotiating team and countersigned by the Prime Minister Raja Ashraf.
Interestingly, Allama Qadri signed the agreement with the prime minister and ministers whom he had termed "ex premier and ministers" on the very first day of the sit-in on Monday.
Addressing the participants of the sit-in, following the signature of the Prime Minister on the terms of agreement, Qadri lauded the participants for their struggle. "The march that started on Sunday and continued till today had become a great model for the world to see," he added.
According to the declaration, the National Assembly shall be dissolved at any time before March 16, 2013 (due date), so that the elections may take place within 90 days. The key clause of the declaration, however, is that a period of 30 days will be provided for the scrutiny of the candidates, raising hope that some of the corrupt elements could finally be gotten rid of in the process.
Interestingly, Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Khursheed Shah has said that the elections will be held in the first week of May. Talking to reporters in Islamabad on Wednesday, the federal minister maintained the polls could be held on May 4, 5 or 6. "They will not be delayed beyond May 6," he assured. Khursheed Shah, who is very close to President Zardari, was part of the negotiation team with Allama Qadri.
The declaration surprisingly gives a big say to Allama Qadri in the selection of the next caretaker prime minister. According to the declaration, the treasury benches in complete consensus with Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), the political wing of Allama Qadri, will propose names of two honest and impartial persons for appointment as Caretaker Prime Minister.
Electoral Reforms: It was agreed upon that the focus will be on the enforcement of electoral reforms prior to the polls on: (a) Article 62, 63 and 218 (3) of the constitution; b) Section 77 to 82 of the Representation of Peoples' Act 1976 and other relevant provisions relating to conducting free, fair, just and honest elections guarded against all corrupt practices and; (c) The Supreme Court Judgment of June 8, 2012 on constitutional petition of 2011 must be implemented in Toto and in true letter and spirit.
With the end of the long march and sit-in, all cases registered against each other shall be withdrawn immediately and there will be no acts of victimization and vendetta against either party or the participants of the march.
The declaration ended the misery of the thousands of men, women and children of the long march who had been sitting in the open sky in front of the parliament for past four days braving cold weather and heavy rain. More than 200 of them, including women and children, had been taken ill and hospitalized because of the inclement weather.
Hundreds of thousands of protesters dispersed peacefully after the declaration was read. This was the first such massive demonstration in the history of Islamabad. The most significant is the fact that Pakistan has seen a highly organized, massive and peaceful demonstration for political rights, that no party took the law into its hands, no mischief created turmoil leading to violence and the whole episode ended with a democratic agreement seen by the nation. This is perhaps the best outcome of the long march.
Long March from Lahore to Islamabad
Tens of thousands of protesters led by Allama Qadri descended on the Pakistani capital Monday in a fierce outpouring of anger and frustration with the corrupt US client government of President Zardari.
The size of Tahirul Qadri's Long March to Islamabad from Lahore, the capital of Punjab province, was far short of his predictions of more than a million people. However, the caravan of hundreds of buses, vans, motorcycles and cars jammed with demonstrators was allowed to enter the capital and hold a rally on a main thoroughfare roughly two miles from parliament.
Long, snaking cordons of freight containers and barbed wire were in place to keep demonstrators from achieving their goal of staging a sit-in in front of parliament. But after the rally, thousands of demonstrators began leaving the protest site, on Islamabad's Jinnah Avenue, and heeding Qadri's call that they march toward parliament. Later, government officials agreed to allow the sit-in to take place in a plaza about 500 yards from parliament.
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