Pakistan's law minister resigns, Islamists end protests that crippled country
Pakistan's Law Minister Zahid Hamid has resigned after weeks of protests by Islamists rocked the country. Protesters accused Hamid of blasphemy and demanded his resignation because he amended Parliamentary rules which no longer required lawmakers to refer to Prophet Mohammed while taking the oath of office. The Islamists have agreed to end their protests, which have left seven people dead and 250 injured.
In September, the Pakistani Parliament passed the Elections Act 2017 which omitted a clause referring to the finality of Prophet Muhammad in the oath of office taken by MPs. Three weeks ago, ultra-right-wing party Tehreek-e-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah started protesting against the amendment. Fundamentalist groups such as Tehreek-i-Khatm-i-Nabuwwat and the Sunni Tehreek Pakistan later joined in and the protests intensified.
Hamid had apologized and attributed the change to a clerical error. However, the protesters were unsatisfied by Hamid's explanation, saying the change was deliberate and demanded his resignation. A three-week sit-in by protesters on a major highway leading to Islamabad virtually paralyzed the capital.
On Saturday, violence erupted as police tried evicting the protesters from the crucial highway leading to Islamabad. The clashes left at least seven people dead and hundreds injured. The clashes spread to other cities, including Karachi and Lahore. The government called on the Pakistani military to intervene but it didn't officially respond. As the standoff continued to rage with no end, Hamid resigned.
Hamid's resignation was meant to "steer the country out of crisis." Ejaz Ashrafi, the spokesman of the Tahreek-e-Labaik, said, "Our main demand has been accepted. Government will announce the law minister 's resignation and we will end our sit-in today."