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Islamic Cleric Qadri Reaches Deal With Government

Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri
Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri
Islamic cleric Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, the organizer of antigovernment demonstrations in Islamabad, has reached an agreement with the Pakistani government to end a four-day rally of his supporters.

Qadri signed the Islamabad Long March Declaration on January 17 after several hours of negotiations with a 10-member government delegation.

The agreement was ratified by Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf.

Addressing thousands of supporters at the demonstration site in the Pakistani capital, Qadri said, "I want to congratulate you. Today is the day of victory for the people of Pakistan. You should go home as peacefully as you came here."

The agreement was met with celebration as antigovernment protesters danced and cheered.

Qadri, who has been protesting with thousands of people near parliament, has called for the government to step down, calling it corrupt and incompetent.

He has demanded key anticorruption and electoral reforms. Among his immediate demands were the dissolution of parliament and the establishment of a caretaker government.

According to the declaration, the national assembly is to be dissolved "at any time before March 16 so that the elections may take place within 90 days."

Years Abroad

The Pakistani government, led by the Pakistan's People's Party, ends its five-year tenure on March 16.

According to the constitution, the election is to be held within 60 days.

The agreement also included putting candidates under scrutiny and the proposal of two impartial candidates for the role of caretaker prime minister.

Qadri, who recently returned to Pakistan after several years in Canada, has denied intense media speculation that he is backed by Pakistan's military.

News reports have questioned Qadri's ability to spend large amounts of money on his antigovernment media campaign.

Qadri and his supporters embarked on their so-called "Caravan of Democracy March" from Lahore late on January 13 and arrived in Islamabad the next day.
With reporting by Reuters

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