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Pakistan's deal with protesters a 'blow' to democracy

Pakistan's deal with protesters a 'blow' to democracy
From Al Jazeera - November 28, 2017

The resignation of Pakistan's federal law minister and signing of an agreement to end a weeks-long sit-in outside the capital Islamabad has been termed a "surrender" and a "dangerous trend for democracy and the state".

Thousands of supporters of a religious party launched a sit-in outside Islamabad earlier this month, demanding the resignation of minister Zahid Hamid for a change in the country's electoral law that they termed a softening of the state's position against Ahmadi Muslims.

On Monday, Pakistan's Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal from the ruling PML-N party, said the agreementwould see the demonstrators in Islamabad, and other cities including Lahore and Karachi, disperse.

The agreement would also see all protesters who were arrested during the sit-in, which began on November 8, released within three days.

Videos circulating on social media showed a high-ranking official of Pakistan Rangers hand out 1,000 rupees ($9.5) in envelopes to members of the religious party as compensation.

Rangers Punjab DG Maj-Gen Azhar Naveed showing unconditional support with the problem who held country hostage for weeks. pic.twitter.com/EA97mDtKLP

Nazrana Ghaffar (@NazranaYusufzai) November 27, 2017

"We never saw such a trend before," Chairman of the Senate Raza Rabbani, who belongs to the opposition Pakistan People's Party, was quoted as saying.

"The trend which we are witnessing today is not only dangerous for the political class of a teething democracy, it is also quite dangerous for the state."

On Tuesday, English daily Dawn, in an editorial titled Capitulation, called the agreement "a surrender so abject that the mind is numb and the heart sinks".

"The deal negotiated between the state, both civilian and military facets of it, and the Faizabad protesters is a devastating blow to the legitimacy and moral standing of the government and all state institutions," the editorial read.

At least five people were killed and more than 217 - mostly members of the security forces - were wounded in those clashes.

The signed agreement ended by "crediting army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and his representative team for their special efforts that led to the agreement being signed", according to Dawn.

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