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Pakistan’s law minister resigns, Islamists disband protest

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ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s law minister Zahid Hamid resigned Monday as the embattled civilian government bowed to demands from a small Islamist group whose anti-blasphemy protest in the capital has fueled deadly violence and sparked demonstrations across the country.

After minister Hamid’s resignation, Pakistani Islamists announced, they were disbanding their sit-in near Islamabad caving in to the protesters who have been demanding his ouster in a three-week-long rally.

There was no immediate confirmation from the government of the resignation and no comment from the military too.

The Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah party, which is behind the protest in Islamabad and other cities and towns across Pakistan, said they were dispersing peacefully.

Leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi called off the sit-in after state media reported minister Hamid’s resignation early Monday. Rizvi said he had military assurances that the demands of his Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah Pakistan (TLY) group would be met.

“On the assurance of the Chief of Army Staff, we are calling off the sit-in,” he told a crowd of around 2,500 demonstrators, adding that his group was abandoning plans to issue a fatwa against Hamid and was calling for roads and schools to be reopened.

The decision to capitulate to the protesters’ demands underscored how a small Islamist party was able to pressure the Pakistani government and force it to accept its demands through a protracted standoff that started earlier in November.

Islamist protestors had demanded minister Hamid’s resignation over an omitted reference to Islam’s Prophet Muhammad in a parliamentary bill.

He apologized for the omission in the bill, saying it was a clerical error that was later corrected.

The previously obscure group has been calling for weeks for Hamid’s ousting over a hastily-abandoned amendment to the oath which election candidates must swear. It has occupied a main highway into Islamabad since November 6 and virtually paralyzed the capital.

With Agency Inputs

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Zimbabwe’s President Mnangagwa narrowly escapes explosion at party rally

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HARARE — Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa narrowly escaped injury in an explosion on Saturday which has rocked a stadium where Zimbabwe’s president was addressing a campaign rally, with state media calling it an assassination attempt but saying the president was not hurt.

President Mnangagwa was whisked to a state house in Bulawayo, where he had been speaking ahead of next month’s historic election, the first since longtime leader Robert Mugabe stepped down.

The explosion occurred as the president, accompanied by other politicians, was walking off the stage at the White City stadium after addressing thousands of supporters in advance of next month’s vote.

Mnangagwa, the 75-year-old leader of ZANU-PF, was not hurt and taken to safety, officials said. However, witnesses said several people were injured, including the Vice-President.

Several others including number security personnel, the wife of fellow Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, the environment minister and the deputy speaker of parliament also suffered wounds.

Agencies

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