Pakistan’s Law Minister Zahid Hamid on Sunday stepped down from his post after clashes between the police and anti-blasphemy protestors killed six people and injured more than 200 in Islamabad over the weekend, news channel GeoTV reported on Monday.
“I was not directly responsible for the introduction of the controversial amendment to the Finality of Prophethood declaration for electoral candidates,” Hamid told the channel. “In order to restore peace in the country, I have decided to step down.”
The protesters, whose main demand was Hamid’s resignation, agreed to end their weeks-long sit-in on Monday, Pakistan Today reported. The government also promised them that all arrested workers will be released.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s media regulator lifted the ban on television news channels, which were blocked from transmitting for more than 24 hours, Al Jazeera reported.
The amendment and protests
The Tehreek-i-Labaik – a little known hardline group that began a sit-in on November 6 – has been leading the protests since the Pakistan government amended the oath election candidates must take while they are sworn in.
While the government quickly reversed this change, the protestors said they will continue their agitation until Hamid resigns, as they believe he oversaw the introduction and passage of the Elections Amendment Bill 2017.
The protestors took issue with some changes in the bill, one of which altered the text of a form candidates contesting elections need to sign. The candidates were earlier expected to “solemnly swear” that they believe Muhammad was Islam’s last prophet. The new form asks candidates to simply say they “believe” in the finality of Muhammad’s prophethood.
The protestors said this amounts to blasphemy under Pakistan’s laws.
The bill also omits some sections about Ahmedis, a sect of Muslims who also believe in the prophethood of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, their founder. This made protestors believe that the state’s position against Ahmedi Muslims, who are considered non-Muslim and have long faced persecution, was softening, The Guardian reported.