Pakistan Law Minister Zahid Hamid resigns; Islamabad stand-off ends

Islamabad: Pakistan’s federal law Minister Zahid Hamid has resigned following the demand made by thousands of anti-blasphemy protesters, state broadcaster said on Monday.

The protesters had staged sit-in in the capital for about three weeks demanding removal of Mr. Hamid for changes in a law related to the Khatm-e-Nabuwwat (finality of Prohpethood) oath in the Elections Act 2017. They alleged the action undermined Islamic beliefs and linked it to blasphemy.

“On the assurance of the Chief of Army Staff, we are calling off the sit-in,” Tehreek-e-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYR) chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi told a crowd of around 2,500 demonstrators in Islamabad on Monday, the AFP news agency reported.

The resignation came as part of an agreement reached between the government and the protesters overnight. The deal followed after a two-day face-off in Islamabad and other parts of the country between protesters and security forces that saw at least six people killed and hundreds injured.

Mr. Hamid, the Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs, presented his resignation to Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to bring the country “out of a state of crisis”, Radio Pakistan reported.

Why Zahid Hamid is charged with ‘Blasphemy’

Blasphemy is a sensitive issue in Pakistan, and certain forms of it can carry the death sentence. Law Minister Zahid Hamid had been accused by clerics of committing blasphemy due to a change in the wording of an oath taken by parliamentarians in the country.

The protesters, led by Rizvi and other clerics, perceived the change as a state’s soft position for the members of the Ahmadi sect, who are not permitted to identify themselves as Muslims in Pakistan.