ISLAMABAD: Prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf has signed the agreement reached between the government’s delegation, and Dr Tahirul Qadri, bringing to an end the “million-man” march Express News reported on Thursday.
Ashraf signed on the Islamabad declaration with the agreed terms. President Asif Ali Zardari also approved the document.
Qadri and Naek then read out the terms of the Islamabad Long March Declaration in Urdu and in English respectively. It states that assemblies will be dissolved at any time before March 16, 2013 and elections will be held within 90 days thereafter.
The terms agreed to unanimously include a provision of 30 days for pre-clearance and scrutiny of nomination papers by the Election Commission per Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution.
The treasury benches will submit two names for the caretaker prime minister who will be honest and impartial candidates for the post. Further deliberations on the composition of the Election Commission will be held on January 27, 2013 in Lahore.
It was also agreed to implement electoral reforms as contained within the Constitution and Supreme Court order of June 8, 2012.
The terms agreed to also ensured the end of the long march and sit in and an amnesty for long march participants.
Earlier in the evening, after an agreement was reached between the government’s delegation and Qadri, three of the members returned to prime minister house to have the document signed.
“Just give them some space, Khurshid Shah, Qamar Zaman Kaira and Mushahid Hussain are going to prime minister house to have it [agreement] signed by all the leaders. They will be right back with the signed document and then the Islamabad declaration will be read out.”
Qadri had accepted the government’s request for negotiations with talks beginning at 3:45pm.
The committee was headed by Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain includes Farooq Sattar, Afrasiyab Khattak and Khurshid Shah.
The government ordered the deputy commissioner Islamabad to ask Qadri for more time to respond to his demands.
An hour before the government announced the decision to form a committee, the Minhajul Quran International (MQI) chairman had given a final deadline for his demands to be fulfilled.
The deadline ended at 3pm Thursday. Rangers were deployed around the Parliament House and President House to heighten the security.
Qadri asked President Asif Ali Zardari to send a delegation to hold talks over his demands or “lose the last chance of saving peace”. “We have already given too many chances to law, to democracy and to peace”.
Qadri also announced that he will end the sit-in in Islamabad by Thursday night.
He criticised the government for not sympathising with the women and children present at the long march. “I had asked the women to not participate, but they insisted and debated with us. They have come here on their own will.”
Qadri’s protest rally, which began from Lahore on January 13, has threatened to destabilise the nuclear-armed country as it inches towards what would be the first democratic transition of power between two civilian governments at elections due by May this year.
The government has not announced any date for polls other than saying that parliament will disband in mid-March to make way for a caretaker government and elections within 60 days under the constitution.
Qadri wants parliament dissolved now and a caretaker government set up in consultation with the military and judiciary to implement key reforms such as setting up a new election commission and banning corrupt candidates.
Full text of the declaration can be found here.
(With additional input from AFP)
Correction: In an earlier version of the article, ‘Thursday’ was mistakenly written as ‘Wednesday’. The error is regretted.