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Law Minister Resigns to End ‘Crisis’ Amidst Rising Anti-Blasphemy Violence in Pakistan

In April, Mashal Khan a left wing student activist was stripped and brutally beaten to death at Abdul Wali Khan University in Pakistan after he was accused of blasphemy.
Violence In Pakistan

Pakistan Law Minister Zahid Hamid resigned on Monday following deadly clashes between the police and protesters of various hardline religious parties. The movement led by Khadim Hussain Rizvi, an anti- Ahmadiyya firebrand cleric accused Hamid of blasphemy for a slight change in the wording of a recently passed electoral law, which they consider to soften the State's position against Ahmadi Muslims.

The resignation came as part of an agreement reached between the government and the protesters late Sunday night, reports Dawn news. The agreement followed after a two-day face-off at Faizabad Interchange and other parts of the country between far right protesters and security forces that saw at least six people killed and hundreds injured.

Following the agreement, the protest leaders were likely to announce an end to the sit-in at a press conference later on Monday. The minister on Sunday night presented his resignation to Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to bring the country "out of a state of crisis”. Abbasi is expected to accept the minister's resignation later in the day, informed sources told Dawn news.

The protesters that gathered in Faizabad were from far-right Islamist political parties Tehreek-i-Khatm-i-Nabuwwat, Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLY) and the Sunni Tehreek Pakistan (ST). They called for Hamid's sacking and strict action against those behind the amendment to the Khatm-i-Nabuwwat oath in the Elections Act 2017 - which had earlier been deemed a "clerical error”. The government later retracted the amendment.

Tehreek-e-Labaik blames the law minister, Zahid Hamid, for wording in an electoral law that changed a religious oath proclaiming Mohammad the last prophet of Islam to the words "I believe," a change the party says amounts to blasphemy.

The party was born out of a protest movement in support of Mumtaz Qadri, a bodyguard of the governor of Punjab province Salmaan Taseer who gunned down his boss in 2011 over Taseer’s call to reform strict blasphemy laws.

Pakistan had been witnessing a pattern of violence related to blasphemy issues, and many including members of minority communities have been attacked or killed. In September, a Christian man was sentenced to death for supposedly “ridiculing the Prophet” on WhatsApp. In April, Mashal Khan, a left wing student activist was stripped and brutally beaten to death at Abdul Wali Khan University in Pakistan after being accused of blasphemy.

(with inputs from IANS)

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