The Straits Times
Published on Jan 17, 2013

Pakistan cleric signals end to Islamabad mass sit-in


ISLAMABAD (AFP) - A Pakistani cleric announced that a mass sit-in of tens of thousands of people outside parliament in Islamabad would end Thursday, the latest twist in a drama that has gripped the nuclear-armed state.

Tahir-ul Qadri made the announcement as the country's corruption watchdog told the Supreme Court it did not yet have enough evidence to arrest Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf on graft allegations, as the top judge had ordered.

Tension in Pakistan has been at fever pitch since Tuesday, when the arrest order coincided with Mr Qadri's arrival in Islamabad, delivering a fiery speech denouncing politicians and praising the armed forces and judiciary.

The timing sparked panic about a rumoured judiciary-military plot to derail elections due by mid-May. The polls, if successful, would be the first democratic transition of power between two civilian governments in Pakistan's history.