ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Dr Tahirul Qadri on Tuesday night announced an end to his party's protest demonstration in the federal capital.
The announcement ends over two months of protest sit-in in Islamabad which set off a political crisis in the country.
The PAT leader at the same time also said that protests will now be held all over the country, which he termed as the "next stage of the revolution".
“This sit-in has achieved its purpose, it has awakened the nation and played its role in the path of revolution,” Qadri told his supporters – many were women and some were in tears.
Soon after Qadri's announcement, his supporters started packing up their camps and hugging one another goodbye.
“We have spent a difficult time here and have established good relationships with each other,” said Fauzia Habib. “Now when we are leaving I am a bit grim but happy too that we have spent time for a good cause,” said Habib, a young girl clad in an all-encompassing gown and head scarf.
Qadri told protestors to "pack their bags and return home with a victorious spirit".
He said that protests will now be held in cities throughout the country for two days where he will speak and urged the people to come out and support the movement.
The PAT leader said the "journey of revolution" has not ended and that it would continue until change comes in the country.
Qadri rejected accusations that he was being financed by the establishment, saying,"If we have taken any money then hang me".
He also announced a schedule for sit-ins that will be held in other cities.
The next sit-in will be in Abbottabad on October 23 after which protests will be stopped during the month of Muharram.
Protests will then continue from Bhakkar on November 23, in Sargodha on December 5, Sialkot on December 14 and in Karachi on December 25.
Meanwhile Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has told PML-N leaders not to issue statements on Qadri's announcement.
Qadri and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan led tens of thousands of marchers from Lahore to the federal capital on August 14. They have camped out in front of the parliament building since then, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Sharif, who they accuse of vote fraud.
Khan maintains he will not end his protest until Sharif resigns. Qadri, despite ending his Islamabad protest, has refuted claims he struck some sort of compromise deal with Sharif's government.
In mid-August when these protests started, it was widely believed among the demonstrators that Sharif would be gone within days – either through resignation or via military takeover. But the army has stayed publicly neutral, despite a deadly August 31 clash between police and protesters that left three protesters dead and hundreds injured.