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The fiery cleric who can TOPPLE Pakistan government

Last updated on: January 16, 2013 08:20 IST

The fiery cleric who can TOPPLE Pakistan government

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Tahir Ali in Islamabad

Dr Muhammad Tahirul Qadri, who threatens to uproot the government in Pakistan with his pro-military stand and support of thousands, is definitely taking the political centrestage. Tahir Ali puts forth the story of the firebrand cleric, who has vowed to change Pakistan with debatable methods.

Tehreek-e-Minhajul Quran chief Dr Tahirul Qadri's tour de force re-entry to Pakistan politics has definitely attracted global eyeballs, and the firebrand cleric's pro-military stand has been perceived as 'threat to democracy' by some, and 'harbinger of much needed change' and 'demolisher of a corrupt government' by others.

Qadri's supporters have wrecked havoc for the Pakistani establishment. Police fired in the air and used teargas to disperse thousands of followers of Qadri on Tuesday who gathered for a protest in Islamabad after they clashed with security forces.

Footage on television showed policemen in riot gear firing in the air and using batons to push back dozens of supporters of Qadri, who lobbed stones at them.

With PTI inputs

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Image: Dr Tahirul Qadri addresses his supporters from behind the window of an armoured vehicle during protests in Islamabad on Tuesday
Photographs: Zohra Bensemra/Reuters

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'Save the state, not the politics'

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With a slogan of "save the state, not the politics", Dr Qadri entered Islamabad on Monday night and proclaimed "his march has ended and revolution has begun".

Speaking a gathering of thousands of devotees Qadri said that the aim of the march is to take back the rights of masses from the corrupt politicians, landlords and usurpers of this country.

He warned, "Immediately dissolve the national and provincial assemblies; the PM and all the ministers are no more; they are now ex-PM and ex-ministers" and added "Tuesday when I will deliver a speech at D Square the environment would be changed."

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Image: A supporter of Dr Qadri gestures as she takes part in a protest in Islamabad
Photographs: Zohra Bensemra/Reuters

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Qadri has returned to Pak after seven years

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A Pakistani-Canadian, Tahirul Qadri is basically a law graduate of University of Punjab who established himself as an Islamic scholar, orator, philanthropist and a parliamentarian.

In 1981 he founded the TMQ, an educational and charity network. Since the formation of TMQ, Qadri has been travelling around the world and delivering sermons over religion.

He formed his own political party Awami Tehrik in 1989, but it failed badly, and only he was able to win a single seat in the general elections of 2002, that too with the backing of then president Pervez Musharraf.

In 2005 Qadri went to Canada and remained there for almost seven years.

In December 2012, he returned to Pakistan and announced that he had arrived to bring a change in the country.

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Image: Dr Qadri speaks during an interview in Lahore
Photographs: Mohsin Raza/Reuters

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From bloated figures and volte-face in demands

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Before the start of the march, Qadri had three main demands: the reconstitution of the Election Commission of Pakistan; installation of an impartial and honest caretaker government; and implementation of Article 62 and 63 of the Constitution which deals with the determination of eligibility of an electoral candidate.

But as the rally reached Islamabad on Monday, Dr Qadri astonished everyone as there was no mention of his previous demands and he ordered, like a conqueror, that the assemblies should be dissolved.  

Qadri marched into Jinnah Avenue in the heart of Islamabad with tens of thousands of his supporters on Tuesday and gave the government hours to quit and to dissolve the national and provincial assemblies. He declared that he was leading a "people's democratic revolution".

The cleric's party had signed an agreement with the Islamabad administration to hold a peaceful protest a few kilometres from the National Assembly, but the cleric surprised authorities by inciting his followers to remove barricades and move towards a square near Parliament.

Qadri also incited policemen and paramilitary personnel to defy their officers, saying the officials would be removed by Wednesday.

Qadri claimed four million people had joined his march but Geo News channel quoted official sources as saying that only 35,000 to 50,000 people had joined the protest.

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Image: A supporter of Dr Qadri waves a Pakistan flag as he takes part in the second day of a protest in Islamabad
Photographs: Zohra Bensemra/Reuters

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'Come out of your homes to save Pakistan'

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On Sunday, Qadri kicked off a long march from Lahore to Islamabad where tens of thousands of people including women and children entered the federal capital after travelling for nearly 38 hours.

"Come out of your homes to save Pakistan, save the future of your children, save your religion, save the honour of the country in the comity of nations, save the country from robbers, thieves and corrupt rulers", Qadri said en route to Islamabad at Jhelum.

The Qadri march has taken place at a time when the general elections are looming. He accuses the Pakistani government of being corrupt and incompetent, and says polls cannot be held until reforms are enacted.

The two major political parties of the country, Pakistan People's Party and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, have called his charter of demands undemocratic and an effort to sabotage the general elections.

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Image: Supporters of Dr Qadri wave Pakistani flags during a protest in Islamabad on Tuesday
Photographs: Zohra Bensemra/Reuters

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'Sadly Pakistan once again lands in turmoil'

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Before Qadri's rally reached Islamabad a huge crowed was gathered at Jinnah Avenue for his welcome. Young, old, men and women along with their kids were seen participating; there were also some supporters who came all the way from United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Gulf countries to participate in his rally.

Commenting over the situation, noted defence analyst Dr Hasan Askari said, "The situation could turn dangerous; Qadri who was talking about constitution is doing an unlawful act. It is not a revolution, but revolt."

Rauf Klasra, editor at Dunya TV, wrote on Facebook: "Sadly Pakistan once again lands in turmoil and anarchy thanks to first our corrupt political elite who failed to live up to people's expectations in these five years of misrule followed by Qadri. It's now clear that unseen establishment forces are fully backing the deadly agenda of Qadri. His dangerous deadline clearly reflects the mindset of those forces who have brought him to invade Islamabad. Pakistan seem to be losing yet another opportunity to see peaceful transition of power after elections".


Image: Riot police officers gather outside parliament during second day of protest by supporters Dr Qadri in Islamabad
Photographs: Mian Khurshid/Reuters

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