News / Asia

Pakistan Protest Leader Demands Electoral Reforms

A supporter of Tahir-ul Qadri waves a Pakistani flag as he walks on a container on the third day of protests in Islamabad, Pakistan, January 16, 2013.A supporter of Tahir-ul Qadri waves a Pakistani flag as he walks on a container on the third day of protests in Islamabad, Pakistan, January 16, 2013.
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A supporter of Tahir-ul Qadri waves a Pakistani flag as he walks on a container on the third day of protests in Islamabad, Pakistan, January 16, 2013.
A supporter of Tahir-ul Qadri waves a Pakistani flag as he walks on a container on the third day of protests in Islamabad, Pakistan, January 16, 2013.
Sharon Behn
Firebrand Muslim cleric Tahir-ul Qadri said Wednesday his supporters would not abandon their sit-in on the streets of Pakistan's capital until the country implements his demands for clean and transparent national elections.

In a three-hour speech to thousands of supporters camped out in front of the nation's parliament, Tahir-ul Qadri on Wednesday accused the government of deep-seated corruption and demanded that all the nation's political assemblies be dissolved.

"The corrupt status quo must go. Not allowed," said Qadri. "The status quo must go, the status quo must go. Go."
 
The cleric, a Canadian-Pakistani who burst onto Pakistan's political scene last month, is also demanding the installation of a caretaker government that would introduce electoral reforms in order to bar what he calls the "corrupt" existing political elite from returning to power.
 
Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira on Wednesday mocked Qadri's finger-wagging rhetoric and questioned the legality of Qadri's demands. Kaira said national elections would go ahead under the rules of the country's constitution.
 
It is unclear what will happen if Qadri's demands are not met. Lawmaker Ayaz Amir says the government is in a difficult position.

"Either we have a mini-Tiananmen Square, which means the government resorts to violence to disperse the protestors, but (the) government I don’t see doing that -- it is too weak, too confused," said Amir. "It can't, I don’t think, afford the risk."
 
Supporter Abdul Rehman, one of some 50,000 staging the occupation of Islamabad's main avenue, which began on Monday, instead called on the anti-government party of Imran Khan to join the protest.

"I think Imran Khan (should) join this session, join the crowd, and come and hand shake with Qadri-saab and continue this session," said Rehman.
 
But Shafqat Mehmood, a spokesman for Khan's opposition PTI party, said it was unlikely that Qadri's street tactics would attract opposition political parties, even if they agreed with his message.

"What we believe is that real change can only come through elections, and that is our difference with Mr. Qadri -- that we don’t believe that street pressure should be used to create change. But change should come through the electoral process," said Mehmood.  
 
  • Supporters of Tahir-ul Qadri gather during their fourth day of protest in Islamabad, Pakistan, January 17, 2013.
  • Supporters of Tahir-ul Qadri listen to him while standing in the rain during the fourth day of protest in Islamabad, Pakistan, January 17, 2013.
  • A supporter of Tahir-ul Qadri waves a Pakistani flag as he walks on a container on the third day of protests in Islamabad, Pakistan, January 16, 2013.
  • Supporters of Tahir-ul Qadri wait for him on the third day of protests in Islamabad, Pakistan, January 16, 2013.
  • Thousands of supporters of Tahir-ul-Qadri participate in an anti-government rally in Islamabad, Pakistan, January 16, 2013.
  • A supporter of cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri enters her tent carrying an image of him, while she and others camp near the parliament, during an anti-government rally in Islamabad, Pakistan, January 16, 2013.
  • Supporters of Tahir-ul Qadri call for democracy during a protest in Islamabad, Pakistan, January 15, 2013. (S. Behn/VOA)
  • A supporters of cleric Tahir-ul Qadri, center, places a sticker on his forehead bearing the image of Tahir-ul-Qadri, during a rally in Islamabad, Pakistan, January 15, 2013.
  • Supporters of Tahir-ul Qadri take part in a protest in Islamabad, Pakistan, January 14, 2013.
  • Female police officers stand guard ahead of a protest called by cleric Tahir-ul Qadri, Islamabad, Pakistan, January 14, 2013.

Pakistan's parliament is due to complete its five-year constitutional term in mid-March, and new national polls are expected to be held in May. If there is no disruption, it would be the first time a democratically elected government completed its term and transferred power to another democratically elected government.
 
Some suspect that Pakistan's powerful military may be behind Qadri. The religious leader represents the Barelvi sect of Islam, which emphasizes moderation and tolerance, and he heads a Muslim charity that has branches both inside and outside Pakistan.

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Comments
     
by: RicksLimosNYC from: New YoRK
January 16, 2013 10:32 PM
Pakistani government sponsors terrorism in order to insert paranoia into United States for Aide. This aide goes right into the pockets of the so called, self claimed "democratic leaders" who are not only highly corrupted, but do not have any morality and consideration for human lives.
I feel bad for the Pakistanis who have become victims of their own government which has done nothing but harm to them. As a US soldier, and come across soldiers within AFG, I can assure Pakistanis that the illiterate participants of terror are paid by Pakistani government. These are the same leaders who ask Obama for more money to combat terror.
There is no incentive for the existing so called Pakistani democratic leaders to combat terror because their $$$ may come to halt. I bless the brace courageous people who stand up to unethical regimes and embrace true democracy and peace. I pray well being of such people and clerics who promote peace, internal security, job prosperity and upward mobility. I understand after this post, there will be those who will post opposing view points by claiming that this cleric is a fundamentalist or terrorist or is sponsored by military or foreign entities so they can cover and conceal their TRUE AGENDA$$.

by: Khalil Ahmed from: New York
January 16, 2013 8:58 PM
Mr. Rehamn Malik syas this is a crow of 10-15000 People in Pakistan. By just looking at the picture it seems untrue. Either Mr. Malik needs Maths class or he is trying to fool the nation as he and his party always did.

by: najabat hussain from: uk
January 16, 2013 6:31 PM
Sharon the gentleman that you call a 'Firebrand cleric' is representing the 190 million opressed people of pakistan. A country that is governed by corrupted politicians belonging to Pakistan's Peoples Party and Muslim League Nawaz.
The ordinary people of pakistan have no electric, no gas, no jobs, busineses are moving to nieghbouring Bangladesh because they have no security. No one is investing in the country, ordinary people are being killed every day in terrorist attacks and the government is not only seen to be doing nothing but actually are not doing nothing. Whilst terrorist exist in Pakistan and destroying the country's infastructure, the government continues to recieve aid from America, as they are fooling the Americans that they are fighting against terrorism. Actually let me put this in another way, America very well knows that their aid is misused, but it still serves their purpose which is to destabalise Pakistan so one way or the other America can take control of Pakistan's nuclear armament. The America's 'blueprint' of 2015 to dismantle Pakistan is known to every Pakistani in the world. Let me make it quite clear that America it self will fall badly just like the communist Russia fell apart. Don't forget when you are 'up there' their is only one way you can, Abraham Lincoln said 'that you can fool most of the people for some of the time, but not all of the time'.
Therefore the whole world is fully aware of the American agenda, no one is challenging America because they are not in a position to do so at this moment of time. It is just a matter of time wait till China and India will be the become super powers.
Coming back to Proffessor Doctor Tahir-ul-Qadri who is fighting for Human rights in Pakistan and wishes for Pakistan to hold fair and free elections and give the pakistani people the right live in a peacefull society and erradicate corruption from it's roots, this will save America a lot of money which they can use to sort out their own social issues including unemployment.

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