News / Asia

    Pakistan Protest Ends After Talks

    Babar Khan Ghori (R) of the Pakistan's political party Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) hugs cleric and leader of Minhaj-ul-Quran Muhammad Tahirul Qadri after they reached an agreement on the fourth day of protests in Islamabad, January 17, 2013.
    Babar Khan Ghori (R) of the Pakistan's political party Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) hugs cleric and leader of Minhaj-ul-Quran Muhammad Tahirul Qadri after they reached an agreement on the fourth day of protests in Islamabad, January 17, 2013.
    Pakistan's coalition government on Thursday negotiated an end to a four-day protest in the nation's capital led by firebrand cleric Tahir-ul Qadri against the country's political leadership.

    Thousands of supporters danced and burst burst into cheers as Tahir-ul Qadri, a Canadian-Pakistani cleric whose protest challenged the country's political establishment, said he had reached a deal with the government.
     
    He called the agreement "a great document in the history of Pakistan's democracy," he said.

    The Islamabad Declaration

    Signed by Qadri and Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, the so-called "Islamabad Declaration" states the National Assembly may be dissolved in favor of an interim government a few days before its term is set to end on March 15.
     
    Qadri said that would allow for 90 days until the vote for a new parliament is held - time to vet those politicians standing for elections.
     
    The face-saving deal was forged after Qadri held hours of talks with a delegation of political leaders who joined the cleric in his bullet-proof container truck in the middle of the protesting crowds.
     
    Analyst Rasul Bakhsh Rais said Qadri's message was not new, but his street tactics set a negative precedent for the country.
     
    "Almost every day in some part of the country simultaneously, many protests take place in this country and if that is going to be in Islamabad again and again, I don’t think we are going to have a democratic stability or political stability in this country," said Rais.

    Under the slogan of "Change," the cleric demanded radical reforms to the country's electoral system, to prevent what he called the perpetuation of a corrupt and incompetent political leadership.
     
    Pakistan's political opposition parties refused to join the sit-in. But Qadri's staying power, and his ability to tap into popular discontent with energy shortages, unemployment, and corruption, finally brought the government to the negotiating table.
     
    For some, like supporter Hasnain Ali, that was victory enough. He said, "Our message now has reached the world, and the start of dialogue is our victory. We want to change the system and our leader has started this change."

    He said all of Pakistan is with Qadri, adding that "we will stay here until we achieve victory."

    President Asif Ali Zardari on Thursday summoned a meeting of the National Assembly for Monday, January 21.

    • 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.

    ​The protest was the longest single political rally in Pakistan's history, and shut down the capital's main business district for four days. Demonstrators equipped with blankets and tents sat through cold nights and rain, refusing to leave until their leader's demands were met.
     
    Qadri kept a tight rein on the protest. The cleric had his own security teams secure access to the avenue, conducting body searchers and demanding identification of anyone who tried to enter the area.
     
    Thousands of police and armed paramilitary rangers had remained on alert in case the estimated 50,000 protestors had tried to break through the barricade of metal containers protecting the nation's parliament building.

    Sharon Behn

    Sharon Behn is a foreign correspondent working out of Voice of America’s headquarters in Washington D.C  Her current beat focuses on political, security and humanitarian developments in Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Follow Sharon on Twitter and on Facebook.

    You May Like

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: AmericanMuse from: USA
    January 17, 2013 6:32 PM
    Alas, Qadri too has been co-opted by the odious Pakistani establishment.

    by: Ahmed from: New York
    January 17, 2013 5:54 PM
    Congratulation to Mr. Qadri for the outstanding leadership in this peaceful march and great sacrifice of his followers in the harsh weather. This was the most peaceful relly in the history of Pakistan and an example for the world that things can be resolved peacefully with determination for the right cause in a right way . I hope best for the people of Pakistan for a great leadership in the next elections and wish prosperity, stability and peace in the country. Dr. Qadri is a Hero for restoration of a true democracy and a big hope for the future of this nation. May God bless you.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora