News / Asia

Protest Leader Calls for 'Peaceful Revolution' in Pakistan

Sufi cleric and leader of the Minhaj-ul-Quran religious organisation Muhammad Tahirul Qadri addresses his supporters from behind the window of an armored vehicle on the second day of protests in Islamabad, January 15, 2013.
Sufi cleric and leader of the Minhaj-ul-Quran religious organisation Muhammad Tahirul Qadri addresses his supporters from behind the window of an armored vehicle on the second day of protests in Islamabad, January 15, 2013.
Sharon Behn
— Populist Pakistani cleric Tahir-ul Qadri has called for a peaceful revolution in the country and the dissolution of the current government.  His comments came as tens of thousands of demonstrators held a second day of protests in the capital, Islamabad, and the nation's Supreme Court ordered the arrest of Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf. 

Army helicopters on Tuesday flew overhead as tens of thousands of flag-waving supporters took over the capital's streets for second day, demanding a radical change to Pakistan's political system.

Protest leader, Tahirul Qadri, a Canadian-Pakistani Sufi cleric who burst onto the political scene last month, says the government is dysfunctional and has lost its legitimacy. He called for the dissolution of parliament.

"We are here in front of parliament house just to save our country from collapse and from complete ruin," he said. "We need substantial changes, reforms in our democratic, political and electoral system."

The firebrand Sufi cleric slammed corrupt lawmakers, calling them looters and thieves. Speaking from inside a bullet-poof truck, Qadri said the march was a democratic and constitutional way of restoring transparency and law and order to the country.

"And, just this democratic change, and political and electoral reforms is our revolution.  This is green revolution.  This is peaceful revolution.  This is democratic revolution.  This is constitutional revolution.  This is lawful revolution," he said.

  • 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.

Speaking in Urdu to the gathering, Qadri vowed the crowds occupying the main avenue of Islamabad will not return to their homes until the government responds to their demands.

As Qadri concluded his speech, which praised both the military and judiciary, the supreme court ordered the arrest of Pakistan's Prime Minister Raja Perez Ashraf on an outstanding court case.

An enormous cheer went up from the crowd on hearing the news.

Qadri has effectively tapped into many Pakistanis' deep frustration with the government because of repeated energy shortages, corruption and unemployment. Supporter Ahsan Gilani says, if Qadri asks his followers to take their protest to parliament, they will.

"If he will say go, we are ready.  We are ready.  We don't worry - no fear from the bullets, guns, helicopters are coming, we have no fear, so we can do, we are ready," he said.

Qadri also addressed the thousands of security personnel protecting the capital, telling them not to listen to the government and use force against the crowds - but instead to protect the protestors.

He also is calling for more people to join the rally in the capital city that is already on high alert.

Analyst Raza Rumi, policy director of the Jinnah Institute, says the Qadri's attempt to force a dismissal of the government is potentially destabilizing.

"[There are] Many in Pakistan, and other cities and political parties, who think this is definitely not the right way forward for Pakistan, as we cannot afford this situation to escalate," said Rumi. "I think it will be very important for the government to play it wisely, and negotiate with Dr. Qadri for a settlement, whereby his crowds leave Islamabad and new elections are announced ASAP."

The Pakistan National Assembly is set to dissolve by or before March 18, when its five-year term expires and new polls are held to elect lawmakers. But Qadri's demonstrations could speed up that process.

Qadri's supporters filling the capital's main Jinnah Avenue had waited expectantly all morning for the cleric to address them. Some were pointing toward the sky, claiming they saw the word "Allah" written in the clouds.

Earlier in the day, police fired tear gas and several rounds into the air, pushing back protesters. Access to the parliament has been sealed off by metal containers, behind which are more than 2,000 police and rangers in riot gear.

You May Like

As AIDS Epidemic Matures, Workplaces Adapt

Issue of AIDS in workplace is one of many social issues being discussed at the 20th International Aids Conference in Australia More

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: mustafa from: karachi
January 15, 2013 10:09 PM
This is the corrupt govt in the history of pakistan. They have army of ministers with main target to increase their personal bank balance. Their families are living abroad and enjoy their life on poor pakistani tax money. we need complete change in the system so common pakistani get some relief and peace of mind.


by: sanman from: NYC
January 15, 2013 9:23 AM
Qadri is clearly a stooge of the Pak Military, who are very anxious to engineer a coup against the govt to prevent their opponent Nawaz Sharif from returning to power. Note the elections are to happen within a few months, but Qadri is launching his street protests now, asking to postpone them? A genuine democracy activist would ask for international observers, if they questioned the electoral process. Here, Qadri isn't even asking for that - he's asking instead for a new govt to be handpicked by the army (how convenient for the army!)

This is clearly another military coup in a country with a long history of military coups.


by: AA from: Toronto, ON
January 15, 2013 9:13 AM
This government will not resign peacefully, they have to be forced out by the people.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid