News / Asia

Tahir-ul Qadri Returns to Pakistan to Oppose Government

Pakistani cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri waves to his supporters after reaching Lahore, Pakistan, Monday, June 23, 2014.
Pakistani cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri waves to his supporters after reaching Lahore, Pakistan, Monday, June 23, 2014.
Ayaz Gul
This week a prominent cleric-turned-politician returned to Pakistan, vowing to organize anti-government protests.

Canada-based Tahir-ul Qadri has pledged a “peaceful revolution against a corrupt democracy.” But the sudden homecoming has fueled speculation that Pakistan’s powerful military may be using him as a proxy in efforts to sideline the political government.
 
Widely known as a pro-army cleric, Qadri’s Pakistan Awami Tehreek is one of the country’s most organized political parties.

Its base of support is rooted in Qadri’s large following from the vast network of mosques and religious centers he set up across Pakistan.
 
Tahir-ul Qadri
 
  • Born on February 19, 1951, in Jang, Pakistan
  • Started formal religious education at the age of 12 in Medina, Saudi Arabia
  • Founded Pakistan Awami Tehreek political party
  • Moved to Canada in 2004
  • Briefly returned to Pakistan to lead protests in 2013

Last year, he led mass rallies against Pakistan’s previous government. Now he has returned to lead what his spokesman has called an “Arab spring” style revolt and bring a new government to power that can improve accountability and push through reforms.
 
Seen as backed by army

Qadri’s ability to quickly organize mass rallies and openly denounce the civilian government has long been seen as evidence that he is backed by the army as a way of sidelining civilian leaders.
 
“Do you think that Tahir-ul Qadri would be able to make the kinds of statements that he is making and these are the kinds of activities that he is doing in Canada where he is a dual national? Do you think they will put up with this?” asked Daniyal Aziz, a lawmaker in the ruling party, rhetorically.
 
On Monday, Qadri was scheduled to arrive in Islamabad on an Emirates flight from Dubai, but authorities diverted the plane with nearly 300 passengers to Lahore, citing security concerns.
 
The move outraged thousands of his supporters waiting outside the airport in the capital, leading to violent clashes with police. It also triggered protests elsewhere in the country.
 
After several hours on the tarmac, Qadri eventually agreed to deplane but vowed to lead nationwide anti-government rallies to avenge the deaths of around a dozen supporters killed a week ago when Lahore police opened fire on a crowd outside Qadri’s residence.
 
That crackdown promoted severe criticism of the Nawaz Sharif government. Monday's plane incident has intensified it.
 
Raza Rumi, a television anchor and editor, said the overreaction by the government stems from the troubled democratic history of Pakistan, where the military has seized power through repeated coups.
 
“Pakistan’s history has been that when there is a confrontation like this, the civil-military relationship is going down then the military sort of reacts or comes back with a kind of political engineering that attacks the incumbent government, weakens it and creates an environment in public opinion where the population the electorate is ready for a political change,” Rumi said.
 
Widely dubbed as "self-styled revolutionary," last year Qadri briefly returned to Pakistan to lead a similar protest against the previous government.

Sit-in demonstration

Thousands of his supporters staged a three-day sit-in demonstration in the heart of Islamabad that dispersed peacefully. However, this time Qadri has vowed not to leave Pakistan until he accomplishes his mission.
 
"God willing," he said, "it will be a movement of revolution and this peaceful war will be fought until miseries of the poor are ended, oppressions against the innocent are avenged and corruption is eliminated."
 
There is growing public concern over the country’s ongoing battle against Taliban militants. But ruling party lawmaker Aziz links Qadri’s sudden return to Pakistan to the ongoing treason trial of former military President Pervez Musharraf.
 
“For the first time in Pakistan that two things are happening at the same time that democracy has shifted through a peaceful election from one party to another and now after many years of these kinds of episodes are taking place, there is also a treason trial underway," Aziz said. "The [army] establishment has not minced its words on its feelings regarding the trial that’s ongoing."
 
Opposition lawmaker Asad Umar disagreed, saying ruling party members are raising concerns over military interference in politics to distract the public from the failings of their own long-promised political and economic reforms.
 
“If it (army interference) is genuinely being done, it is a major, major issue," Umar said.

"Literally, there is nothing can be bigger than that - come to the parliament, go to the courts, use the constitution means available to you. You cannot run a slanderous media campaign against the important state institutions. That’s just not the right way of running the country democratically,” Umar said.
 
Discontent with the Sharif government has grown in recent months because of nationwide power shortages that have crippled economic activities in Pakistan.
 
Moreover, critics said that a lack of clarity on how to tackle a deadly Islamist insurgency at home and reported differences with the military in terms of dealing with neighboring Afghanistan and India are primary sources of civil-military tensions.
 
Observers are unsure whether Qadri’s homecoming is meant to fuel these tensions and whether other opposition political parties would want to join a man accused of promoting “undemocratic” forces to take charge of the national affairs.

You May Like

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer More

Video Kenyans Lament Al-Shabab's Recruitment of Youths

VOA travels to Isiolo, where residents share their fears, struggles to get loved ones back from Somalia-based militant group More

This US Epidemic Keeps Getting Worse

One in 4 Americans suffers from this condition More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: azhar from: sf, ca
June 24, 2014 11:57 AM
I think we need such people -there is no *justice* been given to anyone. Revolution indeed needed! This is not your regular mullah, he is well educated and his demands are what each Pakistani wants for years!! With such a large following, I think his goals can be accomplished. NOTE: his demonstration in ISB had families & very peaceful. What you in past few days is mostly caused by N-league themselves, like what "gullu butt" incident.

by: Nizamuddin Ahmad Aali from: Houston, Texas
June 24, 2014 10:11 AM
We in Pakistan have already enough idiots and we do not need any more. Qadri is a fraud, owns and operate a family owned NGO. He tried to get a piggy back ride on army of Pakistan. A mid term election is the solution. Punjabi dominated poorly educated politicians should go back to their old business.

by: Shuaib
June 24, 2014 8:20 AM
There is no place for mullahs in Pakistan, we've had enough! Deport him back to Canada, all these mullahs do is cause chaos and incite violence in some way shape or form. If not against civilians - then it's against the government authorities which is illegal. Get out of Pakistan mullah sahab you are *not* wanted.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensionsi
X
May 26, 2015 11:11 PM
When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs