News / Asia

Political Rally Shuts Down Pakistan Capital

Tahir-ul Qadri, center, leader of Mihaj-ul-Quran movement, speaks before a protest march from Lahore to Islamabad, January 13, 2013.
Tahir-ul Qadri, center, leader of Mihaj-ul-Quran movement, speaks before a protest march from Lahore to Islamabad, January 13, 2013.
Sharon Behn
Thousands of flag-waving protesters marched into Pakistan's capital Monday to demand changes to the country's political system just months before scheduled elections. The rally is led by a Canadian-Pakistani cleric, Tahir-ul Qadri.
 
Cellphone services were shut off, shops closed their doors, metal containers barricaded major roads, and riot police were at the ready as protestors entered the country's capital city.
 
Some 30,000 people were said to have arrived in Islamabad from the eastern city of Lahore in a two-day convoy.  Another estimated 40,000 were expected to arrive overnight.

  • 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.

Protest organizers had predicted the numbers would reach in the hundreds of thousands.
 
Rally leader Tahir-ul Qadri is calling for the current government to step down as part of an overhaul of the country's electoral system. National voting for a new government is expected to be held in a few months.  
 
Analysts say Qadri is tapping into the people's deep frustration with ongoing violence and a deteriorating economy, but his campaign is unlikely to have a significant impact on the political system.
 
But supporters like Mariam Khalid, who flew in from her home in Britain to join the protest, says Qadri stands for the kind of change the country needs.

"Basically this is about change, and I know that is kind of vague and everyone wants change.  The difference with this protest is that it's not just about talking the talk, it's about walking the walk as well. What Dr. Tahir-ul Qadri is saying is basically that the people are sick of it, the situation in Pakistan; there is no food, no electricity, people are dying -- basically they are, that's the reality," Khalid said.
 
Relatively unknown until he returned to Pakistan a few weeks ago, Qadri has spent the last seven years in Canada leading an Islamic charity group with branches around the world.
 
Now his television ads are on all of Pakistan's major stations to protest what he says is a broken and corrupt political system that any election will just perpetuate.
 
If the national polls are held as scheduled, it will be the first time since Pakistan was formed in 1947 that a civilian government has completed its five-year term and peacefully handed over power to a new civilian leadership.
 
Tariq Junaid, head of Pakistan's Institute for Public Opinion Research, says Qadri's slogans are attractive, but his ability to force a change in the electoral laws, or even delay the elections, depends largely on the pressure Qadri can bring to bear on the government.
 
"Right now we have to see how much weightage the political parties will give to this. Apparently it seems like that, they are not taking it very seriously, they are letting it happen, and they think that in the due course of time it will die down, within the course of the next five or six days," Junaid said.
 
Junaid says as yet, there is a general consensus within Pakistani civil society that timely elections are the best way to remove corrupt politicians and give the country a fresh start.

You May Like

China May Be Biggest Winner From Ukraine Crisis

Missile sales, oil and gas shipments are among many areas that may drive Beijing and Moscow closer together in coming years More

Obama Faces Chaotic World, Limits of Power

Current foreign policy issues bring into focus challenges for US policymakers who are mindful of Americans' waning appetite for overseas military engagements More

SADC Meeting Lesotho Officials to Resolve Stalemate

Official says regional bloc has been engaged with leaders in Lesotho to resolve political disagreement that led to coup attempt More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid