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Qadri Wants Pakistan Elections Held On Schedule

  • RFE/RL

Influential Islamic cleric Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri has told antigovernment protesters in Islamabad that he wants election reforms but no delay in elections scheduled for spring.

Qadri spoke to thousands of supporters who gathered for a third straight day in the Pakistani capital.

According to his Twitter account, Qadri said elections should be held within 90 days.

Qadri told the crowd the current government, which could be the country's first civilian administration to serve out a full five-year term, wasted its chance to institute changes to improve the lives of Pakistanis.

"You had a full five years. You have completed your term. Your fake mandate has been completed but you could not deliver,: Qadri said. "Now you were planning to bring in more dishonest people through a fake election. You were getting ready to take control of the parliament. That is why the whole nation has come out. Enough is enough. Whatever has happened, has happened. Now honest people will be voted in. Dishonest people will not be allowed to come in."

He lashed out again against corruption, accusing "looters" in parliament of depositing money in banks outside Pakistan.

Qadri exhorted the crowd to maintain its enthusiasm. "Be steadfast," saying, "Your destiny is closer."

Qadri also invited the Pakistani opposition politician and former cricket star Imran Khan to join the protest.

Khan, who leads the Pakistan Movement for Justice party, called earlier this week for President Asif Ali Zardari to resign and a set a date for elections. By law, parliamentary elections must take place by May 17.

Qadri, who recently returned to Pakistan after years in Canada, has called for the government to step down, calling it corrupt and incompetent.

He has denied intense media speculation that he is backed by Pakistan's military.

News reports have question Qadri's ability to spend large amounts of money on his antigovernment media campaign.

With reporting by Reuters

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