Monday, August 29, 2016


The Man Behind Pakistan's Democracy March

Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri waves to supporters on his arrival in Lahore on December 23.
Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri waves to supporters on his arrival in Lahore on December 23.
By Daud Khattak and Charles Recknagel
Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri is best known internationally for fatwa that he issued in 2010 condemning terrorism.

The influential Islamic scholar declared in that 600-page religious ruling that no Muslim has the right to shed the blood of civilians in the name of religion.

Now Qadri is becoming known both inside and outside Pakistan for something else: He has vowed to bring millions of supporters out into the streets for a march on Islamabad on January 14.

This time, his message is not religious but political. "If you want change," he told supporters in Lahore on December 23, "I am also here to bring the change."

Qadri is demanding a total overhaul of the government ahead of the country's parliamentary elections, due to take place after the legislature ends its current term in March. A precise date for the voting has not been set.

Qadri -- who is a law professor and founder of a worldwide organization that promotes education in the Islamic sciences -- wants Pakistan's ruling coalition to step down in favor of a caretaker administration that would be acceptable to all of the country's political parties, its judiciary, and its military. And he has called for such a caretaker administration to carry out election reforms he says are needed to ensure the upcoming vote will be honest.

Deadline To Government

To ensure the current government listens, Qadri has given it until January 10 to meet his demands. If it does not, he has promised, the march will begin from Lahore on January 13 and reach the capital the next day.

The government has so far refused Qadri's demand for a meeting with the prime minister and cabinet to discuss his terms. But Interior Minister Rehman Malik visited Qadri on January 7 to discuss security arrangements for the march.

FROM THE ARCHIVE: A 2010 Interview With Qadri By RFE/RL

Islamabad's superintendent of police, Mirwais Imtiaz, told RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal that protesters will be barred from a "red zone" that includes the main government buildings.

"We will provide security. Although the organizers have said the procession will be peaceful, we will deploy police to avoid any incidents," Imtiaz said. "No one may cross the red zone. There will be checks at walk-through gates, and there will be separate parking arrangements for participants of the procession."

Imtiaz said the red zone would be cordoned off with containers and barbed wire. He also said that 4,000 to 5,000 police personnel will be deployed in Islamabad to ensure security.

Motivated Support Base

How many people Qadri actually can bring to the streets is now the question that dominates Pakistani media.

Omar Cheema of the Islamabad-based Center of Investigative Reporting in Pakistan says Qadri has a highly motivated support base among his former students. "The people who are aligned with him, these are the guys, most of them, who have graduated from his institution called Minhaj-ul-Quran," Cheema says. "So he has that kind of following."

Minhaj-ul-Quran International is a Sufism-based organization that Qadri founded in 1981. The group's declared aim is to promote a moderate vision of Islam and the establishment of good relations and understanding between communities and religions.

Qadri has also been a professor of law at the University of Punjab, where he taught British, U.S., and Islamic constitutional law for many years.

But if Qadri's dual role as a religious and educational figure helps make him a credible critic of Pakistan's troubled political system to some people, his own dabbling in politics makes him a suspect figure to others.

He founded his own political party, Pakistan Awami Tehrik, in 1989 and ran for a seat in the National Assembly in 2002. His party, which did not enter the last parliamentary race in 2008, is widely seen as having a one-man leadership with no other well-known figures apart from Qadri himself.

Qadri spent the past seven years in Canada and largely out of the Pakistani public eye. Now, with his pledge to lead a millions-strong march on Islamabad, he has not only returned to Pakistani politics but seized a place at center stage.
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Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
by: Dawood from: Islamabad
January 10, 2013 00:12
Your article was brilliant, until the last paragraph. As someone who's followed Dr Qadri's stuggle for change, i know that he has not entered pakistan for the last 3 years, he has stayed in touch throughout with hundreds of thousands attending events held under MQI's banner. He was the only leader who spoke against the killing of the minister by his bodyguard, he was the only leader who's followers did not create a law and order situation when they protested against the portrayal of the Prophet film and it was the biggest protest, whereas the other protesters from different parties who protested on different days attacked embassies etc. He is only a "suspect figure" to those who's corruption will be the end of them, and who will never be able to steal, lie, fraud, and play with the lives of the people. Their reign of terror on Pakistan which has lasted for 70 years by a certain few families is finally coming to an end. Now real democracy, that which 180 million people will have an input into, will begin!

by: Humaira from: Glasgow
January 10, 2013 09:47
A good read, also just to correct Dr Qadri has been in Canada for approx 4 years now not 7 and since those 4 years he has been coming to Pakistan during Itekaf or Mawlid-un-Nabi SAW.
In Response

by: Moderator
January 10, 2013 14:46
hanks for your comment. We called the office of Allama Tahirul Qadri in Lahore and talked to a person named Umair who confirmed that Mr Qadri stayed in Canada for SEVEN years. -- RFE/RL editors

by: sanman from: NYC
January 10, 2013 10:47
Qadri is a stooge for Pakistan's Army, which wants to derail the democratic process rather than seeing Nawaz Sharif return to power with PML-N. Historically, the army preferred PML-N over Bhutto's PPP, but Musharraf was the one who wrecked relations between the army and PML-N with his coup that sent Nawaz Sharif into exile. With the upcoming elections threatening to bring Nawaz Sharif and PML-N back to power, the army is determined to avoid this at all costs, and is now resorting to last-minute stuntsmanship through their man Qadri to derail the upcoming elections. Qadri is calling for elections to be postponed, and for a new govt to instead be formed by appointees handpicked by the Supreme Court and Army (how very convenient for the Army)
In Response

by: Zahid Iqbal from: London
January 10, 2013 13:19
Oh, so you have some proof of this do you? I suggest you actually listen to what Dr Qadri is ACTUALLY saying, rather than relying on dubious conjecture.
In Response

by: Javed from: Rawalpindi
January 10, 2013 15:39
Dear, please give some proof of your statement that Dr Qadri is asking Pakistan's Army to take over control of country. We living in Pakistan and very next door to Army HQs in Rawalpindi very clearly know that Army is not in a position to take over government due to the reasons of its involvement in ongoing insurgency operations in two provinces. Secondly, Dr Qadri has very openly and repeatedly iterated that if Army tried to take over, he shall be the first person to stand against this move of Army.
Madam, your comments are baseless.
In Response

by: Raja omer Jamil from: Lahore
January 10, 2013 16:23
Dear Sanman, I think you should come up with Some Proof as asked by Others :-)

by: Aftab Kazi from: Washington DC
January 10, 2013 12:30
Approximately 40,000 buses have been rented for Qadri's march with an estimated expenditure nearly one billion rupees. Who is paying for the cost? Mullah Qadri is an opportunist, who in the wake of international struggle against terrorism availed the opportunity to write a fatwa to attract Western audiences. He has nothing more at his credit, other than some Mullah oriented teaching to selected groups. He will be leading the march with the support of MQM, which is not very well respected in Pakistan other than their own Karachites and some others in Lahore areas (Mostly those who migrated to new Pakistan after 1947). Same was the support base for Jamat-e-Islami until the supporters went against it and regrouped under MQM, a controvertial political organization known for crimes in 1980s, which also became the support base for General Musharaf during his military regime. Mullah Qadri contested elections in 2002 on Musharraf's supprt, and the concurrent Prime Minister defeated him with a high margin. Qadri received, if I remember correctly only 2 percent of the vote from the constituency. I am not saying that currently Pakistan People Party may be as strong as it was in 2008 after Benazir Bhutto's political murder, because concurrent PPP governance has ben dismal, but it takes a lot of courage and popularity to carry out such a march as claimed. Majority of Pakistani voters, though unhappy with all political parties, amid the ongoing war on terror and the problems country is facing are not interested in such a march. He may collect approximately half a million, mostly mullahs, who can cause temporary havoc (Peaceful demonstrations as claimed by political parties in Pakistan have never been peaceful). Currently, every one in Pakistan is asking questions, "Who is responsible to pay for this new demonstration, which is likely to cause problems in the forthcoming electoral processes, and what caused Qadri to suddenly pop down right before the elections, and what is preventing him to take a normal Parliamentary way to protest against the onging injustices, which need reforms in several fields, as he has claimed and is counting on for "sudden public support". In my opinion, his march will be a bubble, but will be costing some lives and property damage. He has no constituency in Pakistan, possibly other than one of the MQM ones (Which may not be assured, if the order of Chief Justice Supreme Court on delimitation of constituencies is implemented properly; originally imposed by the Musharraf regime to ensure ineligible but a relatively larger victory for MQM). We will have to wait and see until January 13th or 14th. Qadri, his claims to popularity (He may collect a few thousand with the support of MQM and other religious parties). Claims to his constituency of pupils are false. Briefly, it is a bubble that will burp and extinguished. Qadri does not understand the nature and psychological nature of various Pakistani political and social cultures, and the Pakistani culture.
As I see it, he will soon be traveling back to Canada. Pakistan amid othjer important regional problems, which need priority attention, is not like Egypy, where Arab Springs can be initiated.
In Response

by: Zahid Iqbal from: London
January 10, 2013 13:24
This is all old news, the money came from donations, with my own family donating thousands of pounds. Money well spent to reform this so-called 'Democracy' of Pakistan. Dr Qadri fully understands the 'nature' and 'psychology' of Pakistani political circles i.e rampant corruption and election fixing, criminals in Parliament. Anyone wanting the status quo is either deluded or a beneficiary of the fraud.
In Response

by: Aftab Kazi from: Washington DC
January 11, 2013 03:16
Understanding 'political circles' is very much different from the understanding of politica cultures, which I referred to. Besides, Pakistan is not Qadri's lot. No matter what most of you overseas based Pakistanis say, which is coming out from only one minority section, the march will be a bubble with some violence (Almost all mullah oriented demonstrations have ended up so) and then forgotten with remorse. In his Lahore speech, Qadri aspired for caretaker prime-ministership, now he has changed position. His politics is a an open clear cut drama, just as all Pakistani politicians (though mostly corrupt, yet with established constituencies) have opined. After the march, mullah Qadri is likely to loose whatever little respect he has in his own extremely limited minority circles. Remember that Pakistan from its beginning has ben mismanaged by migrant minority without any vision how nation-state-building is managed. Everytime some indigeneous leader came into power, he or she was killed or hanged. This is a new drama, but people of Pakistan are no fools. Qadri will find out. You and me will be here to witness his failure. Little donations from overseas do not matter much. Part of them are misused, and most utilizers end up in debts, unless substantiated from some outside power. Make no mistake about that and remember my words.
In Response

by: Javed from: Rawalpindi
January 10, 2013 15:48
Well, my question is that Dr Qadri a huge "Peace for Humanity Conference" in UK last year at Wembley Arena with approximately 12000 participation. Similarly, a huge "Milad Conference" in US; Extra-ordinary gatherings in various cities of India early last year with participation ranging from 1- 4 Millions. You may check Indian media of Feb, Mar 2012.
Who is sponsoring all these conference ? ? If you say western governments, then what is the aim of western governments by allowing Dr Qadri to hold large gatherings in their own lands and what benefit those governments are getting by sponsoring him to hold large gatherings in India ? ? ?
My brother, i tell you, we, the workers of MQI (Minhaj ul Quran) are sponsoring these events. We are spread all over world in more than 90 countries and we sponsor by contributing 1000 - 2000 dollars per head when ever there is a requirement of sponsoring such an event.

by: Zahid Iqbal from: London
January 10, 2013 13:28
Excellent piece. Makes a refreshing change to see something balanced on this issue, rather than wild conjecture, as I am finding in some journalistic quarters. There is a lot of mud-slinging going on, trying to divert attention from the issues Dr Qadri is highlighting (as I can see from one or two comments on here....)

by: Javed from: Rawalpindi
January 10, 2013 15:52
Overall, its an excellent article, but it seems that writer has not directly interacted with Minhaj ul Quran's executives to get get first hand information and their point of view and solely depended on the media reports published here and there on social-media and TV reports. I suggest that writers should contact the MQI representatives and ask directly from them their point of view.
Any how, a good writing. Keep it up.

by: Fatimah from: UK
January 10, 2013 16:08
Out of the 30million families in Pakistan the same 3000 families have taken part in the elections and quite frankly the country has had enough. No one else is given a chance. It is unfortunate that without money or power you cannot become a real contender in the election.

What has attracted the millions to Dr Qadri is his vision for true democracy, the chance for lawyers, teachers, educated youth to participate in the elections. The country is crumbling, a sense of embarrassment comes over you when you're asked from which country you are from. Dr Qadri wants to change the fate of Pakistan, eradicate poverty, empower the poor through education and give the citizens their rights back.

by: Raja Omer jamil from: Lahore
January 10, 2013 16:21
Nicely written article, however i would humbly not agree with the last paragraph as Dr Qadri has been traveling In and Out of the country during this period of time.

by: Rehan Ahsan from: Rawalpindi
January 10, 2013 20:27
Dear Friends,,,All of you should be clear that Dr Qadri has raised voice for the rights of 18 crore people of Pakistan,,he is not struggling for any Prime Minister ship nor he is a candidate for the Elections,,he is making efforts to bring Reforms in Electoral Process so that no party can make pre poll rigging ,, no party can manipulate the results,, further any one which is Honest , Trustworthy , Intelligent can participate in elections and deliver to his abilities in the Parliament of Pakistan for the well being of Pakistan,,,unfortunately Elections has been conducting since 65 years and people have been voting too but the people are not being benefited,,people are instead not able to live with Peace Harmony and Security ,, people are deprived of Health Education and Justice ,, basic necessities of life are not assured to the big majority of People in Pakistan,, the provision of basic necessities of life is a prerequisite in the democratic countries but not here in Pakistan,, so we come to conclusion that Just Elections are not solution to our problems but we need Reforms in our Democratic and Electoral Process,, In my view Dr Qadri is raising voice to bring Reforms and his agenda is very loud and clear and there is no ambiguity in his thoughts,, political parties which are joining are supporting his agenda ,, when Reforms will be brought all political parties will be filtered,, and of course all political parties will be benefited and all Pakistan as well,,so we should support and appreciate Dr Qadri for showing the courage to challenge this corrupt and monopolistic Electoral System.

by: Shoaib Hussain from: UK
January 10, 2013 21:37
Excellent and objective report of the the aims and objective of thsi struggle. I as a british pakistani fully endorse Dr Qadri's agenda to reform corrupt political practices that have been part of the culture for 60 years. Pakistan has so much potential to be a hub of moderation and peace, an example muslim state. But unfortunately these sudo democratic rulers have raped the country.
As for the propaganda against Dr Qadri's person - This is expected from half baked journalists who merely report fabrications to attract an audience.

I saw the address on 23rd and it was definitely the largest gathering in the history of Pakistan, a fact attested by everyone in the post event analysis. I had first hand reports of people who were stuck 25 miles outside minar e pakistan unable to get anywhere near due to sheer number of people.

Lets hope the change continues on the 14jan and Dr Qadri - every patriotic pakistani and lover of democracy is with you!
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