‘Most prominent political and religious figure’, ‘outspoken cleric’ , ‘populist preacher’ and ’anti Taliban cleric’ are just a handful of titles given to Dr Muhammad Tahir ul Qadri since he has returned to his birth country – Pakistan and called the millions of poor to join him in his peaceful, green revolution.
Dr Qadri, leader of the political party: Pakistan Awami Tehreek [PAT] has been closely monitored by a wide array of journalist in the west including the BBC, The Associated Press, The Guardian, New York Times, Daily Mail, DW, The Independent and many more. All of whom have taken their own stance on who Dr Qadri is and why he has returned to Pakistan.
Most notoriously known for his Fatwa (religious edict) on Terrorism and Suicide Bombings published in 2011, he is globally accepted as a moderate Islamic scholar and preacher who promotes peace, love and tolerance in his speeches and published work.
‘Adeel Khan, a managing editor of the Doha-based “Religions” journal, told DW :
"The fatwa is quite blunt, less nuanced and unequivocal," Khan said.
“This shows Qadri’s ability to be polemical and less scholarly on a matter of pressing concern for Muslims and the rest of the world.” 4
Being known as a preacher who is even-handed, Dr Qadri announced he would be returning to Pakistan on Monday 23rd June 2014 via Emirates Airlines on flight number: EK612 which was expected to land in Islamabad. He was returning to his country of birth with the intention of ridding it of its corrupt leaders who had failed to implement the just and fair laws of Islam embedded in the constitution of Pakistan and to restore democracy in its true sense. BBC World reported that ‘crowds had gathered at the city’s airport to welcome Tahirul Qadri…but his flight was diverted to Lahore [as] he plans to lead a peaceful revolt against PM Nawaz Sharif.’ 1 The ‘police had sealed off roads to Islamabad’ in order to prevent Dr Qadri’s supporters from welcoming him.
“We just want to give a peaceful welcome to our leader but they (the police) pounded us with tear gas,” said one protestor, Reuters news agency reported. 1
Whilst on the aeroplane Dr Qadri spoke to the BBC’s Wietske Burema, a witness to what occurred on the flight. He had informed her that he wanted ‘democratic reforms. The government, he said, had been elected though a rigged electoral process.’ 1
Prior to his return, the police; under the order of the government had physically assaulted peaceful followers of Dr Qadri at his hometown in Lahore. On the pretext of removing safety barricades the police had opened fire and murdered unarmed civilians
On Saturday 9th August, BBC reported that 8 civilians have been killed by the Punjab Police which was shortly followed by statement released by police officials stating that: ‘500 (more) protestors were also arrested’2
DW reporter Shamil Sams reported on Dr Qadri’s political power in a different light, stating that ‘Qadri’s PAT party has no seat in Parliament, yet his influence on national politics is quite palpable. The motto of the party is to end corruption in the country…But Qadri’s critics say he is being backed by Pakistan’s powerful military generals who are unhappy with Sharif’s policies 4
"Most people in Pakistan think Qadri is being backed by the establishment, particularly the army," Ghazi Salahuddin, a senior journalist in Karachi, told DW. Qadri denies it.
"I am against the army takeover and will oppose it," Qadri said in a DW interview.’ 4
Dr Qadri began his revolutionary, peaceful march towards the capital city on Thursday 14th August and released a statement to The Associated Press informing them that:
“Over 200,000 people are with me and I am going to Islamabad to bring a peaceful green revolution in Pakistan” 4
Police officials also released a statement which was recorded by the Daily Mail informing the public that ‘about 2,000 of Qadri’s supporters were also arrested this month’ 6 on yet unknown grounds. This statement ironically gave credibility to Dr Qadri’s claims that there is a grand level of corruption in Pakistan that has a stranglehold on all institutions including law and order departments.
Before entry into the capital, the Guardian informed us that Pakistan has blocked almost every entry point into Islamabad, with more than 20,000 police and paramilitary forces deployed to try to thwart a major anti-government rally. 5 As the government has seen the powerful effect Dr Qadri has on his listeners when he educates them.
The Independent’s journalist Andrew Buncombe reported on Tuesday 12th August that ‘Sixty-eight years since it secured its independence, Pakistan faces a host of problems, including a persistent Islamist militancy, crippling power cuts’ and many more socio-economic problems. All of which the current PM has not addressed. For these reasons, Dr Qadri has called ‘for a people’s revolution and also demanded Mr Sharif’s government stand down’. 3
In Dr Qadri’s first formal address to his audience crammed along the 5km stretch of Khayaban-e-Suharwardi; presented a Charter of Demands. The items listed within the Charter were in line with the constitution of Pakistan. The New York Times reported the demands listed by Dr Qadri as he ‘called on Mr Sharif to cede power to a ‘national government’ led by technocrats who, he said should halve food process, reduce income disparities and end terrorism.’ 7
The severity of the socio-economic crisis Pakistan faces was a revelation to many as Dr Qadri detailed the foreign loans that have indebted its nationals for generations to come. Discussing the statistics provided by the Global Competitive Index [GPI] compiled by the World Economic Forum which provides insight into the productivity and prosperity of 148 nations, Dr Qadri disclosed in 2012-13 Pakistan’s position was 124. This has plummeted by 9 points due to the incompetence of Mr Sharif’s government and was recorded as 133 out of 148 in 2013-14.
As the situation in Pakistan’s capital is rapidly changing, western media have been reporting on a daily basis the events occurring in Dr Qadri’s peaceful protest. The pressure on the government heightened when Dr Qadri set a deadline for the PM Nawaz Sharif and CM Shebaz Sharif to resign and dissolve the federal government within 48 hours. This deadline expired on Monday 19th August at 20:00hrs BST with no favourable response from the leaders in which the masses have lost faith. Piling on further pressure on the Prime Minister and his government to resign, Dr Qadri called for nationwide sit-ins. Dr Qadri warned Mr Sharif if demands were not met, then tomorrow on 19th August at 1700hrs PST a People’s Parliament would convene and the Revolution would reach its pinnacle.
6 http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/national/16-Aug-2014/qadri-demands-resignation-arrest-of-nawaz-shahbazily Mail (15th August)