New Delhi:  The world is all set to witness another Arab spring as anti-government sentiments are becoming louder in Pakistan after the re-emergence of Minhajul Quran International chief Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri in Islamabad.

Another Jolt: Supreme Court orders arrest of Pak PM

Thousands of protesters on Monday marched towards Islamabad to join the massive rally called by the Muslim cleric Qadri against the PPP-led Pakistan government.

Qadri, who returned to Pakistan last month after spending eight years in Canada, marched into Jinnah Avenue located in the heart of Islamabad with tens of thousands of supporters and gave the government ultimatum to quit and dissolve the national and provincial assemblies. He declared that he was leading "people's democratic revolution".

The cleric's party had signed an agreement with the Islamabad administration to hold a peaceful protest a few kilometres from the National Assembly, but the cleric surprised authorities by inciting his followers to remove barricades and move towards a square near Parliament.

Qadri had earlier addressed a large gathering at Minar-e-Pakistan in Lahore on December 24 and gave the government time till January 10 to carry out electoral reforms. That time, he had also warned to lead a march in Islamabad with his followers on January 14 and stage a sit-in protest in support of his demands.

Terming Pakistan government corrupt and dysfunctional, Qadri demanded postponement of upcoming general elections. He also sought help from Pakistan Army to support his movement. Meanwhile, fearing of any untoward situation, President Zardari has sent his family members to Dubai.


Qadri's supporters clash with police

Police fired in the air and used teargas to disperse followers of the influential cleric after they clashed with security forces.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik told the media that security forces fired in the air after Qadri's supporters pelted them with stones.

Qadri's spokesman Shahid Mursaleen claimed in an email statement that trouble erupted after police tried to arrest the cleric.

"Once they realised that the crowd is not letting them come near him, they (police) opened fire in the air which lasted for 10 minutes," he claimed.

Mursaleen further claimed police fired at Qadri's car and tried to smash its windows. "The crowd ran after the police with sticks when they realised the police (was trying) to attack their leader. The police ran away," he said.

His claims could not be independently confirmed. The spokesman said Qadri, who was in a portable shelter, was safe.

Qadri also incited policemen and paramilitary personnel to defy their officers, saying the officials would be removed by Wednesday.

The ruling Pakistan People's Party, main opposition PML-N and other major parties have accused Qadri of acting a front for the security establishment and foreign elements to delay the general election scheduled to be held by May so that that the term of an interim administration can be prolonged.

No delay in General Election

Pakistan's Supreme Court and Election Commission said that there should be no delay in holding the next general election scheduled for this year.

At the hearing of a case on electoral reforms by a three-judge bench of the Apex Court, Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry said the next general election -- expected by May -- should be held on time.

No compromise would be made regarding the schedule for the polls and the Election Commission should be prepared to conduct them, he said.

Chaudhry said the Election Commission should be prepared to follow any guidelines framed by the government for holding polls.

"Holding of elections is the responsibility of the Election Commission and it has to fulfil this obligation."
In a related development, Chief Election Commissioner Fakharuddin Ibrahim chaired an emergency meeting of the Election Commission in Islamabad.

Know who is Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri

Born on February 19, 1951, Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri, is a Pakistani Sufi scholar and former professor of international constitutional law at the University of Punjab.

Recently, he was described by the CNN-IBN as the 'International Peace Ambassador'.

Graduated in law at the University of the Punjab, Lahore in 1974, Qadri taught there law between 1978 and 1983 and then accomplished his PhD in Islamic Law (Punishments in Islam, their Classification and Philosophy) from the same university in 1986.

It was in 1981, when Qadri founded a Sufism-based organisation Minhaj-ul-Quran International and spent almost a decade in expanding it nationally and internationally. Over the past 30 years, the organisation has reportedly expanded to over 90 countries.

In 2010, Qadri issued a 600-page Fatwa on Terrorism, which is an absolute scholarly refutation of terrorism in its all forms without any excuses or pretexts. He said that "Terrorism is terrorism, violence is violence and it has no place in Islamic teachings and no justification can be provided for it.”

During the March 2011 session, the United Nations Economic and Social Council granted special consultative status to his organisation. The objectives of Qadri’s organisation is to promote a moderate and non-extremist vision of Islam and educating youth through methods of Sufism. He also founded The Minhaj University.

In January 2011, Qadri spoke at the World Economic Forum. The same year in July, he gave a lecture on the issues of terrorism and integration at the Parliament of New South Wales in Sydney and discussed terrorism and possible troop withdrawals from Afghanistan.

On September 24, 2011, Minhaj-ul-Quran convened the "Peace for Humanity Conference" at Wembley Arena in London. This conference was endorsed by supportive messages from - the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University, Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, David Cameron, British Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, British Deputy Prime Minister, Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury.

On November 30, 2011, Qadri delivered a lecture at the Peaceful Future of Afghanistan conference in Istanbul, Turkey which was organised by the Center for World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution of George Mason University together with Marmara University.

On February 22, 2012, Qadri visited India and stayed here for a month. During his stay in India, he delivered a message of peace and said: "Terrorism has no place in Islam.”


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