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Pakistan’s protest preacher

January 16th, 2013
07:23 PM ET

Pakistani FM discusses political turmoil

Pakistan's protest preacher

Pakistan revolution or political theater? 

 By Samuel Burke, CNN

Every time the world’s attention turns to Pakistan, it seems like another wheel has fallen off the bus.

The country is seeing a new wave of suicide bombings and Taliban threats, while new tensions with neighboring India have arisen once again over Kashmir.

Last week brought some of Pakistan’s worst-ever sectarian violence. In just one day a series of bomb blasts killed nearly 100 people in a predominantly Shiite neighborhood.

Now a fiery Islamic preacher is drawing large crowds of protestors with his calls to fight Pakistan’s endemic corruption.

Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri gained prominence with his fatwa against terrorism in 2010.

Last month, massive crowds in Pakistan followed the 61-year-old cleric from Lahore to Islamabad. Now,  tens of thousands of followers  are  camped out around him at the doorstep of the country’s parliament.

Speaking to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour  on Wednesday from the bulletproof container from which he preaches, ul-Qadri said that his aim is to make the democratic process more “free and fair.”

He denied accusations that he is putting Pakistan’s upcoming elections in jeopardy, saying that this is “the most appropriate time” for him to take up his cause.

The country is poised for its first-ever democratic handover of power from one civilian government to another.

Ul-Qadri also denied allegations about the opaque source of his funding. In addition to his protests, commercials with his image are running on Pakistani television. Many suspect he is backed by the military.

“I have no connection with the military establishment,” he said indignantly.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar dismissed ul-Qadri as a “non entity” in a separate interview with Amanpour on Wednesday.

“30,000 people is no big deal,” Khar told Amanpour. Pakistan has a population of over 176 million people.

She acknowledged that corruption is a concern for the government, but said ul-Qadri lacks credibility.

“This character has launched himself in Pakistan to deliver the Pakistanis from their own elected leaders,” she said.

Khar said that a date for elections will be called before March 16, and then occur some 60 to 90 days after.

Khar also expressed uncertainty about the source of ul-Qadri’s funding, but pointed out that the military issued a statement distancing itself from him.

“There are all sorts of conspiracy theories about him, but he does have an organization which is very well organized,” Khar said.

She does not think, however, that a coup is likely, despite the attention on ul-Qadri.

“That would be the worst case-scenario,” she told Amanpour. “I would not worry about it because Pakistan has now become a civil society.”

India and Pakistan’s border

There has been a recent outbreak of border violence and military tensions over Kashmir, but it appears that one of the worst flare-ups since a ceasefire was signed nine years ago might now deescalate.

“The best way to deal with this – rather than raising the rhetoric and any sort of negative commentary – is for a political-level discussion,” Khar told Amanpour. “I am open to dialogue with the Foreign Minister of India. I invite him for a dialogue at the political level so we can resolve the cross-LoC (line of control) issue, the crossfire issue, and to ensure that we continue to respect the ceasefire. This is crucial.”

Constant attacks against Shiite minority

Human Rights Watch says more than 400 Shiites were slaughtered in 2012.

In the most recent attacks against Shiites, the victims’ families refused to bury their dead until the government addressed their concerns.

“The government needs to step up the game. There’s no question about it,” Khar said, but stressed that tensions between Shiite and Sunni are not as deeply rooted in Pakistan as they are in other Muslim countries.

“In my school, in the parliament, in my workplace I don’t know who is Shiia or Sunni. For the broad majority of Pakistanis this is not an issue – ethnicity is not an issue. However there are these fringe elements who will try and make it an issue and create chaos through it,”

Khar said that the government needs to give the minority group additional protection, adding that the focus will be to go after the groups that are attacking the Shiite minority.

Pakistani leader meets protesting families of bombing victims

CNN’s Juliet Fuisz produced this piece for television.

Filed under:  Latest Episode • Pakistan
soundoff (54 Responses)
  1. Athef Pervaiz Aslum

    Our FM is needed back in Pakistan and she is here doing shopping for Bilal, Zardari and her family. Can this shopping not wait a few days I ask? But this is why we can not have woman FM because while country is burning she is doing nail polish or talking to her girl frend on mobile BSing about nonsense. Also this Qadri preacher is suppose to help Imran Khan instead he is starting a whole new party. How many party is Pakistan going to have? Yes we have nukes and we are almost a super power but we have no clean water, no power, no healthcare and prices are sky rocketting. What are people going to cook with no gas? Are people going to use nukes to cook food? When will we stop killing Shias and Christians? Does anyone care in Pakistan what is going on?

    January 16, 2013 at 8:38 pm | Reply
    • Sakina Cheema

      You are 100% right. Our leaders in Pakistan don't care about terrorism and blame USA and India and every other excuse for our own shortcomings. It is bad our so called leaders are looting the nation but the people are asleep to allow the leaders to rape Pakistan for 63 years with little protest. Why are we still in bed with terrorists and extremist even after loosing 3 wars with India over Kashmir, which we have failed to get for 63 years even as a nuclear power, even with hosting the powerful Al Quaida and Usama bin laden in Pakistan and charging the clueless Americans billions of dollars.
      I am disappointed after all this we are a failed nation that none respects and looks upon us as "terror central".
      Ya Allah, why are you punishing my Pakistan with these crocodile like leaders by the thousands while Pakistan is stuck on an island ? Please have mercy,

      January 17, 2013 at 6:13 am | Reply
      • EternalBliss

        Leaders are only a reflection of what the people allow to lead them..

        January 18, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
      • wildpigeon

        The world needs to focus on India...People dying of rape, hunger, aids and cholera while politicians are enjoin Bollywood slu ts...whole nation has become k amasutra style and women getting raped in millions per year....The only option to make the standard of living high of this slum dog nation is to split it into further small pieces as done in 1947...After losing 3 wars from Pakistan India lost massive chunk of land to Muslims in the form of Pakistan, Bangladesh and more than half of Kashmir..Northern India should be returned to Pakistan, Bengal to Bangladesh, 7 sisters, khalistan, sikkim, and Tamil Nadu should be made separate states and Muslims of Hindustan should b given separate country so that they can practice their religion peacefully..Indians r pretending to b Pakistanis in order to hide and they r ashamed to be Indians..Their self confidence will rise when they have improved standards of living as a result of further break down..

        January 18, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
      • Andy Roy


        In wildpigeon's post – please switch "India" for "Pakistan".

        January 18, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
    • SnowShadow

      You are an Indian

      January 17, 2013 at 8:22 pm | Reply
      • greg

        yes, I guessed so too. Indian disguised as a Pakistani..

        January 18, 2013 at 7:12 am |
      • Andy Roy

        Or, maybe, just a rational Pakistani?

        They do exist, maybe?

        No prizes for guessing *your* nationality, though. Your liberal outlook and rational line of thinking sure gives you away!

        January 18, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
    • dov goldberg

      totaly delusional if you think your'e a superpower. The age of miscalculation of developing middle powers will be to horrible to witness America has contingency plans to electronicaly disable the electrical systems that trigger the ICBM in their silos and then overtake them with special ground forces. and you have no drinking water and face Islamic insurgency and increasing poverty.

      January 18, 2013 at 7:24 pm | Reply
  2. saleembaleem

    like A talban

    January 16, 2013 at 9:09 pm | Reply
  3. Joaquin

    "Another wheel has fallen off the bus"...don't CNN's editors catch cliches?

    January 17, 2013 at 3:52 am | Reply
    • Joaquin

      My junior high journalism teacher would have laughed me out of our classroom.

      January 17, 2013 at 3:53 am | Reply
      • drones luv pakis

        u mean ur madrassa mulla teacher..???

        January 22, 2013 at 11:47 am |
  4. napdhal

    He's demanding President to step down as well reported in local media where as he's saying his only agenda is election reforms. Face Palm!

    January 17, 2013 at 4:18 pm | Reply
  5. Zia

    Unfortunately Pakistan is not Egypt as this self styled crusader against nepotism is seeking these days in Pakistan. Dressed in Egyptian Jama-al-Azhar dressing he tries to change Pakistan's direction. He should realize first that it was not only the Islamists who were waging war against corruption in Egypt but many other ethnic rather more than Islamists who robbed Egypt of the real revolution their nation was seeking. Pakistan needs honest approach to problems in the basic part of their society – their first and foremost priority should be extremism which needs be rooted out – see the countless happenings whereas extremists have inflicted heavy loss of life and yet some of them want to talk to the extremists who are illiterate Islamic groupings with no knowledge of the core teachings of Islamic rather a here say pick up of a madrassah culture whose sphere of teachings is very very limited. Pakistani politicians are hypocrites as they all have hidden agenda in particular the ones who are more religion leaning or supportive of religious groups. They must outright condemn the extremist forces in public not once on a minute note in a small press conference but should come out vociferously against extremism. On one hand they hide the perpetrators and on the other hand they show a symbolic approach on curbing terrorism – the changing world would never buy such hypocrisy. Denounce extremism in letter and spirit and win the world. Changing faces on the political face would not do any good – change your thinking first and be honest to yourself

    January 17, 2013 at 10:37 pm | Reply
  6. ABL

    Pakistan is really sent back to 'stone ages'. Just look at the progress indicators in health, education, economics, and other social welfare. Today, I received this email from a friend in Karachi: "The streets are deserted, schools closed, businesses closed, public transport off, everything else (if anything is left) is okay." Its depressing. Even though, we are heading towards election, but still there is no HOPE for future. No light at the end of the tunnel!

    January 18, 2013 at 5:29 am | Reply
    • waseem baig

      Dear ABL,

      You are mixing 2 diffierent events here. If Karachi is shut down and "... everything else... is okay", it is basically implying that there is no violence on the streets, no mobs out and about damaging property and threatening lives, witnes when an incident of a provincial legislator that too of the party that holds sway unlike what you normally see if simply a strile call being adhered to. As for the progress indicators, they have been like this for years.

      January 18, 2013 at 6:51 am | Reply
  7. kumar

    Good Luck to Pakistan. Despite all the 60-odd years of tensions with India, I now believe that the Pakistanis have reached a stage where they too - like Indians - have had enough of all this tomfoolery being played out between the politicians of the two countries. The people of Pakistan are as responsible and fun loving as those of India and I don't see why their happiness and future should be held to ransom by their military and their ISI. Both the military and the ISI draw all their income from the tax payers of Pakistan and it is so ironical and absurd that the people's money ends up funding their own troubles instead of being invested in their welfare. I hope the people realise that we all live only once and there is no place for hate and war. Let people's welfare triumph.

    January 18, 2013 at 7:57 am | Reply
  8. tamilasian

    I like that reply kumar, but pakistani learned people is irrevocably poisoned in their textbook that india is evil.

    January 18, 2013 at 12:44 pm | Reply
  9. tamilasian

    There is some news control is happening in CNN, where there is no mention of beheading indian soldiers.

    January 18, 2013 at 12:46 pm | Reply
  10. n, tx

    Pakistan is the worst and the most corrupt nation because of these politicias like zardari, khar And the rest zardari thief's, I feel sorry and sad for the people of Pakistan, they need to stand up for their right And throw these politicians out of office, the only thing these 5 years have brought to Pakistani is misery and no

    January 24, 2013 at 1:32 pm | Reply
  11. Yakobi

    Islam is responsible for lowering the world's average IQ since 610.

    January 26, 2013 at 1:50 pm | Reply
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    All the freakin Indians on this Forum. Indians are to Pakistanis as Hemmrhoids are to Elderly, always stuck with you, even if you don't want them to.

    January 28, 2013 at 7:38 pm | Reply
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