Protest leader Tahir ul Qadri accused of inciting a revolution in Pakistan

 

Islamabad

Tahir ul Qadri, the religious cleric whose supporters have besieged Pakistan’s capital with demands of political reforms, today called for the government, parliament and the Election Commission to be dissolved.

The charismatic Qadri, who promised to bring an Arab Spring-style revolution to Islamabad, laid out his agenda in detail for the first time, in a mammoth three-and-a-half hour address. He arrived in Islamabad on Monday, with around 50,000 supporters and has pledged to remain until his demands are met.

However, there were signs that authorities’ patience with Qadri’s demonstration was waning. Asma Arbab, a member of parliament for the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party, said: “This is not a protest. The capital has been taken hostage. They are inciting revolt.”

Meanwhile, there was no sign of any law enforcement agency implementing an order made by the Supreme Court on Tuesday for the arrest of prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, which pushed the political situation towards a tipping point. Officials said the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), which would carry out the arrest, had not yet received direct orders to arrest Ashraf, and the NAB chief would go the Supreme Court today [Thursday] to discuss the issue.

The government suspects that the judiciary and the military are supporting the cleric Qadri and his demands for reform, in an attempt to prevent the forthcoming election from taking place. If it does go ahead, it would mark the first time that an elected government in Pakistan completes its term and hands over to another elected administration.

In an attempt to quell fears over the election, the government gave an indicative date for it to be held. Khursheed Shah, a senior government minister, said that the polls would be held between the 4-6 May and “no later”. Under the constitution, a neutral caretaker government must be installed to oversee the election.

Several main political opposition parties came out against Qadri and his demands for political reform today.

Imran Khan, the cricketer turned politician, has been under enormous pressure to come out in support of Qadri, as both rail against a corrupt political system. But Khan distanced himself from the protest, calling it “premature” on Twitter. Khan added: “However what he [Qadri] is saying is our agenda too”.

Mr Khan, the other opposition parties, and the government all fear that Qadri’s real agenda is to prevent any elections taking place, by prolonging for years the tenure of the caretaker government, though Qadri claims that his reforms can be implemented during the 90-day legal tenure of the caretaker regime. Qadri has said that the military and the judiciary must have a say in the composition of the caretaker government,

Nawaz Sharif, the former prime minister, called a meeting of the main opposition parties, after which, with the other leaders all standing behind him, he said that: “We will resist any attempt to derail the democratic process”.

The West is also concerned that Pakistan’s fragile democracy could be snuffed out. In a statement, a spokesperson for Britain’s Foreign Office, said: “The UK strongly supports democracy in Pakistan. Representative, accountable, government that delivers for the people, and is chosen according to constitutional processes, is in the best interests of Pakistan.”

Pakistan has been ruled for half its history directly by the military, which has intervened repeatedly to end the tenure of every civilian government, either by supporting civilian challengers or by seizing power for itself.

Meanwhile, Dr Qadri remains confident. Addressing the government, Qadri said in his speech: “Today, power is in your hands. Tomorrow, it will be in the hands of the people. You have one or two days left.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for an I...

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen