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Posted 18 September 2014 - 01:44 PM
NEW YORK - As his followers pressed on with their anti-government campaign, Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Dr Tahirul Qadri says his goal is to eliminate madrassas by replacing them with schools that teach secular subjects.
“I am trying to lead the Muslim world toward the right, moderate, path, to bring the leadership and the people out of this confusion of extremism and terrorism, towards humanism and a peaceful society,” he said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, a major US financial newspaper.
In a dispatch from Islamabad, WSJ correspondent Yaroslav Trofimov said Qadri was proud of having been educated in a Catholic school, and the PAT chief went on to denounce Saudi Arabia as “the biggest problem of the Muslim world” for exporting its conservative strain of Islam.
“I am fighting to democratise, in a true sense, the Muslim world,” he said during the interview in a shipping container that serves as his home in the middle of the Islamabad protest encampment.
The WSJ dispatch said Qadri’s critics dismiss him as a “populist firebrand”, and allege his throngs of followers in the tent City are being paid for their support.
“The protests launched last month by Qadri and his ally, politician Imran Khan, have thoroughly shaken the administration of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, paralyzing the capital’s government quarter and prompting the country’s powerful Army to intervene by demanding that both sides refrain from violence,” the report said.
“Qadri and Imran Khan, the former cricket star who also operates from a shipping container in the tent City, share the goal of forcing Nawaz Sharif to resign, stating that the Prime Minister’s victory last year was illegitimate because of electoral law violations. Sharif, who denied the accusations, has refused to step down.”
The report cited Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, a close aide to the Prime Minister, as having dismissed the protesters camping out just outside his windows as a rent-a-mob of poor labourers who earn less than $2 a day rather than a genuine political force.
“This is a hired movement, people are there on daily wages, these so-called demonstrators,” he was quoted as saying. Qadri’s movement, according to the report, dismissed government allegations that it is paying protesters as a “complete lie.”
The report added, “among the protests’ two main leaders, Imran Khan possesses a much greater electoral appeal.
In last year’s elections, his party bagged 7.7 million votes, more than any other except Sharif’s.
“Qadri’s movement lacks that kind of voting power, but those who have signed on have done so with cultlike dedication: the vast majority of the tent City’s inhabitants are his disciples.
“It is Qadri’s supporters, many of them young women, students or recent graduates, who provided the muscle for clashes with police late last month that left three protesters dead and hundreds injured. Now, they guard entrances to the tent City, frisking visitors, and provide food distribution to the hundreds of tents. Some run a temporary school for the protesters children.”
Posted 18 September 2014 - 02:04 PM
Posted 19 September 2014 - 09:57 AM