Cleric Tells Crowd Pakistani Government Is A Failure
An influential Islamic cleric has told tens of thousands of antigovernment demonstrators in the Pakistani capital that the country's government suffers from a "complete failure of political leadership."
Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri also called Pakistan's antiterrorism campaign "fake."
He spoke to the crowd near the parliament in Islamabad after arriving with his "Caravan of Democracy March" late on January 14.
Speaking to the crowd from behind bulletproof glass, Qadri said "opportunities for corruption" must be removed from the political and social system.
Qadri also attacked the government's failure to provide security for the people.
"Judgments are being passed by our great independent judiciary," he said, "but the government is not ready to implement them."
PROFILE: Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri
Qadri said the government's decade-long campaign against terrorism was fake and demanded a "real fight against terrorism."
Qadri claimed earlier that his supporters could bring down the government in a matter of hours, but he has called for protests to remain peaceful.
The cleric urged protesters to stay and continue their rally on January 16 and said he would address them then.
"Hopefully after tomorrow there will be no need to stay any longer," he said.
Pakistan's government accuses Qadri, who returned last month after years in Canada, of trying to derail the elections set for the spring.
Some are questioning the source of Qadri's funds. News reports cited Qadri's ability to spend large amounts of money on a media campaign and fleets of buses for his supporters. But Qadri says much of his financing is donated by people who are angry with the government.
A local official from a northern Punjab village, Muhammad Waqas Iqbal, said Qadri "spent huge money and he's putting his life on the line. He's here to redeem the people."
The Pakistani government has deployed extra police and security forces and warned Qadri and his supporters of severe consequences if they break the law or cause any disorder.
Some of Qadri's supporters briefly clashed with police on January 15, with police shooting their guns in the air and firing tear gas to restore order.