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Can a Canadian Cleric Overthrow the Pakistani Political Establishment

Can a Canadian Cleric Overthrow the Pakistani Political Establishment

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Published by Christopher Watt

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Published by: Christopher Watt on Sep 07, 2013
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Can a Canadian Cleric Overthrow the Pakistani PoliticalEstablishment?
By Christopher Watt March 22, 2013
 Dr. Tahir ul-Qadri speaks at a conference in 2011. Photograph by Servingislam.
 In late December 2012, an obscure religious scholar and humanitarian took the stage in Lahore, pledging to overthrow the political order of his native Pakistan
 — 
such as it exists in a countrywhere the sitting, elected government is about to complete its five-year term and possibly initiatea democratic transfer of power for the first time in t
he nation‟s history.
 Dr. Tahir ul-Qadri is a dual Canadian-Pakistani citizen and former politician who left the country
after resigning from Pakistan‟s national assembly in 2004 and taking up residence in the Greater 
Toronto Area. Upon his return, he marched with tens of thousands of people from his charity'sheadquarters to the capital of Islamabad, calling for the establishment of a caretaker governmentin advance of May elections. Estimates of his number of followers at the march vary; whatever 
 
the truth, it is surely less than the million Qadri promised, in what he styled as a Pakistaniversion of the Arab Spring uprisings.The long-march masses now have their own Wikipedia entry
.They settled on the capital‟s main
thoroughfare and listened to Qadri rail against the
mukka mukka
politics of money and corruptionas he stood in the window of a bomb-proof shelter that Qadri referred to on Twitter as his
“container.” A Pakistani news report from late January claimed that ul
-
Qadri‟s multinational
charity Minaj ul-Quran, which has branches in Toronto and dozens of other cities,  purchased in  November an SUV from a Dubai dealer for the journey from Lahore to Islamabad. Thisrevelation came mmid a significant TV and billboard advertising spend, and ongoing questions  about where else his money comes from, if not just supporters of Qadri's moderate brand of SufiIslam.He was a continent removed from his adopted home. The stock exchange reportedly moved uponhis arrival in Islamabad, and entrances to the square were reportedly blocked by security to wardoff suicide attackers. Qadri was acknowledged at the highest level, including by another  prominent politician from the opposition, the popular former cricketer  Imran Khan,who did not  join Qadri's gathering. But an information minister  mocked and dismissed 
Qadri. “You should
 provide your manifesto, register your party, renounce your Canadian citizenship, become eligibleto run for elections, summon votes, get a 2/3rd majority, come to the assembly and then bring achange through the Constitution," he said.Qadri did make the cover of the Pakistani edition of   Newsweek : 
“No one actually believes that
the so-called Islamabad Long March Declaration, agreed between him and the ruling coalition on
Jan. 17 that helped conclude his „Islamic democratic revolution,‟ is constitutionally enforceable.[But] Qadri‟s unprecedented campout in the capital proved his organizational genius....” The
 New York Times nevertheless said the attention was mostly about allowing Qadri to save face and convincing his followers to disperse after four days outside. The Guardian agreed.   No word on how the view in the capital compared to that which he called, in a 2011 interviewwith me, his favourite view of all: Lake Ontario from the vantage point of somewhere betweenMississauga and Toronto, the seat of suburban Islam in Canada.The Islamic world is rife with populist preachers. Itinerancy in that trade is a fact of history.Consider the Turkish figure of Fethullah Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvaniawhile commanding a multi-billion dollar educational empire that includes close links to Turkish police and the conservative ruling Justice and Development Party.Speaking to the BBC after his occupation of Islamabad ended, Qadri denied the controversial claim that he's a puppet of the security services, which often assume the right to intervene inPakistani democracy. The security services have ruled the scene for thirty years of Pakistanihistory, and might find common cause with Qadri in overthrowing the current government beforeits term is complete.For whom was Qadri's revolt intended? Does the cleric give up credibility merely by joining the political fray, never mind the attention it brings his name and cause? As he first addressed the

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