LAHORE: Pakistan Awami Tehreek chief Dr Tahirul Qadri has denied widespread speculation he is backed by the military.
“I will fight against the army if it tries to take over,” Qadri told Reuters in an interview, but stopped short of giving details of how he would do this.
“I am against military rule. My destination is true democracy,” he added, speaking in the sitting-room of his heavily guarded home on Thursday night, surrounded by aides and pictures of Muslim holy sites.
His supporters clashed with riot police this week outside the capital’s main airport, causing his plane to be diverted. Qadri refused to leave his business class seat for several hours after landing. Qadri said he feared for his safety because nine people were killed in a standoff between his supporters and police the week before.
On Thursday, he renewed his calls for a peaceful revolution, but was coy about his strategies, timing and ultimate goals. “I will achieve my goal just through the struggle of the masses,” he said. “They will come out on the roads and will force the rulers to resign.”
Qadri wants the elected government to resign over accusations of electoral fraud, but is unclear exactly how its replacement would be chosen.
“I want neither mid-term nor long-term elections,” he said. “I don’t want anything which is not legitimate. My concerns are true democracy, fair elections and human rights.” Nawaz Sharif knows the power of protests: he was previously overthrown in a coup in 1999, but saw his nemesis, the former army chief, forced to resign by mass street protests in 2008. Qadri hopes for a repeat of that episode. “Corrupt rulers are making money instead of resolving people’s problems,” he says.
In response, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) announced this week that it would scrutinise Qadri’s affairs. Qadri has sworn not to be deterred.
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