Pakistan cleric's party may take part in election

Fri Jan 18, 2013 7:17am EST
 

By Mubaher Bukhari

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - A cleric who has been pushing for electoral reforms in Pakistan will resort to street protests again if the government does not abide by an agreement that eased a political crisis, an aide said on Friday.

Muhammad Tahirul Qadri, who has a history of ties with the military, reached a deal with Pakistan's ruling coalition on Thursday that will give his party some say over the formation of a caretaker government ahead of elections this spring. Qadri's party may also participate in the elections.

The cleric's reappearance on Pakistan's political stage a few weeks ago after years of living in Canada, and his calls for the military to play a role in forming an interim administration, has raised speculation he may be backed by the country's powerful army.

Qadri and the military deny this.

The cleric, who led four days of street protests in the heart of the capital aimed at forcing the government to resign, will keep pushing for political reforms and a halt to corruption, said his spokesman.

"We will ensure implementation of the agreement with full letter and spirit," Qazir Faizul Islam, secretary of information for Qadri's charity, told Reuters.

"If the government tries to deviate, we will force them to follow through the power of the people and media."

Aside from giving Qadri a voice in who leads the caretaker administration, the government also agreed to dissolve parliament before a scheduled date of March 16, although it did not specify a date.   Continued...

 
Sufi cleric and leader of the Minhaj-ul-Quran religious organisation Muhammad Tahirul Qadri (L) addresses his supporters from behind the window of an armoured vehicle on the fourth day of protests in Islamabad January 17, 2013. To Pakistan's ruling party, a firebrand cleric camped outside parliament with thousands of protesters is looking more and more like the harbinger of their worst fear: a plan by the military to engineer a "soft coup". In their eyes, Qadri seems like the perfect candidate for such a mission. A practised orator who has electrified crowds with his anti-corruption rhetoric, the doctor of Islamic law leapt into action to back the last power grab by the army in 1999. REUTERS/Mian Khursheed