Qadri joins Imran Khan
A populist cleric yesterday threatened to march on the Pakistani capital and overthrow the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, days after an opposition leader promised a massive anti-government rally to push for fresh elections.
Tahir-ul-Qadri alleges that more than 500 of his followers have been arrested by police in a campaign of intimidation, leaving him with no choice but to revolt if it continues.
A statement released by his Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) cited Qadri as saying: "If the government continues with the arrests of PAT workers or tries to arrest me, we will have no option left to immediately announce a call for the revolution."
Authorities have so far denied that any arrests have been made. But clashes between Qadri supporters and police in June left 14 activists dead in a rare example of political violence in the relatively peaceful Punjab province.
Qadri's announcement will add to pressure on the government after cricket hero turned opposition leader Imran Khan announced he would hold "the biggest protest in the history of Pakistan" on August 14, the date of the country's creation, to force the government into holding fresh elections.
Qadri, who is normally Canada-based, returned to Pakistan in June to lead what he terms a "peaceful revolution".
Punjab law minister Rana Mashhood told AFP that police had launched an investigation into Qadri over charges relating to civil disobedience.
Khan, who leads the third largest party in Pakistan's parliament, has long complained of massive rigging in the 2013 general election which saw the country's first transition of power from one civilian-led government to another, though foreign observers said the poll was "credible".
Analysts have said the protests risk undermining Pakistan's fragile democracy and emboldening the all-powerful army, which has ruled the country for half its modern history.