Clashes erupt as Qadri returns to Pakistan

Anti-government leader Tahir-ul-Qadri renews calls for “revolution” after visiting supporters injured in previous clash.

Tahir-ul-Qadri, an anti-government Pakistani leader, has arrived in Lahore after his plane was diverted from the capital Islamabad, amid clashes between hundreds of his supporters and police outside an airport.

Qadri, who has been calling for a revolution against a government he accuses of corruption and incompetence, visited on Monday members of his Pakistani Awami Tehreek (PAT) party who were injured during previous clashes with police at the Jinnah hospital, shortly after landing in the city from London.

At the hospital, Qadri renewed calls for a “revolution” in Pakistan and condemned the police crackdown, which killed and injured a number of his supporters last week outside the party’s headquarters in Lahore, as “state terrorism”.

He also said that the government “will be toppled soon”.

After fresh clashes between supporters of PAT and police, who had thrown up a cordon around the airport to stop his supporters from meeting him, the plane was diverted to Lahore.

Police fired tear gas and party activists attacked them with stones and bricks, footage from the scene showed.

Qadri, a Canada-based religious leader, is a former parliamentarian but his party has never been a potent electoral force. 

He returned to political prominence in December 2012, when he led a “long march” of thousands to Islamabad, unsuccessfully calling for the toppling of the then PPP-led government, months before a general election.

Security concerns

On Sunday authorities imposed restrictions on gatherings of more than five people and the display of weapons in the Islamabad and Rawalpindi area. 

They also suspended mobile phone services in the capital for several hours, citing security concerns.

Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, the interior minister, said that the government would not allow any protest marches in Islamabad because they may pose a security threat.

Security has been tight across the country, and especially in Islamabad, since June 15, when Pakistan launched a military operation against the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and its allies in the tribal area of North Waziristan.

That operation was launched in response to a breakdown in government-TTP talks, and a brazen attack by Uzbek and TTP fighters on Karachi airport this month.

The military says it has killed more than 240 Taliban and other fighters since the operation began. The Taliban has warned it will launch retaliatory strikes.

Source: Al Jazeera