Mohamed Tahir ul Qadri, the firebrand cleric who led thousands of people onto the streets of Islamabad in anti-government protests, has told his supporters to go home after winning concessions from the government.
“We have reached an agreement,” Qadri told his followers today. “Allah granted us a victory and now you can go home.”
Qadri had demanded that the government be dissolved and that the military be allowed to appoint a caretaker government ahead of new elections. If the government had made it until March 16, when it was scheduled to be dissolved ahead of an election in May, it would have been the first civilian government in Pakistan to serve a full term and hand over power to another civilian government. But now, following a deal with Qadri to end his self-styled ‘Arab Spring’ uprising, the government will be dissolved ahead of this date.
The military, however, will not be allowed to play a role in naming the members of the caretaker government. Pakistan’s military has ruled for much of the country’s post-independence history, and has been responsible for many coups. Prior to today’s agreement there had been a great deal of speculation that Qadri was a front man for a ‘soft coup’ by the military, taking power through the back door.
Qadri’s political party will now work with the ruling Pakistan People’s Party to appoint a caretaker government, and a “complete consensus” must be reached between the two parties on the appointment of an interim Prime Minister.
The rise to power of ul Qadri has been truly meteoric, since he returned to Pakistan from a long exile in Canada. He has won a great deal of support amongst ordinary Pakistani’s on the back of his calls to end government corruption and incompetence.