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Who is Tahir-ul-Qadri?

Will he be Anna Hazare's equivalent in Pakistan or is he a mere pawn in the hands of the army?

Shantanu Bhattacharji  |  New Delhi 

Are the hidden hands pulling the strings in Pakistan’s precarious drama? Is he a pawn in the hands of Pakistan's Army? Is he mere playing with the emotions of the masses who are supporting him? Will he bring peace or further break the polity into small pieces? Or is he a change agent that Pakistan was waiting for more than a decade? There are many more questions that need to be answered in clear terms. It appears that the country is passing thorough a phase of topsy-turvy change. At present, no one has a clear cut solution to Pakistan’s problems, which are aplenty.

Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri’s dramatic entry into Pakistani politics has raised many eyebrows on suspicion that he is seeking to derail elections expected to be held by May at the behest of the army. On 15 January, Pakistan's Supreme Court ordered the arrest of premier Raja Pervez Ashraf and 15 others over corruption charges, raising fears of a political crisis just months ahead of the polls. Ashraf denies accepting bribes when approving power generation projects as minister for water and power in 2010.

Here are 10 things you might want to know about Tahir-ul-Qadri

1) Born on February 19, 1951 in Jhang, Pakistan, he is the son of the great spiritualist and intellectual of his time, ash-Shaykh Dr Farida’d-Din al-Qadri. Tahir-ul-Qadri began receiving education at a young age, in Islamic and secular sciences simultaneously.

2) In 2006, Qadri announced that he was disillusioned with the country's political scene, moved to Canada and obtained citizenship there. He is demanding electoral reforms ahead of the forthcoming elections. He said the ruling Pakistan People's Party should involve the army and judiciary in forming a caretaker government to oversee the polls.

3) His sudden return to Pakistan in mid-December surprised the nation, and his speech in Lahore on December 23 denouncing rampant corruption at all levels of government galvanized a segment of the country deeply frustrated with Pakistan president Asif Ali Zardari's inability to clamp down on terrorism and mend the country's economy.

4) In 2012, the cleric paid a visit to India to release his Fatwa book. He urged India and Pakistan to reduce defence spending and focus on the welfare of poor people. During his visit he also went to Ajmer Sharif.

5) He earned his Master of Arts in Islamic Studies in 1972 and was awarded the University of the Punjab Gold Medal. He obtained his LLB in 1974 and began practicing as a lawyer in the district courts of Jhang. Qadri moved to Lahore in 1978 and joined the University of Punjab as a lecturer in law and then gained his PhD in Islamic Law.

6) In March 2010, he declared a fatwa against terrorism. He said that terrorism is terrorism, violence is violence and it has no place in Islamic teaching and no justification can be provided for it.

7) He is the founding leader of Minhaj-ul-Qur’an (MQI), an organisation with branches in over 90 countries and that works for the promotion of peace and harmony between communities.

8) A one-time supporter of military dictator Pervez Musharraf, Qadri fought the 2002 National Assembly elections from Lahore and won his seat comfortably under his party’s banner, the Pakistani Awaami Tehreek.

9) Qadri's call to move towards parliament has divided Pakistanis. Some hold him up as a champion of reform, others see him as a possible stooge of the military, which has a history of coups and interfering in polls.

10) Qadri is also a former professor of Islamic Law at the University of the Punjab and the youngest person ever to have been awarded a professorship in the history of the university.

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First Published: Wed, January 16 2013. 17:16 IST