Qadri urges politicians to join Islamabad protest

Updated 17 January 2013
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Qadri urges politicians to join Islamabad protest

ISLAMABAD: Tahirul Qadri urged Pakistani politicians yesterday to join tens of thousands taking part in the largest protest in Islamabad for years, ratcheting up the pressure on the government to step down.
In a three-and-a-half hour speech delivered from behind bulletproof glass, Tahirul Qadri urged his followers to remain steadfast, despite the winter cold, in their demands for key reforms and clean elections.
He welcomed a Supreme Court order to arrest the prime minister over alleged corruption but gave no indication how long he would prolong the protest outside Parliament, which has brought the city’s main commercial avenue to a standstill.
“Keep sitting, don’t move. Be steadfast. Your destiny is closer. There will soon be a decision in your favor,” Qadri shouted in a third fiery speech since reaching Islamabad after a 38-hour “march” from the eastern city of Lahore.
“It is now or never.”
Security officials estimated the crowd numbered at least 25,000, which would make it the largest political protest in the capital since the government led by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) was elected in 2008.
The rally comes as Pakistan struggles with a weak economy, a bloody Taleban insurgency and rising sectarian violence.
A general election is due to be held by mid-May, but Qadri wants Parliament dissolved now and a caretaker government set up in consultation with the military and the judiciary, to implement key reforms first.
But his sudden — and apparently well-financed — emergence after years in Canada has been criticized as a ploy by the establishment, particularly the armed forces, to delay the elections and sow political chaos.
If it goes ahead as scheduled, the ballot will mark the first democratic transfer of power between two elected civilian governments in the history of Pakistan, where the military have staged three coups and ruled for decades.
Qadri denies wanting to delay the poll, but is calling for a new, independent election commission and screening to ban corrupt candidates.
The cleric, who as a dual Canadian-Pakistani national is not eligible for office, called on opposition politician Imran Khan and other parties to join him.
“I invite Imran Khan to come and join us. He also wants change... I also invite other parties, those who are not siding us,” he said.
Khan, a former cricketer who leads the Pakistan Movement for Justice party but has no seat in Parliament, has called on President Asif Ali Zardari to resign and for the government to set a date for elections.


Boko Haram raid kills five in Nigeria: residents

Updated 7 min 46 sec ago
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Boko Haram raid kills five in Nigeria: residents

  • A Boko Haram raid and suicide attack in Tungushe village killed at least five
  • Boko Haram regularly uses suicide bombers, mostly women and young girls, to target areas with civilians

KANO: At least five people were killed and six others injured in a night-time Boko Haram raid and suicide attack on a village in northeastern Nigeria, residents told AFP on Saturday.
A male suicide bomber detonated his explosives among a group of residents sleeping in the open in Tungushe village in Borno state at about 12:15 am (2315 GMT Friday).
The blast was followed by indiscriminate gunfire from Boko Haram militants lurking in the dark, said Mustapha Muhammad, a civilian militia leader in the area.
“Five people have been killed and six others injured in the attack,” Muhammad said by telephone from the village, which lies six kiometers (nearly four miles) north of the Borno state capital, Maiduguri.
Tungushe resident Umara Kyari, who gave a similar casualty toll, said the attackers torched eight thatched houses and three vehicles before stealing about 100 cows.
“Fortunately all the cows returned to the village,” said Kyari. “I think the attackers are not used to herding cows and could not control them.”
Boko Haram regularly uses suicide bombers, mostly women and young girls, to target mosques, schools, bus stations and military locations.
Its nine-year armed violence to establish a hard-line Islamic state in remote northeastern Nigeria has killed more than 20,000 people.
Suicide attacks have increased in Borno state recently, prompting the military commander fighting the militants to offer a five-million-naira ($13,900) reward for information on bomb-making factories in the region.
On June 16, six young girls killed 43 people in suicide attacks in the town of Damboa, 80 kilometers southwest Maiduguri.
On Wednesday, 15 people were injured when two female suicide bombers targeted a market on the edge of a military base in the city.
Nigeria’s army said troops on patrol in the Mafa area, east of Maiduguri, had come across “pockets of fleeing Boko Haram terrorists” on Friday.
“The gallant troops... overpowered the terrorists, killing even of them and recovered weapons,” it said on Twitter on Saturday.
The insurgents are believed to have carried out an attack in Zabarmari village, also in the Mafa area, on Thursday, according to a civilian militia source.