Pakistan’s Tahirul Qadri: The rise and fall of a revolutionary man

Facing money laundering charges back in Canada, Qadri landed in Pakistan six weeks ago in dramatic style

Mansoor Jafar
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The Canada-returned fiery speaking scholar, Dr. Tahirul Qadri, has been creating ripples in Pakistan’s political scene for the last few weeks.

A Canadian national since 2005, Qadri returned to Pakistan flexing political muscles against the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, warning that the “revolution” he has been calling for has now become the writing on the wall and will overthrow the entire corrupt system which allows only the capitalists and corrupt to get elected disallowing the same to the poor


Qadri, accused by some of double-talking, has been speaking regularly to media at his party secretariat in Lahore, the capital of country’s largest province, Punjab, where police shot down several workers and injured dozens while resisting the removal of security barricades. The iron-gates and barriers around the party secretariat and his nearby home had been causing inconvenience for local residents who had moved the High Court against Qadri.

Shahid Mursaleen, spokesman of Qadri, told Al Arabiya News that: “Dr. Qadri has never spoken double-speech in his entire life.”

Regarding the security barriers, Shahid said they “had been installed under the supervision of the same Punjab Police in 2010 on the orders of the Lahore High Court on the request of the local residents due to the security situation and terror threats.”

Qadri’s contentious return

Facing alleged money laundering charges back in Canada, Qadri landed in Pakistan six weeks ago in dramatic style after authorities disallowed his plane to land in the capital city of Islamabad where he was scheduled to address a crowd of workers fueled against the Sharif Government in the wake of police shooting down 12 colleagues in Lahore. Instead, authorities diverted his plane to Lahore where he was unprepared for a public gathering.

Shahid said: “Qadri does not face any legal or other charges in Canada or anywhere in the world.”

Facing money laundering charges back in Canada, Qadri landed in Pakistan six weeks ago in dramatic style. (File photo: Reuters)
Facing money laundering charges back in Canada, Qadri landed in Pakistan six weeks ago in dramatic style. (File photo: Reuters)

Infuriated at the government, Qadri in his media talks has been issuing stern warnings to bureaucrats and police personnel against obeying the orders of rulers whose days were allegedly numbered. He says: “the rulers were the product of electoral corruption and hence did not represent the masses.” He warned that those bureaucrats and policemen found resisting the "revolution" would be dismissed and replaced by thousands of educated jobless youth, whom he has directed to submit their particulars at the party secretariat to prepare lists.

Qadri’s rise

Qadri has always been a controversial figure ever since he rose to "fame” over three decades back, courtesy of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s father, Mian Muhammad Sharif who was chairman of a group of companies including iron and steel foundries. Sharif’s father appointed Qadri as prayer leader of the mosque affiliated with their foundries and hospital complex. After Nawaz Sharif was made provincial minister, Mian Sharif appointed Qadri to host a religious show on state television in place of noted Quran scholar Dr. Israr Ahmad whom the then president General Ziaul Haq was unhappy with for some reasons.

Qadri's spokesman Shahid says that "in 1988 Mr Nawaz Sharif has himself publically admitted that Dr Qadri has never taken any financial assistance from his family or his Government."

Shahid says: "Dr Qadri started Friday sermons at the Itifaq Mosque on two conditions that he will not take any monetary benefit in return and second that they will never ask him any favours for political activities."

He added: "Dr. Qadri was offered to host a series of programs on the Qur’an on Pakistan’s national TV due to his immense knowledge of the Qur’an and Islamic teachings."

Born on February 19, 1951 in Jhang, some 200 kilometers east of Lahore, Qadri was the son of a poor father working as paramedic. After studying law and pursuing a masters in Islamic Studies, Qadri briefly taught at Oriental College and then at University of the Punjab till he succeeded in getting acquainted with Mian Sharif. Qadri used Mian Sharif’s patronage to found in 1981 the Tehrik Minhajul Quran for the promotion of Islamic education and contemporary education through opening schools and colleges. He founded the system of secular schools with a cosmetic touch of Islamic education across the country. On 25 May 1989, Qadri set up a political party, the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) for stated aims of promoting democracy, economic stability, human rights, justice, and women’s roles and to remove corruption.

Fall from grace

Qadri promoted Sufi style Islam, calling for non-violence and indulgence into spiritual meditation. His new found fame in politics and as a TV presenter at state television, the only TV channel in the country at that time, made Qadri venture into dangerous domains of spiritual leadership.

He annoyed religious scholars in the late 80s by crossing limits of spiritual height, claiming to see a series of controversial dreams about the Prophet Mohammad. He claimed that the Prophet allegedly asked him to pay for his journey fare from Madina to his house in Pakistan. In another dream, he claimed the Prophet prophesied that he (Qadri) would soon be given a leading role in politics as all others were incompetent (a hint of his becoming future prime minister).

His high flying ambitions resulted in developing differences with his patrons, Mian Sharif and his family [the Sharif family]. The differences grew to such an extent that Qadri faked an assassination attempt on himself and blamed it on then Chief Minister of the province, Mian Sharif. Qadri boycotted the inquiry tribunal of the High Court into the alleged shooting at his house after defense lawyers proved that blood samples from the shooting site were not of one of his wounded guards, but of a goat.

Qadri became the only certified ungrateful person in the country when the judge of the tribunal in his judgment declared him highly selfish, ungrateful and a liar. After parting ways with the Sharifs, Qadri used his wealth amassed through educational institutions to contest national elections in 1990 and 1993 but lost. Frustrated, Qadri made a public announcement in 1995 to quit electoral politics for good.

After General Musharraf’s martial law in 1999, Qadri back-tracked his commitment and jumped again into the political arena with the banner of supporting Musharraf. He was the frontline campaigner for Musharraf in his notorious referendum in 2002 that made him the country’s president. Few months later, Qadri finally succeeded in 2002 in becoming a member of the National Assembly, Pakistan’s lower house of parliament.

Qadri expected Musharraf to repay his hard-work in campaigning by making him at least, the minister for religious affairs. But Musharraf judged his over-ambitious nature and refused. A frustrated Qadri announced in 2004 his resignation from the National Assembly and moved to Canada in 2005 after obtaining a dual nationality.

He used to make televised speeches from Canada to party workers in Pakistan, like self-exiled Londoner Altaf Hussain, head of a linguistic group based in Karachi. To receive donations and charity, Qadri succeeded in weaving a network in Europe, the Americas and Gulf countries through pupils of his schools, colleges and universities inside Pakistan. The network soon multiplied his wealth to immense levels, alarming authorities in Canada.

Controversy at home and abroad

Already established as a controversial scholar and accused of double-talker in Pakistan, he could not succeed in leaving behind the controversies surrounding him despite moving to Canada. He kept treading on controversial paths regarding popular Islamic beliefs and issued an edict that dealing in interest is allowed for Muslims living in the West. Later, in the wake of U.S.-led war on terror against Muslim countries, Qadri issued a 400-page decree forbidding suicide attacks against U.S. forces and those supporting suicide bombers as un-Islamic.

He is known for openly condemning Taliban and all resistance forces fighting against U.S.-backed armies. He has authored about 1,000 books of which 400 have been published while 600 are awaiting publishing, despite his doctorate degree from Punjab University being doubted to be fake.

Recently, Canadian Muslims filed applications with immigration authorities, Foreign Affairs department and the police claiming Dr. Qadri was misusing his Canadian nationality and the huge funds he has been receiving to create trouble for Pakistan’s elected government. The application mentioned that Qadri and his sons had no business or known source of income other than the donations they receive as charity from Pakistani expatriates in Canada and Europe. They said he purchased a luxury house in Brockville, Ontario, Canada, and bullet proof vehicles, presumably from the charity donations.

Besides, his community center in Mississauga set up using millions of dollars was also a center of controversy as it was alleged that it was being used to create differences among Canadian Muslims rather than bridging them.

Qadri is bracing for his last chance to stay on course of being a respected religious and political leader. He is being dubbed as a failed politician after several workers died trying to launch the much-awaited revolution he has been calling for over two decades. It is now or never for him. The hype he has created apepars to be working against him. Either he will have to bring the revolution or he will become history.

His spokesman says: "Qadri’s global work and his struggle is peaceful and the Green Revolution is for the betterment of the poor, oppressed and underclass society of Pakistan. Dr. Qadri wants to bring the revolution of Article 38 of the Constitution of Pakistan which shall uplift the poor, provide food, education and heath to them. The revolution will be a reality within few weeks in August 2014."

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