The Pakistan Sunni Tehreek (PST), hitherto a non-political religious party, has announced that it will participate in the upcoming elections.
Addressing some 15,000 supporters here at the ‘Azad Pakistan Conference’ at Minar-i-Pakistan, PST head Sarwat Ijaz Qadri requested the participants to vote for the Tehreek, or at least cooperate with the party. He labelled the Difa-i-Pakistan Council formed by Ahle Hadith and Deobandi parties the “Fisad-i-Pakistan Council”, and accused it of causing terrorism in the country.
Sahibzada Fazle Karim, the head of the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC), was not invited to the conference, though the Sunni Tehreek is an important component of the SIC. A PST official said that Karim had not been invited. “He used to take all the credit for SIC gatherings, even though most of the supporters at these gatherings were PST workers,” he said.
Criticising all political parties, Qadri said he wanted an end to “the politics which has resulted in sheltering of suicide bombers”. He said all political parties had looted the country over parliamentary seats. “They are ruining democracy and the people of Pakistan in the name of their so-called democracy,” he said.
Qadri condemned the Taliban as ‘Zaliman’ (oppressors) who were only targeting Barelvis. At his urging, the PST supporters took an oath not to compromise on the defence of Pakistan. “We will lay down our lives if needed for the national interest. We do not want to rule, but we want to save the country,” he said.
He said the terrorists who had conducted suicide attacks on Data Darbar, killed Dr Sarfaraz Naeemi of Jamia Naeemia, killed Barelvi leaders at Nishtar Park and burnt lawyers in Karachi had not been arrested. He said the PST would not be afraid of arresting the people behind such atrocities. “The student wing of the PST will follow them at educational institutions,” he said.
He criticised the Supreme Court for not taking up the PST’s petition for an investigation of the Nishtar Park bombing. He asked the chief justice of Pakistan to ensure the release of former religious affairs minister Hamid Saeed Kazmi, who is behind bars for alleged fraud in the Haj fund.
Qadri said the PST would establish Shariat courts in the country which would give immunity to no one.
Announcing that he was declaring his assets, he said he owned 10 or 11 shalwar kamiz’s and his wife had assets of Rs150,000. He said his children studied in a madrassa and he drew no salary from his job as head of the PST. He said he used to work for Suzuki but had quit after he became head of the PST. He said all politicians should declare their assets as he had done.
Dr Ashraf Asif Jalali, Shahid Ghauri, Shadab Raza Qadri, Razai Mustafa and Dr Raghib Naeemi also gave speeches at the conference.
Naeemi said that they needed to rid the country of the Taliban, terrorists, corrupt politicians, anti-Islamic elements and power cuts.
Malik Bashir Awan, father of Mumtaz Qadri, the self-confessed assassin of Salmaan Taseer, read out a prayer for the participants, but did not make a speech. The other speakers assured him of their full support for his son.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 26th, 2012.