Pakistan diverts plane carrying Canada-based anti-government cleric to Lahore over security, official says

Published: June 23, 2014

Canada-based Pakistani cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri gestures the victory sign as he visits a hospital, where his supporters are admitted after getting injured during clashes with police, in Lahore on June 23, 2014. Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images

ZARAR KHAN and REBECCA SANTANA
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan diverted a passenger plane carrying an anti-government cleric to Lahore on Monday out of security concerns, said an official, leading to a standoff in which the cleric refused for hours to get off the aircraft while it waited on the tarmac.

The Pakistani cleric, Tahir-ul-Qadri, lives mostly in Canada but has a large following in his network of mosques and religious centres across Pakistan. Last year he threw the capital into crisis for days when he led rallies of thousands of people in the centre of Islamabad to demand electoral reforms.

This time he returned to the limelight — and the country — promising to lead more rallies against the government.

Qadri was scheduled to arrive on an Emirates flight from Dubai Monday morning, but the flight was first delayed and then diverted in-flight to Lahore, said a spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority, Abid Qaimkhani.

The Dubai-based airline told The Associated Press that the flight was diverted on the instruction of Pakistani authorities. They said the crew and passengers were safe and that they were working on getting passengers to their original destination.

The cleric’s supporters clashed with police as they tried to get to the airport in Rawalpindi next to the capital, and the police used tear gas to try to keep them away.

The Monday incident came after an even more serious altercation last week that heightened tensions ahead of Qadri’s return. Eight people were shot and killed during clashes between Qadri’s supporters and police in Lahore on Tuesday. Both sides blamed the other for the shooting. The altercation started when police tried to remove barriers around Qadri’s residence and religious centre.

Authorities appeared to be preparing for similar violence with Qadri’s supporters even before he’d arrived. They cut off cellphone service in parts of Islamabad and Rawalpindi in the morning and used shipping containers to block off access to areas of the city where there are sensitive government offices. Senior police officer Mirza Tahir Sikandar said 30 police were injured during Monday’s clashes.

Once in Lahore, the government and Qadri negotiated for hours as officials tried to encourage him to leave the plane.

The cleric first demanded top military figures meet him at the airport to ensure his safety, said provincial Law Minister Rana Mashood. The government instead brought in some of Qadri’s close relatives and party officials to talk to him, said Mashood.

The cleric later demanded an armoured vehicle and guards be brought to the tarmac, Mashood said. The situation was resolved once the provincial Gov. Chaudhry Mohamad Sarwar, called Qadri directly and agreed to meet him at the airport and escort him to his home in Lahore, said Mashood.

Qadri on Twitter accused the government of hijacking the plane and demanded to be taken back to Islamabad. But by late afternoon he said he had accepted an offer to leave the plane with a security escort.

The cleric’s return comes at a particularly sensitive time for the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. A little over a week ago the military launched a long-awaited military offensive against militants in the North Waziristan tribal area bordering Afghanistan. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced as the military carries out airstrikes against militant targets.

—-

Associated Press writers Zaheer Babar in Lahore and Adam Schreck in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

08:21ET 23-06-14

[+]

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Readers Comments (0)

Comments are closed.

Featured

Police tape-Abbotsford-crime

Indian woman locked in bathroom for three years by husband after giving birth to a girl

VANCOUVER DESI An Indian woman was kept locked in a bathroom for three years by her husband and not allowed to see her child because she gave…
Continue Reading »

Hitler Ice cream-cafe

Owner of made in India ‘Hitler’ ice-cream gets defensive

If you think the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler has nothing to do with ice-creams, you’re wrong. Photographs of an ice-cream cone manufactured in Uttar Pradesh…
Continue Reading »

India marriage-abuse-prostitution-poverty

Indian bride takes a toilet as wedding gift

IANS Akola – A toilet stole the show at a traditional Maharashtrian marriage here. The prefabricated toilet with a water closet, a wash-basin and mirror…
Continue Reading »

LOCAL NEWS

SurreyBC-crime-desi

Parole revoked again for Surrey woman convicted in brutal slaying of prostitute

JENNIFER SALTMAN VANCOUVER DESI A woman who is serving a prison sentence for the brutal killing of a prostitute she met at a notorious Surrey…
Continue Reading »

Elizabeth Taylor

Divorced BC couple hope to remarry this summer despite woman’s terminal cancer diagnosis

DAN FUMANO VANCOUVER DESI For better and for worse, a lot has happened to Kim and Andrew Hopkins in the years between the first time…
Continue Reading »

CORN

Food watchdog detains corn livestock feed from India over health concerns

JOHN COTTER THE CANADIAN PRESS EDMONTON — The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says it is detaining corn shipments from India used for livestock feed to…
Continue Reading »

Don't Miss...

Bollywood

Filmmakers should learn from Bollywood’s PK, says Chinese daily

IANS Beijing – Indian comedy “PK”, which is running successfully in theatres here , is an example of “how to tell a bright and thought…
Continue Reading »

Caitlyn Jenner

Bruce Jenner debuts as woman on Vanity Fair cover

IANS New Delhi – Transgender Olympic champion and reality TV star Bruce Jenner unveiled her new name Caitlyn Jenner in a Vanity Fair cover shoot….
Continue Reading »

CANCER

Many patients with cancer that spreads to the brain could be spared some radiation, study says

MARILYNN MARCHIONE THE ASSOCIATED PRESS CHICAGO — A major study could change care for many of the hundreds of thousands of people each year who…
Continue Reading »

RELIGION

Massive cross rises in violent Pakistan port city, home to an often-fearful Christian minority

ADIL JAWAD THE ASSOCIATED PRESS KARACHI, Pakistan — Now towering over this violent port city in Pakistan, where Islamic militant attacks and gangland shootings remain…
Continue Reading »

guru-sacrifice

Indian guru lynched after beheading boy, 5, in suspected child sacrifice

IANS Guwahati – Simmering tension prevailed in Assam after a guru sacrificed a five-year-old boy to appease the God of death and was later lynched by…
Continue Reading »


Bollywood Latest

IIFA

Kuala Lumpur to come alive in Bollywood avatar for IIFA 2015

VANCOUVER DESI The Bollywood brigade will invade Malaysia this year for the Indian Oscar’s. 529287983_215616308 ◄ Back Next ► Picture 1 of 33 Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra…
Continue Reading »

Top 10 actresses of 2015

Photos: Hottest 10 Bollywood babes of 2015

VANCOUVER DESI Check out photos of 10 Bollywood bombshells who’ve to topped the Times Celebex charts. Top 10 actresses of 2015 ◄ Back Next ► Picture…
Continue Reading »

Bollywood

Bollywood actress Vidya Balan to promote World Ethnic Day

IANS New Delhi – Actress Vidya Balan, who often sports saris, has been roped in by online ethnic products marketplace Craftsvilla.com as the face of…
Continue Reading »