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Pakistani police clash with cleric's supporters

Major security concerns for outspoken critic of Taliban and government reporter, Karachi

June 23, 2014

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Clashes broke out in Pakistan in early Monday after an Islamabad-bound flight carrying an anti-government cleric was diverted to Lahore for security reasons, officials said.

Tahir-ul-Qadri, a Canada-based cleric, was boarding a plane to return to Pakistan from Canada to lead a challenge to Nawaz Sharif's government.

However, his Emirates flight was diverted to Lahore angering thousands of supporters who clashed with police. At least 40 policemen and dozens of Qadri's supporters were wounded in the clashes.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Pervaiz Rashid said the plane was taken to Lahore as hundreds of Qadri's supporters filled the roads in Islamabad and there was a risk to the cleric's life from the Taliban. 

"We want to ensure his security because he has made a statement saying the government will be responsible for any harm to him," Rashid said.

The preacher, known for his fierce anti-Taliban stance, refused to disembark and insisted that the aircraft be taken to its original Islamabad destination.

"We demand to take the plane back to Islamabad or (the) army should provide full security escort towards my residence. We do not trust the government," Qadri said via Twitter.

Later, he demanded that Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar escort him to his residence. In addition, he called for a provision of personal security, bullet-proof vehicles and live media coverage.

Last week, at least 12 people were killed and more than 90 others wounded during a police raid at Qadri's residence and office.

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