ISLAMABAD, Jan 7: The Interior Ministry on Monday sent 'high alert' messages to all provincial governments, especially the Punjab government, about the possibility of a terrorist attack on the long march planned by Tehrik-i-Minhajul Quran chief Dr Tahirul Qadri on Jan 14.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik, who presided over a meeting, set up a team to look into the matter.
“The team comprising officials of the local administration of Islamabad, police and intelligence agencies will submit its report on threats on Jan 14,” the minister said before leaving for Lahore where he met Dr Qadri for what he called facilitating the Tehrik in its long march program.
The minister said that according to intelligence reports, the TTP had planned terrorist attacks on the rally. The march will start from Lahore and reach Islamabad the same day where a public meeting is planned.
The meeting at the interior ministry was apprised that all provincial governments had been put on high alert because it was expected that people from different parts of the country would join the rally.
It was decided that follow-up meetings would be held at the interior ministry before Jan 14 to finalise security arrangements.
The meeting was informed that different venues had been offered to Dr Qadri for the public meeting, including Fatima Jinnah Park, commonly known as F-9 Park, but the Tehrik leadership had rejected the offer and pledged to march on the Parliament House.
According to an initial security plan of the interior ministry, about 10,000 troops will be deployed in the Islamabad to maintain peace and avert any untoward situation during the long march.
It is believed that the participants will not leave the venue of the public meeting unless they are asked by Dr Qadri to disperse.
The Islamabad administration has been tasked to provide food and fuel and lodging and boarding facility to the security personnel to be deployed for the event. The local administration has demanded Rs250 million for the purpose.
“We need this amount to provide protection and create logistics for the security forces,” said a senior official of the local administration.
The interior minister directed the local administration to move the matter to the finance division for supplementary grant.
The meeting decided that businesses and markets would remain open in Islamabad and arrangements would be made to provide security to the traders’ community.
AFP adds: Meanwhile, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan denied the TTP had threatened to attack the rally.
“This is not true, we have not issued any threat to attack the long march,” Ehsan told AFP by telephone from an undisclosed location.
“We have no comments for the long march,” he added.