ISLAMABAD: The government has decided to prevent the long march by the Tehrik-i-Minhajul Quran (TMQ) from entering Islamabad on Jan 14 unless it obtains a permission (No Objection Certificate) from the administration.
“Dr Tahirul Qadri’s party has so far not applied for an NoC for the entry of its rally into the federal capital and even it gets permission, it will not be allowed to proceed into any commercial area, especially Blue Area or in front of Parliament House D-Chowk, in view of a possible terrorist attack on Tehrik’s chief and in view of demands by Islamabad’s traders community,” Interior Minister Rehman Malik said at a press briefing on Thursday.
He said if a request was received, permission might be granted for such a gathering at a “safe place” where there would be no disturbance to the people of Islamabad.
The interior minister took a U-turn on the issue of long march even though he had promised to facilitate the TMQ during his meeting with Dr Qadri in Lahore on Monday.
He had said on that occasion: “I’m here to facilitate him; we are not going to resist the march and we will work out the security issues. We all want an evil-free Pakistan and the points raised by Qadri are all valid.”
However, Islamabad TMQ’s president Ibrar Raza told Dawn that he had applied for an NoC on Jan 1. “We applied for an NoC, but the administration is reluctant to issue the permission. Our rally will enter Islamabad if NoC is not given to us,” he said.
On the other hand, a senior official of the Islamabad administration said the final round of talks between the administration and TMQ’s leaders would be held on Friday, the last working day before the long march programme. “We have received the application of TMQ, but NoC is issued after receiving all details and sureties from the applicants of such programmes,” the official said.
The statement of the interior minister unveiled the government’s intention and plan for the rally and it is expected that there would be a clash between security personnel and supporters of Dr Qadri if they were stopped from proceeding to D-Chowk.
The minister said Section 144 of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) had already been enforced in Islamabad and TMQ must ensure that it followed all conditions of NoC, including maintenance of peace, protection of life and property of citizens.
POSSIBLE THREATS: In reply to a question, Mr Malik recalled that the rally of TMQ would remain vulnerable to terrorist attack, adding that Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had planned to hit the rally at many places.
“There are some strong and potent threats to life of Dr Qadri and he should review his decision on the long march to Islamabad,” the minister said.
The Punjab government, he alleged, had received a tip-off that Ghazi Force, a militant group, had plotted a suicide attack on the rally. The provincial government had sent some senior officials to apprise Dr Qadri of the situation, but he declined to meet them.
Mr Malik said the group had detailed three persons – Yar Bakht, Ahmad and Naeem, aged 18 to 19 – for the purpose.
The minister said Crimes Investigation Department (CID), Karachi, had arrested five persons involved in the attack on the rally of Dr Qadri and MQM in Karachi. They had planned to detonate the motorcycle close to Dr Qadri, but could not reach there due to strict security arrangements.
Another intelligence alert had also been received regarding attack on media team covering the long march, he said.
The minister asked Dr Qadri not to come to Islamabad by road and put lives of people in danger in view of the threats from terrorists, however, the government was ready to provide him helicopter for the purpose.
However, the TQM leader Ibrar Raza said Tehrik had formed its own security force comprising 10,000 volunteers to avoid any untoward incident during long march and sit-in.
FUND RAISING: Rehman Malik said there were reports that workers of TMQ and some government employees were involved in collection of contributions for the long march. He warned them of disciplinary action.
“Pakistanis are questioning who are the financiers and who is behind the plan to stage such a long march, when the government has just two months to complete its tenure and elections are due,” he said, adding that Dr Qadri had around 170,000 students and he should think about the parents who have sent them for education.
“First Tahir Qadri should come. Only then we will see how many people join his long march. On one side he is talking about rule of law while on the other side he is instigating the people to achieve his own desire or agenda,” the minister said.
The minister said instead of striving for self-glorification, Maulana Tahirul Qadri should care for the poor and avoid putting people in danger.
“We will not succumb to any illegal demand from Qadri and we want to tell him elections will be held on time, the path of progress would continue.” BUSINESS COMMUNITY: In reply to a question, the interior minister said Islamabad’s business community had requested that no rally should be allowed in major commercial centres, especially Blue Area, as such events badly affect their business.
“We have decided to impose permanent ban on any sort of rallies and demonstration in Blue Area,” he said.
He said in view of their demands and security of residents of the federal capital, it had been decided that permission could not be given for holding of a sit-in or march in markets or residential sectors of Islamabad.
Earlier, in a separate press talk, traders representatives, Zafar Bakhtawari, Ajmal Baloch and Munawar Mughal, said the long march was a conspiracy against the country and the business community.
PROPOSED VENUE: A source in the administration said participants of the long march would be allowed to gather at Zero Point and carry out a sit-in.
However, Islamabad TMQ president said they would not accept any other venue but D-Chowk, in front of Parliament House, for their sit-in programme. “Participants of the long march will continue to sit in front of Parliament House unless demands of Dr Qadri are met.”