ISLAMABAD: Minister for Information and Broadcasting Qamar Zaman Kaira said on Wednesday that the government would hold dialogue with Tehrik-i-Minhajul Quran (TMQ) chief Dr Tahirul Qadri only if he adopted constitutional course and became a political stakeholder by surrendering his Canadian nationality.
“If we can hold dialogue with Taliban, why not with Qadri? We do not evade from dialogue, but first he should surrender his dual nationality, register his party to become a real stakeholder in Pakistan,” said Kaira while speaking to media representatives outside the Parliament House.
He said any action poised to undermine democracy and breach of the Constitution would be resisted by the people, civil society as the doors have been closed for coming to rule through backdoors.
Kaira said Qadri was free to use his democratic right to protest but if he would put forth unconstitutional demands then law would surely take its course.
He said the TMQ chief has put forth three demands including the dissolution of parliament, all the provincial assemblies and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), but he did not provide any mechanism to remake the whole system in the absence of government and the parliament.
The minister strongly criticised the objectionable tone and language used by Tahirul Qadri against the political leadership and the democratic institutions and added that if he did not mend his ways, the political parties would be forced to respond befittingly.
He questioned Qadri, if the Parliament was dissolved, which forum would be used for consultation for setting up of caretaker setup, adding neither the judiciary nor the civil society would allow any undemocratic forces in the power.
The information minister criticised Qadri's rationale behind seeking resignation of Chief Election Commissioner Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G. Ibrahim due to his old age. He asked sarcastically whether Bholo Pehalwan (a famous wrestler) should be appointed on the post to hold fair election using his strength.
“Even the Indian prime minister is above 80. Such mature people are appointed to benefit from their wisdom,” Kaira commented adding the chief election commissioner was appointed after evolving consensus among all political forces.
He said all four members of the election commission were retired judges and they had been appointed through the parliament and the criterion of their removal was identical to that of the judges of higher judiciary.
He reiterated that the state was being run by a reformed constitution and the election commission was also a constitutional office so how could it be abolished.
The information minister said only constitutional demanded of Dr Qadri could be fulfilled.
He said Qadri was using the protestors comprising workers of Minhajul Quran as shield and requested him to pity on innocent children and women bearing the sever cold weather of Islamabad.
Regarding Qadri's demand for scrutiny of election candidate under articles 62 and 63 of the constitution, he said there was participatory democracy, not selective one in the country.
He said the people would seek qualification certificate from the courts not from Minhaj-ul-Quran Foundation (Qadri’s NGO).
To a comment about tax evasion by the parliamentarians, Kaira questioned Qadri as how much tax he had paid adding every parliamentarian had deposited tax worth at least Rs 40,000 to Rs 50,000 even those also who had not filed their tax returns.
Regarding Qadri's slogan of ‘save sate, not politics,’ he said this sate came into being through politics and the same will strengthen and protect it.
The information minister said the government desired to avert any untoward situation otherwise the processions could be blocked as had been practiced in the past.
He said Qadri had supported former dictator General (retd) Pervez Musharraf in the past who had reciprocated it by showing his support for the long march.
Kaira said the government has even apprised the Supreme Court that the elections would be held on time and that the process was also underway.
He clarified that office of the president had nothing to do with the elections adding the democracy has been strengthened in the country only due to a political president.
The minister said Qadri had alleged Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) as bribe, adding then he should dare not to mention such programme in his manifesto that had been assisting seven million families.
To a question by the foreign journalist, Kaira asked whether the government could fulfill such unconstitutional demands by Dr Qadri and wondered what he wanted to do with the democratic institutions.
Answering a question regarding PML-Q's leader Chaudhry Shujaat's talks with Qadri, he said the party was independent, though the PPP too never evaded from the dialogue.
Regarding the Rental Power case, he said the prosecutor general would file his reference that would be decided first before the issuance of warrants by the accountability court.