LAHORE: Adding a political twist to his campaign, the chief of Pakistan Awami Tehreek, Dr Tahirul Qadri, announced on Sunday that his ‘Inqilab’ march would move side by side with the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s ‘Azadi’ march on Aug 14.
“We will be encamping here for the next three days,” Dr Qadri said while addressing thousands of his supporters gathered outside the headquarters of the PAT and Minhajul Quran in Model Town after braving a harsh lockdown to the city by the government. “And on August 14 we will start our Inqilab march”.
Before the announcement, there was a great deal of speculation about what Dr Qadri planned to do next: would he take some new action or wind up his campaign.
The declaration was a vindication of the efforts made by some political leaders —particularly Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi and Sheikh Rashid — who had been working hard for some kind of an arrangement between the forces led by Dr Qadri and Imran Khan.
Dr Qadri’s ‘revolutionary’ endeavour got the much-needed impetus from the way the Punjab government handled the latest episode in the Qadri series on Sunday – which was described by many as an overreaction.
Lahore was declared out of bounds for PAT workers days ahead of the Sunday event planned to pay homage to victims of the June 17 Model Town tragedy. There was a brief respite when senior police officers ordered removal of some of the containers placed at various places in Lahore and in other cities and towns across Punjab on Saturday evening. This was done amid reports of serious shortage of fuel and essential items of everyday use in the provincial capital because of the blockade of roads.
But on Sunday the containers were back at places around the venue of the event. But this was not enough to prevent charged PAT supporters from converging at Model Town.
Much of Dr Qadri’s speech was on the theme of martyrdom and he invoked examples from history and religious sayings for the maximum impact. He paid tribute to the ‘martyrs of Model Town’ as well as the army soldiers who had sacrificed their lives in the ongoing Zarb-i-Azb operation in North Waziristan. And then he spoke of his own impending ‘Shahadat’.
The PAT chief said his was a non-violent movement, but at the climax of his speech he urged his supporters to take revenge if he was assassinated. “Don’t spare any male member of the Sharif family and those members of the ‘kitchen’ cabinet”. He spelled out his ‘will’ and asked his followers to pledge to abide by it.
PTI Chairman Imran Khan has issued a similar directive to his workers.
Going a step further, the fiery cleric also directed his followers not to spare anyone betraying and abandoning the Inqilab march.
In the same defiant tone, he asked his followers who would be staying outside the Minhajul Quran headquarters for three days not to take the police’s bullying lying down. “Teach a lesson to the beast. Don’t let him indulge in cruelty against anyone.”
Dr Qadri, who has been nominated in at least one murder case of a constable in Lahore and about a dozen cases of treason and terrorism, directed his followers to conserve their energy for the final push on Aug 14 and not to initiate any clash with police now. He said they should move out of the camp only in emergency but in a group of at least 100 members.
The activists were asked to stay put around the PAT offices, apparently to avert any possibility of their failure to reassemble in the face of strong-arm tactics the government might use.
And possibly not satisfied with the present strength of the people at the camp for launching the march, the PAT chief asked his followers to continue to come to Model Town.
Meanwhile, a multi-layer security cover for Dr Qadri has been put in place by the PAT. The first layer consists of well-built security professionals, including women, who had accompanied him from Canada. Private security guards have been hired from a local agency for the second layer and around 2,000 club-wielding Mustafavi Students Organisation’s activists, including women, for the third security layer.
But PAT officials said that only volunteers were protecting their leader.
Hasan Mohyuddin, son of Dr Qadri who was active until four days ago, has been ‘missing’ from the scene for a couple of days, apparently as part of a plan to provide second tier of leadership in case his farther is arrested.
Earlier, a delegation of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement led by Rasheed Godail, Ameenul Haq and others carrying food and medical supplies for ‘besieged’ PAT activists was denied entry into Model Town. They were given permission to move to the camp only after MQM chief Altaf Husain gave a half-an-hour ultimatum through a TV channel of paralysing the entire country if that was not done.
PML-Q leaders Chaudhry Shujaat and Pervaiz Elahi left their Gulberg residence in a caravan to attend the Model Town event in the afternoon. People in the caravan were first stopped at the Jinnah Hospital barricade but later allowed to go to the PAT offices on foot.
Published in Dawn, August 11th, 2014