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PML-N mulls moves to restrain Qadri

January 08, 2013

PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif. — Photo by AFP

LAHORE: Wary of the motive behind Dr Tahirul Qadri’s proposed march on Islamabad on Jan 14, the PML-N is using all possible resources to thwart the plan or at least minimise its impact.

According to a PML-N leader, elected and unelected cadres of the PML-N and the district administration have been mobilised to ‘inform’ potential participants in the march that its objective is not to bring about an Islamic revolution and that it will fail to introduce any lasting political reforms.

“Approach people and try to convince them of futility of the exercise Mr Qadri is going to undertake,” the party’s MPs and district office-bearers have been told.

At the administrative front, the Punjab government is said to be in contact with the federal authorities and is weighing the option of taking Mr Qadri into protective custody before the march.

According to a source, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah has been tasked to analyse reports being received from official and unofficial sources about the likely reaction of activists of the Tehrik-i-Minhajul Quran if Dr Qadri was taken into custody, the options available with the organisers of the march to come out with an alternative leadership and identify the pockets from where people would mostly be coming to join the march.

A recent party meeting presided over by Mian Nawaz Sharif discussed the motives and possible outcome of the march and tried to identify the forces behind it.

A PML-N leader told Dawn that people in the party considered to be close to the establishment claimed at the meeting that actually President Asif Zardari was behind the march.

They believed that Mr Zardari would be ready to transfer power even to the army instead of letting Nawaz Sharif rule the country, he said.

To verify the apprehensions and seek assurances from the PPP government, he said, a third channel in the form of Pakhtunkhawa Milli Awami Party chief Mahmood Khan Achakzai was used.

He said Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf called Mr Sharif in the presence of Mr Achakzai and allayed apprehensions of the PML-N regarding the march.

When contacted, Mr Achakzai denied that he had ‘conveyed anybody’s message to somebody’ but said whatever he did he did it ‘in his personal capacity and as a democrat’.

Rana Sana could not be contacted, but his talk with reporters outside the Punjab Assembly on Monday threw some light on intentions of the provincial government.

A handout issued by the Directorate-General of Public Relations quoted the provincial law minister as saying: “Allama Tahirul Qadri now wants to arrange an incident of terrorism by gathering poor people in the name of long march.”

The minister said he feared that “200 to 400 lives may be lost in such a terror attack to provide a justification for derailing the democratic system” and that “the Canadian citizen would not be allowed to use these tactics”, the handout said.