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Marching to a different beat?

January 11, 2013

As Islamabad braces itself for the long march announced for Jan 14 by Tahirul Qadri, chief of the Tehrik-i-Minhajul-Quran, many questions arise with regard to the possibilities and likely outcomes of the TMQ’s stated objectives that the event aims at.

Developments on the march have witnessed many twists during the past few days with the two major coalition allies of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) -- the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the Pakistan Muslim League – Quaid (PML-Q) announcing their support for Qadri’s march.

However, the MQM, after previously announcing its participation in the event, later decided not to join the march and announced on Jan 11 that it would continue to morally support the TMQ.

Furthermore, the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI), had earlier announced not to join the march whereas the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) and PPP, the main parties that the TMQ stands to oppose, have been issuing statements in attempts to play down the event.

Separately, the federal government has been referring to terrorist threats that may target the event after claiming to have intercepted communications among the ranks of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

The government’s claims have however been denied by the TTP.

Moreover, recently, the Lahore High Court also dismissed a petition against the proposed march. The plea, which requested the court to restrain Qadri from holding the march, had cited security concerns as its primary argument.

Qadri had also sought for additional security, a request which was reportedly declined by the Punjab government after the federal government had forwarded its own request for assistance to the provincial government.

Would Qadri’s march succeed in achieving its stated objectives? And would the federal government be able to manage the situation without resorting to violence in case of a crowd that may charge into aggression? Also, what immediate and long-term outcomes could it lead to in relation to the country’s political scenario?