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In this Jan 9, 2013, photo, Tahirul Qadri speaks during an interview with the Associated Press in Lahore. — Photo by AP/File

LAHORE: Despite an assurance by the federal government about acceptance of his demands, Tehrik-i-Minhajul Quran chief Allama Dr Tahirul Qadri is adamant on going ahead with his planned long march on Islamabad.

On behalf of President Asif Ali Zardari, PML-Q president Chaudhry Shujaat Husain tried on Saturday to persuade Dr Qadri not to put thousands of lives in danger by sticking to his plan and told him that the government was willing to accept his charter of demands.

But Dr Qadri told Chaudhry Shujaat that he would negotiate with the government only after reaching outside the parliament house.

Accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister Pervaiz Elahi and his son Moonis, the PML-Q chief conveyed the message of President Zardari to the chief of Tehrik-i-Minhajul Quran. “The president says the government is willing to accept your demands,” an insider quoted Chaudhry Shujaat as having told Dr Qadri.

Chaudhry Shujaat said the government was worried about any terror attack on the marchers and it was ready to accept his demands so as to avert it. Dr Qadri said he needed a guarantor.

“If you like a person of your choice or I can become the guarantor,” Chaudhry Shujaat offered, but Dr Qadri insisted that he would name his choice once he reached Islamabad.

Earlier, Dr Qadri refused to welcome property tycoon Malik Riaz who wanted to talk to him along with the Chaudhrys. Irked by Mr Riaz’s presence, Dr Qadri said: “My long march cannot be purchased.”

A source said President Zardari had asked Mr Riaz to accompany the Chaudhrys and even become a ‘guarantor’ on his behalf if Dr Qadri was not convinced.

“But it appears that Dr Qadri is in no mood to listen to anyone, not even to the Chaudhrys whom he holds in high esteem,” the source said.

Talking to reporters after the meeting, Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi said negotiations were still under way and there was a possibility of a ‘positive outcome’ before the march reached the federal capital. “The long march should not be made a matter of ego,” Mr Elahi said, adding that the PML-Q leadership was in touch with the president and the prime minister.

Dr Qadri said: “The threat of a terror attack on my long march can be averted by 75 per cent if two individuals (a reference to Interior Minister Rehman Malik and Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah) are sent to the place they deserve.

“My charter of demands will now be implemented in Islamabad.”

CHARTER OF DEMANDS: Dr Qadri presented his seven-point charter of demands during a press conference at Tehrik-i-Minhajul Quran’s secretariat in Lahore on Saturday.

He sought dissolution of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) with immediate effect because, according to him, its five members, including the chief election commissioner (CEC), wouldn’t hold the transparent general elections in accordance with the Constitution and the Representation of People Act, 1976.

“We have no doubt about the honesty and integrity of Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim, but how could an 86-year-old man do his best in the presence of four other members/provincial election commissioners who had been appointed on the recommendation of the PPP, PML-N, ANP and other coalition partners (of the PPP),” Dr Qadri said.

He said according to the 20th Amendment, the process to constitute an interim caretaker set-up had been limited to discussion between the treasury and the opposition alone. And in case they failed to do so, the matter would be referred to the ECP. “If the two parties succeeded in doing so it will be a `mukmuka' (deal). And it will be a deal again if the matter is forwarded to the ECP where the existing honest CEC cannot take a decision on an honest and trustworthy caretaker set-up independently because he will have to involve other four members for voting on it. And surely they will not approve his decision because of their affiliation with political parties,” he explained.

Dr Qadri said since he desired to eliminate any chance of a deal at any stage in this regard it was better to dissolve the ECP and then appoint impartial and honest CEC members.

He said the general election must be held in line with Articles 62, 63 and 218 of the Constitution and Sections 77 to 82 of the Representation of People’s Act, 1976.

Dr Qadri also demanded implementation of the Supreme Court’s verdict of June 8 last year on a petition of the Workers Party Pakistan which challenged certain practices and process of electioneering.

He said he wanted completion of scrutiny of nomination papers in 30 days and not in just three days.

He did not share rest of his demands with the media, saying he would disclose them during his address to the marchers in Islamabad.

Dr Qadri said after the start of the long march from Lahore he would not hold talks with anyone in closed doors. “I will only initiate a dialogue with the government in the presence of millions of marchers,” he added.

He requested the Chief Justice of Pakistan to take a suo motu notice of the statement of Interior Minister Rehman Malik. “As he had said that I would be attacked by terrorists during the march it means he knows about those who wanted to kill me. So the CJP should take notice in this regard immediately,” he requested.

He invited the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf to join the long march and termed it a party that also wanted a change in the country like his Tehrik-i-Minhajul Quran. He said the PTI should join the march for achieving its objectives.

He said the march would depart from Lahore at 9:00am on Sunday, reach Islamabad the next day and end at the shrine of Hazrat Imam Barri Sarkar after acceptance of demands.