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A grand spectacle in Islamabad


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Supporters of Pakistani cleric Tahir-ul Qadri gather at a protest rally in Islamabad on January 15, 2013.
Supporters of Pakistani cleric Tahir-ul Qadri gather at a protest rally in Islamabad on January 15, 2013. — Photo by AFP

ISLAMABAD: The grand spectacle continued to entertain all through Tuesday.

The first scene took place shortly around two in the morning on Tuesday when Dr Tahirul Qadri finally drove on to the T with his juggernaut of vehicles and workers.

And as soon as he set foot on the makeshift podium he threw the first (and last) bombshell. With as much anger as he could muster he gave the silent government a deadline of 11am to dissolve the federal and provincial governments and begin revamping the ECP as he had demanded.

“I give all cabinet members till 11am on Tuesday morning to resign.”

Otherwise, he said, he would announce his plan of action. His speech was short because it was not his speech, he said. That, he added, he would give when the dais was set at D-Chowk as agreed upon with Interior Minister Rehman Malik during their meeting in Lahore.

“I will give my address when I am facing the parliament,” he said.

For the rest of his short speech, he insisted that all government officials like the prime minister and the president had become former. “Yeh sab ex ho gaye,” he pronounced.

His ultimatum did not end there.

Dr Qadri then told his excited audience that within five minutes of his departure, they should remove containers and move to the D-Chowk.

He then stepped aside as his young followers went to work.

A large number of them easily removed two containers that blocked the avenue in front of Saudi-Pak Tower even though Dr Qadri had announced that they had brought a crane to do this job.

They didn’t take long to move the containers the local administration had set up to block the path to the D-Chowk.

The protectors of the government and its buildings gave way — under the instructions of Mr Malik. He appeared on the scene after four to say it didn’t take him long to decide that the crowds would not be stopped.

The crowds moved ahead along with their paraphernalia of mattresses, blankets and bags.

This move ahead continued the next morning as well.

This was no ‘long march’ in the face of hostile conditions or angry and charging policemen. Instead, it was a casual walk forward against a scenic background provided by the Margalla Hills.

There was one incident of firing and violence when, according to Dr Qadri, the security personnel tried to kidnap him, but the police claim that they went to rescue him because they thought some suspicious-looking men were trying to kidnap him.

But for the rest of the day, the only hardship was lack of sleep — for the crowds and for the policemen.

The police withdrew closer to Constitution Avenue and made space for the TMQ chief and the people.

The 11 O’clock speech started at 2 in the afternoon. But to the surprise of many, his speech said nothing.

He neither repeated his main demand of dissolution of the Election Commission nor did he focus on election reforms.

He went back and forth and then round and round.

Alhough he praised the armed forces, he didn’t reiterate his earlier call for their direct role in formation of a caretaker set-up.

Instead, he held forth about corrupt politicians for their lack of performance in parliament and their unrelenting greed.

He also touched upon the lack of electricity, gas, as well as the absence of jobs, housing and food.

“What kind of government. What kind of law. What kind of democracy. You say you we are democratic. This parliament is no more a democratic parliament,” he declared.

There were no new ultimatums or deadlines or plan of action.

The only real excitement was caused by the Supreme Court when it announced its verdict in the RPP case.

The crowds were charged so much by the Supreme Court order that they began to whisper among themselves that their leader had caused a miracle.

Dr Qadri too fell for it – for he wrapped up his speech abruptly by saying that halfway through his speech, half his work had been done.

The rest could wait till the next day.

As does the nation – wait for the next scene to be unveiled on Wednesday.

The ever-changing demands of Dr Qadri:

* In his speech, on Dec 23 in Lahore, Dr Qadri called for setting up an independent interim government to hold fair and transparent elections within 90 days or more to ensure an honest, sincere and trustworthy leadership.

* He also asked the government to include the judiciary, military and all other stakeholders in the process of constituting an honest, interim set-up.

* During the speech, he repeatedly said elections could be deferred, for the sake of necessary electoral reforms.

* On Dec 26, while talking to Dawn in Lahore, the TMQ chief reiterated that the military, judiciary and other stakeholders should be included in talks for the caretaker set-up.

* He said that duration of his proposed rally in Islamabad would be decided by participants.

* In his speech on Jan 1 in Karachi, Dr Qadri only vaguely talked about election reforms. He, however, made it clear that he was not in favour of elections being postponed or derailment of democracy.

* He also avoided naming the army and the judiciary when he said that a caretaker government should be considered suitable by all stakeholders, including those whose primary responsibility was to defend sovereignty of the country.

* On Jan 11 at a press conference in Lahore, he had declared that he would not return from Islamabad unless the government accepted his demands.

* A day later on Jan 12, Dr Qadri sought the dissolution of the Election Commission of Pakistan, saying “its five members, including the chief election commissioner, will not hold transparent general elections in accordance with the Constitution and the Representation of People Act, 1976”.

He said the general elections 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.

* Before leaving for Islamabad on Jan 13, Dr Qadri gave his march a new name -- `Democratic march for change’.

Comments (53) Closed

istiaque hossain Jan 16, 2013 09:41am
I am from dhaka, bangladesh, I agree with you, Now most of political party, like ppp or nawaz sharif is most corrupt, now in pakistan no buisness, no job, disgusting position,also your media, max. low quality compare to india or bangladesh, In every economycal indicator bangladesh is far better then pakistan, Pakistan need serious change, its a do or die sicuation, vote for honest person, party, VOTE IMRAN, SAVE PAKISTAN
Qazi Hassan Jan 16, 2013 06:53pm
He has already made it clear before the march that he will not be any part of the government, interim or next
adam Jan 16, 2013 06:52pm
I thought it was just me... one of the most incoherent article ever written...
Qazi Hassan Jan 16, 2013 06:51pm
He will, if government decides to crush him with iron fist, the way Shah tried on Ayatullah Khomeini.
atif Jan 16, 2013 06:47pm
why we should vote to imran... this time he should join the protest.. mark my words after election 2013 imran will be the 1st man who will say... election was unfair
sja Jan 16, 2013 06:46pm
In English there is a saying EASY DOES IT ------ and only Allah does it like KUN FAYAKUN - so be it but you make it overly easy Just because some one is on the ROAD give the rule in his hand, if he is qualified then he should learn from Quaid e azam, like a good lawyer, a highly disciplined leader of unparalleled skills and professionalism, did he do any dharna and things like Qadri, but he won the freedom for all of us. Now Qadri has a a motive to make this remaining PAKISTAN A BARELVI PAKISTAN by speeches, dharnas and his so called LONG MARCH OR the real LONG DRIVE to change the ideology of PAKISTAN. I also wonder if the Chief Justice has something in common with Qadri, as he would give the judgement at the same time as Qadri was speaking and then hand to THANK THE CHIEF JUSTICE for making his prophecy HALF TRUE and he waited till yesterday to announce the remaining half of his speech. IS THIS NOT A RELIGIOUS MUKHMUKAOOOOO------------- OH GOD what is in the minds of these so called SAVIORS OF POOR PAKISTAN.
atif Jan 16, 2013 06:44pm
Ya Allah please save qadri and his followers from the revange of our currpt govt and politicians
Atif Jan 16, 2013 10:37am
And replace the govt. with whom? Another set of corrupt group or power hungry army? No Hope for your country.
Muhammad Anwar Jan 16, 2013 10:20am
Hazrat Ali Razi Allah-o-anhu once said " Don't see who is saying, see what he is saying." Is there any patriotic and democracy loving citizen can prove that what Dr. Quadri is saying is wrong ? Pls don't be biased and support his demands for electoral reforms. Have not we been talking for years now to change the system and bring real democracy and peoples power in Pakistan which can safeguard the interest of poor and deprived ? The day our leaders learn to obey the law will be the day democracy will start taking root in Pakistan.
Ahmed Jan 16, 2013 03:33pm
This remark shows the level of maturity and depth of Qadri followers.
Azi Jan 16, 2013 10:16am
All Pakistani's with an iota of shame should support Mr Qadri, His demands make all the sense, .....He has clearly named all the corrupt politicians, from Zardari to Nawaz Sharif......look at your country & other countries of the world......If the past 5 yrs are what democracy is; then we don't need democracy like that..........Please support this march and give Pakistan a real change.
Qazi Hassan Jan 16, 2013 06:54pm
Anna Hazare in India, Anna Hazaroan in Pakistan. Big difference.
Azam Jan 16, 2013 11:26am
Clearly, one of the worst written pieces I have yet to read at DAWN. I am sad to see the standard of journalism stooping this low. Your report is marred with inaccuracies and unsubstantiated criticism. Mind you, I am NOT a fan of Mr. Qadri,.. but I was a fan of the Dawn News Views, until now.
Nazir K Ali Jan 17, 2013 04:41am
Demonstrations, protests, jalsas, and jaloos in Pakistan have now acquired a new visage, PEACEFUL. Mubarak ho! Mubarak ho! Mubarak ho! The three-day dharna at Bilawal House against the Hazara killings was peaceful. (I was a participant because we are HUMANS and not representatives of sects as defined by the insular mullahs). Salams to Pakistan 2013
Hatimkhan Jan 16, 2013 05:29pm
Fraud-ul-qadri must go back to canada.
Ashutosh Jan 16, 2013 11:18am
They trying to copy anna hazare here...
Zahid Jan 16, 2013 12:29pm
Pakistan should make Qadri the chief of Interim Govt. He seems to be a Sufi scholar who will bring Pakistan to development. Imran is a puppet of the army.
Omer Mallhi (@omermallhi) Jan 16, 2013 12:28pm
and they came up wit " Annay Hazaroon"
Ali Jan 17, 2013 03:29am
Qadri sahab, you live here with us so please come and help us in Canada. Wah jee wah, homein Toronto and helping people in Pakistan.
Azam Jan 16, 2013 11:37am
Faqi, Have you ever heard of "TINSTAFL"? There Is No Such Thing As Free Lunch! Every soul pays for it, one way or another.
kayt Jan 17, 2013 02:42am
You are right. No one knows his agenda. That infact is very problematic for pakistan. It won't be late before religious fanatics take control using him.
Kik Jan 17, 2013 01:06pm
This is all very good for freedom of speech, right to protest etc etc. But who is responsible for the loss of our daily livelihood for us traders located in Blue Area and in Islamabad in general. We have not been able to open our businesses for the fourth day running. Some of us have to work for a living. Not everyone has disciples in Canada and the UK sending us dollars.
Ali Jan 16, 2013 04:33pm
A few thousand people on the street hardly qualifies as a "huge response by the people of Pakistan". The vast majority of the Pakistani people are highly circumspect of Mr. Qadri's true motives.
Maani Jan 16, 2013 04:48pm
In Pakistan 75% time there was army rule, 25% Political semi-Democratic rule. That 75% caused a lot of trouble and destroying of institutions. The only solution for Pakistan is election every 4-5 years. Corruption will be on downward trend with consecutive elections in Pakistan. No other solution
JD SHAMI Jan 16, 2013 04:49pm
Pakistan is not an islamic state. People do not like or want religion, they like to keep muslim names and celebrate islamic rituals and that's it.
saqib Jan 17, 2013 01:21am
You don't bring change from status quo forces. He has been with status quo all his life.
Ali Jan 16, 2013 04:29pm
Let me tell you what's wrong with his demands, he's asking us to circumvent the constitutional and democratic process that the forthcoming general elections entail so that democracy can take hold. He's essentially distorting the electoral system to reform it. Doesn't that sound contradictory and suspicious to you?
abdulrehmaanq Jan 16, 2013 01:58pm
One simple question: where did the funds come from?
Magister Ludi Jan 16, 2013 03:54pm
To quote the immortal words of Alice from Alice's Adventure in Wonderland: This Long March situation is getting "curiouser and curiouser".
Muhammad Asif Jan 16, 2013 12:16pm
Atif: ok, please send some mr. cleans from your homeland then
Faizaan Jan 17, 2013 07:50pm
I'm amazed our people had 14 million British Pounds worth of jewellry ready to be donated! :O And more so that it got sold in the open market in hours, not even days, and even more so that the cash transaction happened so quick! Or perhaps the pulao caterers accept gold as a medium of payment :)
Yawar Jan 16, 2013 02:55am
I agree with TQ
Zakir Akbar Jan 16, 2013 05:52pm
It is national security threat when our Democratically elected members parliaments posses dual nationality, but it is OK a Citizen of another country de stablize our democratic setup. How Ironic!
atif Jan 16, 2013 11:38pm
hahaha... one of anchor from express tv ask this question to protestor(lady)...she just reply we donate our jewelry for this purpose...then anchor have no more question after getting this reply.. so the same answer for you my bro.... that's the spirit they people have for their leader...
Faisal Jan 16, 2013 12:45pm
Imran khan....dont u wana give him a chance
Dawood Jan 16, 2013 10:49am
Could this fellow be the next Ayatollah of Pakistan ?
Ahmad Nadeem Jan 16, 2013 01:27pm
If nothing comes out of Qadri's march, he accomplished one thing for sure- sent Zardari to exile in Karachi.AAZ has been locke in Bilawal House close to a month.
MSH Jan 16, 2013 04:39am
He does talk the talk (as do others), but is he ready to walk the walk? Only time will tell. Is he the joker in the pack or the Messiah, that we have been waiting for ? What next? More questions than answers, we can only pray.
Ahmed Jumma Jan 16, 2013 04:56am
Dr. Tahirul Qadri has chosen very dangerous path for his followers who are quite innocent and neglegent about the environment in Pakistan. He should serve purely the cause of Minhajul Quran instead of jumping into politics. However, this is his right, but he must combine the other political parties who have the same agenda against the government. If Qadri is successful the others will reap the fruits but at the moment they are just watching and waiting. If there is only one pure muslim with true loyalty of Islam, nobody defeat him but unfortunately we do not see a person of that calibre with political intentions. Qadri has put the nation into dilemma as everybody worry about the conspiracies behind the scenes and the innocent people may face hardships and terrorism.
Adam Jan 16, 2013 09:43pm
Oh he has dearest Qazi? I must be so foolish to not believe him then right?
ali Jan 16, 2013 03:10pm
His has done a very brave and tedious job all on his own.His message was loud and clear, Gradually in the next few elections the back of the waderas will be broken.
Ali Asghar Jan 16, 2013 09:06pm
A march cannot be 'democratic'. I think he meant a March for Democratic Change. Ha ... at least this isn't the only thing he 'meant' to say but got it all wrong and messed up.
Pakistani Jan 16, 2013 05:34am
The government of Pakistan is so corrupt that its has made the people question anyone who would try and bring reforms. I strongly believe the only way to bring about a grand revolution is when the Media decides to stop negative publicity and starts supporting and inviting people to the long march! This is not about Dr.Tahir ul Qadri. It's about the country, it's people.. It's about us. So stand together as one and kick the corrupt out of Pakistan!
Syed Jan 16, 2013 05:49am
I he does what he says he is there for than good, otherwise prepare to embrace another Morsi, and you may also hug your egyptian brothers along the way.We all know what it means by "no elections BEFORE reforms"", oh Pakistan, I weep for you. I weep for you bad.
John Smaith Jan 16, 2013 06:05am
what a joke
Syed J. Ahmed Jan 16, 2013 02:59pm
My question is... why all this drama only a few months before the elections? Qadri is a very confused man it's hard to understand his agenda without bringing in all the conspricies. Only time will heal Pakistan we all need to be patience and learn from our mistakes as we go along, I know it's tough but that's the only way to recovery for this country that has suffered so much but it's the only way and there's no quick fix, we been there and seen that with all the dictators we've had in the past.
Mustafa Razavi Jan 16, 2013 08:13pm
Funds came from the people.
Stranger Jan 16, 2013 08:33am
Qadri there , anna Hazare here . These 'boys' only provide total entertainment .nothing substantial comes out of their rantings.
Ajamal Jan 16, 2013 07:29am
Huge response by the people of Pakistan has left entire political leadership including Imran Khan "perplexed".
Agha Ata (USA) Jan 16, 2013 02:20pm
Some newpapers in favour of the government are not giving the right impression that Qadri's speeches have given!
khanm Jan 16, 2013 07:46am
Who will tie the bell around the cat's neck? We as a nation are nothing but a bunch of mice. Indeed media can play a positive role. Bernard Russell said give me the media in my hand and after a decay, if you ask any one, two plus two they would say it is five
Faqi Jan 16, 2013 07:52am
The thriller is complete with suspense, high drama, unexpected twists and turns and lots of comedy coming from a bullet-proof bunker. Directors and producers of the movie did put a great show for free.
Laeeq Jan 16, 2013 08:03am
"Smaith" ??? Thats the Joke !