ISLAMABAD: Addressing his supporters after the expiration of the 11 am deadline given to the government to resign and dissolve all assemblies, Dr Tahirul Qadri, chief of the Tehrik-i-Minhajul Quran (TMQ) said the nation had gathered in Islamabad to demand its rights, adding that the conclusion of the long march was the revolution’s victory.
Terming it the “Islamabad Declaration “, Qadri said the conclusion of the long march was the beginning of the revolution.
Qadri said he wanted changes and reforms in the country’s system, adding that his long march was democratic and peaceful.
He moreover said that if he would ask the protesters to take over the houses of parliament, they would go ahead with the instruction, adding that no power in the world could stop the march’s participants from taking over the parliament.
However, the TMQ chief said the goal of the participants was to eliminate anarchy and unrest and not spread it.
Qadri stated he did not want any unlawful and unconstitutional measures, adding that he did not intend to take over the President House and the Prime Minister’s residence.
He said he wanted the rulers to be made to account before the laws of the country.
The TMQ chief said he had gathered with his supporters in front of the parliament to save the country from dismemberment.
The current form of democracy served the interests of only one per cent of the population whereas 99 per cent of the population remained deprived of the fruits of democracy, Qadri told the crowd, members of which were chanting “we want change”.
Speaking to the crowd, the TMQ chief further said the political government was responsible for creating a bad impression of the army.
He added that it was the military’s job to implement the government’s policies, adding that the army was the defender of the country’s ideological and physical boundaries.
Qadri said only the institutions of the judiciary and the army were fulfilling their responsibilities.
He criticised the parliamentarians and said 70 per cent of Pakistani lawmakers did not pay their taxes.
Allama Qadri said that we have staged a sit-in and we wont leave without getting a response.
Earlier, DawnNews quoted sources as saying that government authorities, including Inspector General Islamabad Police, Commissioner Islamabad and Rangers officials held talks with TMQ leaders over restricting the long march to D-Chowk.
A heavy contingent of policemen had arrived at the site and restricted the marchers from proceeding ahead of D-Chowk also known as Express Chowk.
Thousands of long march participants , including Qadri in a bullet-proof container truck, had arrived at the D-Chowk Tuesday morning.
Rangers and police personnel had formed a security cordon around Qadri’s truck after Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik issued instructions for the provision of strict security to the TMQ chief, private news channels reported.
The security forces personnel forming the cordon were later reportedly replaced by Qadri’s supporters.
Reports were received of tear-gas shelling by police personnel to disperse the protesters near Kulsoom Plaza in Islamabad’s Blue Area after gunshots were heard and marchers resorted to pelting stones on security personnel.
The injured policemen, including an inspector, were shifted to the PIMS hospital in the federal capital.
It was not clear who had fired the gunshots.
Malik had also sought an immediate report from Islamabad’s commissioner over the incident.
Previously during the early hours of Tuesday, Qadri had addressed tens of thousands of protestors in Islamabad, giving the Pakistani government until 11 am to dissolve all assemblies and voluntarily resign.
A large crowd of supporters, by some estimates between 25,00 to 50,000, had poured into the federal capital early on Tuesday, led by Qadri, a cleric who many accuse of trying to sow political chaos ahead of elections.
“This president and prime minister…they are now ex-presidents and prime ministers. Their time is over. Dissolve the national and provincial assemblies by the morning. I am giving you until 11 am to step down or else the people will start making their own decisions,” said Qadri. “These millions of supporters have spoken. They have rejected your so-called mandate. You are no longer their representatives.”
Qadri, a Pakistani-Canadian who returned to Pakistan last month after years in Toronto, accuses the government of corruption and incompetency, and calls for sweeping reforms to be enacted by a caretaker administration before polls.
The federal government had agreed with Qadri to hold the rally in the federal capital as long as there was no violence and crowds were kept away from the Parliament House. Arrangement had been made for the march with a makeshift stage set up at Jinnah Avenue.
However, speaking in a more aggressive tone than any of his earlier speeches, Qadri had called on his supporters to shift the rally to D-Chowk, the highly-sensitive area in front of the parliament and close to several international embassies and consulates.
“I will give them five minutes to transfer the stage and equipment to D-Chowk in front of the Parliament. That is where the people’s revolution will take place,” he said.
“The long march has ended. This is the start of a revolution,” said Qadri. “Tomorrow when you wake up, and after offering Fajr prayers, I will give the inaugural address of the revolution.”
The cleric urged his supporters to stand by him until the government gave in to his demands.
“Promise me you will not leave until I leave,” he said. “Promise me you will stay until our demands are met.”