ISLAMABAD: Thousands of long march participants , including the bomb-proof container truck carrying the chief of the Tehrik-i-Minhajul Quran (TMQ) Dr Tahirul Qadri, reached D-Chowk on Islmabad’s Jinnah Avenue in front of the Parliament House on Tuesday morning, Daily Sitara Sindh News reported.
Earlier during the early hours of Tuesday, TMQ chief, Dr Tahirul Qadri, 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, poured into the Pakistani 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, called on his workers 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 transfers 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 the revolution.”
The cleric, who was addressing the crowd from behind a bullet-proof screen, urged his supporters to support him until the government gives 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.”
In the late afternoon, security officials had told AFP that the crowd had swollen to around 50,000 people. However, estimates differed as to the real number of protestors.
Qadri’s supporters say he gives a voice to masses ruled by feudal and industrial elite incapable of redressing a weak economy, a crippling energy crisis, insurgencies and sectarian violence.
“Look what we are witnessing in our country today. We have no gas, no power, no petrol. Is this the country we aspired to? We should give Qadri a chance,” said Huma Nadeem, a 20-year-old college girl, in Islamabad.
“I’ll stay there until real change comes or until Tahirul Qadri asks me to go back. If I have to stay 10 years, I’ll stay there,” said Hafez Aamir Chishti, a cleric from Lahore who joined the protest march on his motorbike.