The government – failing to persuade Tahirul Qadri to withdraw his plans for a long march on the capital – has finally launched a crackdown against Minhaj-ul-Quran International (MQI)’s activists as a last-ditch effort to force Qadri to put off his million-man march on January 14.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik on Thursday ordered Islamabad police to launch an operation against MQI activists, who were allegedly forcing people to raise funds for the long march.
“I’ve ordered police to arrest Qadri’s followers, who are collecting ‘bhatta’ [extortion money] from people in Islamabad,” said Malik, adding that even government servants were involved in the illegal activity.
Furthermore, the interior minister said he would also register a case against Dr Qadri in the event of a terrorist attack during his long march since the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) had splinter groups which were hell-bent on attacking MQI rally.
“We will register a case against Qadri, if any killing or incident takes place during the long march.”
He went on to add that intelligence reports had suggested that government property will be set on fire, while banks will be looted on the eve of the long march.
Interior ministry officials claimed the government had decided to pull out police personnel from sensitive areas to deploy them in Islamabad and Rawalpindi in efforts to provide foolproof security to residents during the long march. Over 8,000 policemen have been asked to be on high alert in case of an emergency, the officials added.
Meanwhile, government servants have also been directed to stay away from the long march. “Disciplinary actions will be taken against them [government servants],” said Malik. The interior minister also pledged that he would not allow Qadri or his followers to hold a rally in Islamabad’s Blue Area.
When asked whether the government would allow Qadri to hold his long march if he failed to get a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the security agencies, Malik said, “We can’t allow Qadri to hold long march until he gets NOC.”
Meanwhile, a senior official of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) told The Express Tribune that the government was in a fix about Qadri’s march.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 11th, 2013.