The march begins: Qadri moves juggernaut towards Islamabad

Published: January 14, 2013

Dr Tahirul Qadri prays in Lahore before leading his “million-man march”. PHOTO: MALIK SHAFIQ/EXPRESS

LAHORE: 

As Tahirul Qadri prepared to move his political juggernaut towards Islamabad at the head of 100,000 marchers on Sunday, the fired-up leader of the Minhajul Quran International (MQI) warned his opponents that he would return only after toppling the regime.

This will be a historic march, not just for Pakistan but for the entire world, he said, while vowing to stay in the federal capital until all his demands were fulfilled. “Our march will prove to be a march for human rights and true democracy… It will end poverty, strengthen the nation and ensure Quaid-e-Azam’s dream comes true.”

At 12:45 pm on Sunday – some four hours later than the scheduled time – the MQI chief appeared in front his 299-M Model Town residence. After a brief talk with reporters, Qadri went inside his residence again. He re-emerged half-an-hour later and following an address, boarded his bullet-proof van. With that, the caravan began its journey towards Islamabad.

During his address, Qadri revealed a new demand in response to country-wide protests against the killings of Hazaras in Quetta. He called for the dissolution of the Balochistan Assembly and provincial government for their failure to prevent the deaths of over a hundred people in the provincial capital in a series of devastating blasts. In true Qadri fashion, he announced that he wanted to hear ‘this good news’ before entering Islamabad.

Qadri once again accused the federal and Punjab governments of trying to stop participants from joining his caravan.

He claimed people from several cities such as Multan, Bahawalpur, Rahim Yar Khan and Okara were not being allowed to proceed towards Lahore. He added that the police had impounded around 30 vehicles MQI had arranged for his personal security and journalists. The MQI chief also claimed the federal government had blockaded the federal capital’s entrance with containers ‘filled with gases and acid’ to harm the participants of the ‘million-man’ march.

Despite this, as many as 260 vehicles, from trucks and buses, to cars and rickshaws, were part of Qadri’s caravan as it left MQI’s central secretariat in Lahore. Many more proceeded on motorcycles. Several trucks were laden with edibles, bottled water and gas cylinders to facilitate the participants’ ‘indefinite stay’ in Islamabad.

The marchers appeared in high spirits, in spite of the chilly weather, as they moved through Lahore’s Barkat Market, Campus Bridge, Canal Road, Allama Iqbal Road and Ravi Road to finally reach the historic GT road. From there, the participants took five-and-a-half hours to reach Sheikhupura district. By this time, the number of vehicles in the caravan had almost doubled. The participants chanted anti-government and pro-Qadri slogans throughout.

Lahore Operations SSP Suhail Sukheta said ‘foolproof’ security was being provided to Dr Qadri and the other participants of the million-man march. He said a vehicle carrying a mobile jammer was embedded with the caravan.

MQI also deployed its own security guards for the marchers’ safety. Many were armed with batons and some carried firearms.

Interestingly cellular phone services were suspended partially at first and then completely in Lahore as well.

Participants from K-P, AJK gather in twin cities

People from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), and the adjoining areas of Islamabad and Rawalpindi have been pouring into the twin cities to join the million-man march.

By Sunday night, close to a 100,000 people had gathered in the twin cities from these areas, according to a senior official of MQI’s Islamabad chapter. He added that around 200,000 people would greet Qadri’s caravan upon their arrival in the federal capital.

According to other local MQI activists, at least 50,000 people had arrived from AJK and northern Punjab.

“I have personally accomodated more than a thousand people from AJK in Rawalpindi,” said an MQI supporter who asked not to be named.

“People from Peshawar and other parts of K-P will start arriving in Islamabad by Monday noon,” said an official in MQI’s media cell. He maintained MQI was capable of hosting the long march participants for as long as they decided to stay at the sit-in in Islamabad.

“MQI has made arrangements for as much as six-months in case the sit-in stretched that far,” the official added.

“No matter how long it takes, we will persist until our demands our met,” said another MQI official. He said Dr Qadri had assured the government that the long march would remain entirely peaceful.

“We will respect our word at all costs but if the government resorts to any unlawful acts then we would not be bound by the promise,” the official added.

(WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT BY UMER NANGIANA IN ISLAMABAD)

Published in The Express Tribune, January 14th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (66)

  • Asad
    Jan 14, 2013 - 4:25AM

    Idiot!

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  • FJ
    Jan 14, 2013 - 4:28AM

    Have a safe journey, Sir!

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  • dr j tipu
    Jan 14, 2013 - 4:52AM

    best of luck to the much awaited march! Allah be with u guys…………

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  • Ch. Allah Daad
    Jan 14, 2013 - 4:56AM

    There is no shortage of nuts in this country.

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  • Maria
    Jan 14, 2013 - 4:57AM

    Tahirul Qadri will not give up until he topples the regime? Who is he that he can say such a thing? Why should a religious scholar who runs away to Canada and swears allegiance to the British Monarch now take feel British system of parliamentary democracy should be undermined in Pakistan but not Canada? Does he not know that in elections he can work within the system to vote out Zardari and in so doing strengthen the voting system and democracy? How can any nation allow such a march and such unlawful behaviour. We have allowed generals to take over by using the army against the constitutional set up and now the nation allows private citizens to march on the capital and blackmail the country too? Imagine if Tahirul Qadri tried this type of blackmail in Canada where he adopted Canadian citizenship? The government there would throw him in jail but he thinks he can fly back to Pakistan and cause unrest. Shame on Pakistan for not standing up to this type of bullying.

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  • Prof. Devender Sareen
    Jan 14, 2013 - 5:22AM

    As an Indian I got tears in my eyes at this… God Bless Dr Tahir Ul Qadri… May he succeed for Pakistan… Even though I am not a Muslim and I am a Mushrik (Hindu) still I hope the Pakistani people will accept my good wishes… Dr Tahir Ul Qadri can lead Pakistan to have a caretaker government and new executive setup… Pakistan can become the most peaceful and prosperous country in the world… instead of going to America or Middle East Indians will aspire to migrate to Pakistan… Maybe one day I can also to visit my Pind Sadhoke where I was born… and our bungalow in Model Town in Lahore where I spent my school days till I was 12 years old in 1947…

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  • hopeful
    Jan 14, 2013 - 5:24AM

    I can almost hear our shameless leaders shaking in fear. This is democracy!

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  • Bunty
    Jan 14, 2013 - 5:38AM

    Tahir’s picture is worth a thousand words…

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  • Abdullah AlFaisal
    Jan 14, 2013 - 6:48AM

    May Allah protect you and all participants. Qadri Sahib loves Ahlul-Bait and is a freedom fighter.

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  • Mustafa
    Jan 14, 2013 - 7:02AM

    May Allah be with you and your followers.

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  • ufaquarian
    Jan 14, 2013 - 7:49AM

    drame eh?

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  • a&a
    Jan 14, 2013 - 8:36AM

    so they are marching for the Presidential rule . . . .;-)

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  • Mirza
    Jan 14, 2013 - 8:37AM

    Would women have equal rights in Qadri’s democracy? In the current system women have equal rights as voters. How many million women are included in this march? Or like all mullahs this is a male dominated march. Did Qadri give any example of what type/country’s democracy does he want or it is all abstract? What is wrong with Turkey, Malaysia, Indonesia, B. Desh democracy?

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  • Ammar
    Jan 14, 2013 - 8:40AM

    I might be wrong but generally, the right kind of person has got a typical appeal, he doesn’t. The mob he gathered are from his religious followers not ordinary citizens.

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  • Ricky
    Jan 14, 2013 - 8:55AM

    Can Qadri fool so many Pakistanis so easily? After supporting the dictatorship of Gen Mush and living large in Canada one day it just dawned on him to go and agitate against Pakistani govt? After almost 5 years of rule he realized that there should be no continuity but a new democracy like which country? Democracy does not come or strengthen by going against constitution and demanding changes outside constitution. This would be another tsunami that would fizzle. The establishment has to find another horse.

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  • taeseer qadri
    Jan 14, 2013 - 9:13AM

    Qadri is the greatest religious leader of Pakistan. May Allah shower rose petals from sky above.

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  • Qasim
    Jan 14, 2013 - 9:17AM

    Change start to spread over Pak by now. As Bloachistan wrapped in it.
    Good work Mr Qadri!!

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  • Rabia Haroon
    Jan 14, 2013 - 9:43AM

    Tahir ul Qadri, please please please go back to Canada.

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  • Jenai dau
    Jan 14, 2013 - 9:43AM

    At least he is speaking againt corrupt govt that is abusing democracy,it dosent matter where he came from, he is here and fighting against this no good for nothing govt,what are all you people doing ..nothing…running your mouth..so go and join this man grow a pair of you know what.

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  • salmanzq
    Jan 14, 2013 - 9:44AM

    We should have changed the signs towards Islamabad so that they point back to Canada and he can long march it out of here!

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  • Indian Muslim
    Jan 14, 2013 - 9:44AM

    Dont really care about what Dr. Tahir Ul Qadri’s backgroud is , but whatever he has demanded is the need of the hour… without a free fair election in line with constitution , Pak will remain an oligarchy. I was expecting Imran Khan to do such march for election reforms.
    I sincerely hope nothing bad comes out of it.

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  • Hamid Imran
    Jan 14, 2013 - 9:58AM

    From four million he has come done to 100 or 200 thousand. Both media and govt are giving him undue importance.

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  • Saad Syed
    Jan 14, 2013 - 10:03AM

    It’s very shameful to read negative comments about Dr Qadri. Brothers and Sisters, have some Ikhalas before posting. Pakistan needs our prayers. Why can’t we just sit down and pray in front of Allah for a better Pakistan? and Pray if this march is good for Pakistan, may Allah give it a big success and if not than May Allah bring out some khair from this March.

    BROTHERS AND SISTERS HAVE SOME IKHLAS, DO NOT JUDGE AND SPREAD NEGATIVITY.

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  • A
    Jan 14, 2013 - 10:08AM

    Not just government but all the feudals are really afraid of this long march.

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  • Jan 14, 2013 - 10:25AM

    @Prof. Devender Sareen:

    Thank you Prof. for your kind wishes. I wish all the Pakistanis will think on the same lines as you are.

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  • Nawazish Saghir
    Jan 14, 2013 - 10:29AM

    Qadri Sahib, we dont need you. You please return to Canada. There are many doubts about your past. Please dont treat yourself as an angel. You want to derail political and democratic system in Pakistan.

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  • Jan 14, 2013 - 10:36AM

    @Maria:

    Just wondering Maria whether you have heard his speech and if you have heard the speech did you understand what he is asking. He is a Dr. in law and have teached the constitution law to the lawyers and his students are in the top position in Pakistan. I do suggest to listen to his latest speeches and then comment. The media and polititians are giving disinformation about him and his agenda. I just read in Times of India news-it says he is doing long march for corruption which is not right. He is asking for electrol reforms.

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  • Hassan
    Jan 14, 2013 - 10:37AM

    God be with you Dr Qadri

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  • Zohaib Khan
    Jan 14, 2013 - 10:39AM

    ALLAH save Pakistan from foreign nationals. ALLAH save Pakistan from Canadian Qadri.

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  • Naureen
    Jan 14, 2013 - 10:44AM

    @Maria, you are so naive and ignorant yet judgmental, shame on you for not doing anything and criticizing on the ones who got balls unlike you! He is patriotic citizen who is not hoping for any material gains but the longevity of his country unlike you to say such a thing! There is no relation with Dr. Tahir peace-walking in Pakistan and imagining him doing the very thing in Canada; seems like you are totally out of your senses! I don’t know whether your comment is to make us laugh or to show us how petty your thought process is! And btw you ace the list of those hypocrites who posters like patriots while internally they are just a, come on you can make this one out, can’t you!

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  • Aijaz Haider
    Jan 14, 2013 - 10:58AM

    ““Our march will prove to be a march for human rights and true democracy… It will end poverty, strengthen the nation and ensure Quaid-e-Azam’s dream comes true.” – Ameen.

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  • wonderer
    Jan 14, 2013 - 11:00AM

    Even with all the goodwill for Pakistan, and its unfortunate people, it is difficult to see how something useful can come out of this exercise. Qadri’s intentions may be noble, but his methods are questionable. Chaos is all what can be logically seen at present. I will keep my fingers crossed.

    We will soon see if Allah is on the side of the people.

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  • Sardar Shah
    Jan 14, 2013 - 11:03AM

    Tahir ul Qadri is a controversial person. He can bring no revolution. He is just wasting the time of nation. media should not give him coverage.

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  • Observer
    Jan 14, 2013 - 11:09AM

    It is not clear to me what this protest is all about. Is he protesting against the current elected government? Or, is he protesting against the real Deep State (read the army) that has been ruling Pakistan directly and indirectly for the past six decades? It all sounds very suspicious. Is the army establishment behind Quadri to get him to overthrow the government so they can step in with their next dictator? Something very fishy going on here.

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  • Shamila Sadaf
    Jan 14, 2013 - 11:31AM

    Qadri Sahib, why did you flew to canada? Why dont you leave Canadian citizenship? You are a dual national. We dont trust you. You are doing DRAMA. I am sure that you are working on some international agenda against Pakistan.

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  • Kiran
    Jan 14, 2013 - 12:11PM

    @Mirza: Dr Qadri has great support among women, and the women in his movement constitute a greater percentage than any other religious or political movement. If you are following the news you’ll find that hundreds of thousands are women (did you see the Lahore rally?), some are even walking on foot to join.

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  • Ch. Ghafoor Islam
    Jan 14, 2013 - 1:23PM

    Qadri Sahib, it would be better for Pakistan if you please reside in Canada.

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  • Kaspar
    Jan 14, 2013 - 1:31PM

    So Qadri must have got the good news of imposition of governor’s rule and dismissal of the Blochistan provincial government by now. Our best wishes go to him. May we hear the good news of the packing up of corrupt rulers sitting in Islamabad soon!
    What, pray, brought an end to the Balochistan government? The sit-in at Quetta? At other places in Pakistan? No. It was the sit-in at the Builawal House in Karachi that made the resident of Bilawal House tremble and give orders to his puppet PM to defuse the situation somehow!

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  • Rizwan
    Jan 14, 2013 - 2:09PM

    At least he is doing what he says .All the best .

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  • Saad
    Jan 14, 2013 - 2:42PM

    I hope he manages to get a direct flight to toronto from islamabad. face saving..eh?

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  • Muhammad
    Jan 14, 2013 - 3:46PM

    Revolution ! Can a mass of 200 Million morally and socialy corrupt people bring a change for Good? or for that matter for God?

    Refer to Arab spring, see how soon Automn has arrived there. Same Tahrir Square is now full of people demanding end to Mursi Govt…

    As long as we dont bring a change inside, and I mean inside, we will keep enjoying marches on GT roads…

    I wonder who will be the next to bring another revolution on GT road??? Lets book, some one like Mussarat Shaheen, please !

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  • thereheis
    Jan 14, 2013 - 4:56PM

    cool & cool

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  • thereheis
    Jan 14, 2013 - 4:57PM

    @Muhammad:
    seems good

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  • thereheis
    Jan 14, 2013 - 4:58PM

    @Rizwan:
    right

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  • Z.Khan
    Jan 14, 2013 - 4:59PM

    Information flowing out from British sources that the UK High Commissioner to Pakistan visited Dr Qadri in Canada two or three times about six months ago; the growing belligerency of drones and Indian troops along the LoC, alongside an unprecedented increase in terrorism, especially in Quetta; the sheer money and organisational structure that suddenly became overt – just too many coincidences in terms of timeline. I am also convinced “establishment” also supporting Dr Qadri. Its high ups assured no untoward incident for long march. Will reach Islamabad and shall be able to present charter of demands. Similarly US seeks a favorable dispensation in Islamabad up to 2014 so that its withdrawal from Afghanistan can be smooth and the post-withdrawal scenario to its liking. A long-term friendly caretaker setup would suit them more than an elected government, especially since they are not sure what will happen in the next elections when there is no NRO and no “guarantors”! We also know how the UK played a lead role in the whole NRO game, so the same linkage can be taken as a given again. Banking on someone they recognise as a “liberal religious leader,” who has even sought to justify drones before December 23, they feel will allow them to bring the Pakistani nation on board. Let us see how things unfold.

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  • Revolutionist
    Jan 14, 2013 - 5:46PM

    Its REVOLUTION time. May Allah help him!

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  • John B
    Jan 14, 2013 - 6:36PM

    one thing is very clear; PAK people are looking for someone to deliver them, and for that they are prepared to follow anyone

    Periods of Messiahs will continue for a while. He may be a religious scholar, but he is a religious zealot. He speaks differently to different audiences.

    He is no Gandhi.

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  • Burjor Rustomji
    Jan 14, 2013 - 6:53PM

    What impresses the viewer about Qadri is his oratory. One may not agree with what he says, but his talks are delivered with a lot of passion. Mind you a good orator does not mean a good leader, these are two different qualities altogether. This is where one has to make the judgement of his leadership qualities. One can deliver a good speech, with a lot of inspirational overdose, but after the passions calm down, the real work has to begin.

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  • arif qureshi
    Jan 14, 2013 - 7:07PM

    @Prof. Devender Sareen:
    salaams aur namaste devender bhai–you are most welcome to visit your village & beloved lahore–your thoughts are great & we amire you.my elders were from bharoke cheema not far from sadhoke ! we are 2 different nations for good reason but we should be the friendliest also–some day inshallah ! in the meantime we admire your wishes for a pakistan safe & free with honest leaders–maybe imran k

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  • Salman
    Jan 14, 2013 - 7:39PM

    Everything Provided to Him Except Uniform.

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  • Muhammad
    Jan 14, 2013 - 7:50PM

    @Revolutionist:

    Revolution time…..this is nth revolution via. GT road to Islamabad…starting in 1950s (Jamat-e-islami in Lahore) brought in Ayub, 60s (Bhuttoist vs. Ayubists) ousted Ayub brought in Bhutto, 70s (Islamists vs Bhuttoists) ousted Bhutto in Zia, 80s Almighty vs. Zia (Zia blownup in skies) in comes series of corrupt “revolutionists”, 90s (Mush vs. Shariffs & Zar-dars), Shariffs ousted, Mush in 2000s (Zar-dars vs mush) mush out Zar-dars in…
    by convention next “revolutionist change” is expected after 2018 following 10 years period per revolution…

    people say its only face change…reali, do even faces change??

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  • whynoww
    Jan 14, 2013 - 7:58PM

    21,000

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  • Mirza
    Jan 14, 2013 - 8:57PM

    @Kiran: I am sorry I did not know it is a million women march. Thanks for correcting me. I only believed it was a million man march as the organizers call it. If women are happy to be subservient to mullahs and become second, third and fourth wife it is their choice but I would continue to protest for the equality of women.
    Regards,
    MRecommend

  • stranger
    Jan 14, 2013 - 9:39PM

    Here we have Anna Hazare and there you have Quadri. Both men have loads of noise and drama but no substantial output.

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  • ahmed miah
    Jan 14, 2013 - 10:13PM

    As a mohajir i urge our leader to give a call we will lay seige to every provinsial assembly in the country we will bring change.

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  • Rex Minor
    Jan 15, 2013 - 1:40AM

    The Frankenstein wil sign the decree and introduce Governors rule in Islamabad! Mr Qadri will be put on the flight to Canada and the public will be asked to have a nice return home.

    Rex Minor

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  • Nadir
    Jan 15, 2013 - 1:42AM

    WELL, I WASN’T SURE THIS DUDE IS SO POPULAR AMONG PAKISTANIS. KEEP UP GOOD WORK QADRI. DONT GIVE UP. IF YOU FLEW BACK TO CANADA WIHTOUT BRINGING CHANGE THIS WILL BE A GREAT SHAME FOR YOU AND ALL THOSE WHO BECAME PART OF YOUR MARCH.

    REVOLUTION . REVOLUTION AND ONLY REVOLUTION IS THE ONLY SOLUTION OF OUR PROBLEMS.

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  • Raj - USA
    Jan 15, 2013 - 4:23AM

    It is amazing to see so much support for Qadri in Pakistan. He says that he took Canadian citizenship for the Canadian medical facilities but does not appear sick. He also says that he took Canadian citizenship because it would be easier for him to get visas to travel to other countries. He says Saudi Arabia refused to give him citizenship. He claims to be an Islamic scholar. He is not ready to give up his Canadian citizenship and take a risk holding only Pakistani citizenship. Yet, he wants to bring a revolution in Pakistan and claims that he gets revelations in his dreams and sidesteps issues revealed on him. Yet he is revered by so many in Pakistan !!!!!!!!!!!! Pakistan is really unique.

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  • Akber
    Jan 15, 2013 - 8:53AM

    Qadri Sahib you can solve the problem with PEACE not like the way you are doing

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  • Dr.A. K.Tewari
    Jan 15, 2013 - 7:27PM

    The number of participants will keep on increasing which will force the government to accept their demand , The peaceful protest having world wide support is the moral force of the organizers of the rally . Allah is also supporting the march by inreasing the atmospheric temprature and through stable weathere , Recommend

  • Dr.A. K.Tewari
    Jan 15, 2013 - 7:28PM

    The number of participants will keep on increasing which will force the government to accept their demand , The peaceful protest having world wide support is the moral force of the organizers of the rally . Allah is also supporting the march by inreasing the atmospheric temprature and through stable weather ,Recommend

  • Dr.A. K.Tewari
    Jan 15, 2013 - 8:19PM

    The rally will remain peaceful since it is being organised by muslims entered from the east and not from the west in the Pakistan .

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  • Dr.A. K.Tewari
    Jan 15, 2013 - 8:22PM

    The number of participants will keep on increasing which will force the government to accept their demand , The peaceful protest having world wide support is the moral force of the organizers of the rally . Allah is also supporting the march by inreasing the atmospheric temprature and through stable weather ,

    Recommend

  • imran mohmood
    Jan 17, 2013 - 5:21PM

    @Mirza:
    no there are more women in this march then men

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  • Nadir
    Jan 17, 2013 - 11:39PM

    FINALLY, QADRI GIVE UP.
    HAVE A SAFE JOURNEY BACK TO CANADA MR. QADRI. YOU JUST WASTED MONEY AND PEOPLE TIME.

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