After his demand of dissolving the assemblies was not fulfilled, Minhajul Quran International (MQI) chief Tahirul Qadri said that if he or his followers believed in undemocratic means of bringing about change, then they would have “overthrown the government and would have barged into assemblies.”
Addressing the gathering from behind the window of a bullet-proof vehicle, Qadri said, “Had the participants of this long march barged into the parliament, the assemblies, no force would be able to prevent it.”
“However, we don’t believe in undemocratic means. Neither I am emotionally-driven, nor are the participants. This is not an emotional outpour,” said the MQI chief.
He said, “Had I directed them [participants] so, they would have conquered the assemblies within an hour.”
Terming it a “revolutionary protest against the fake mandate of the government,” Qadri said that the march was “totally peaceful, absolutely democratic, completely constitutional and strictly lawful.”
He said that he had prepared a seven-point agenda of “electoral democracy and electoral reforms,” which, he said, he will announce by the end of his speech. Qadri said that the last point in the agenda was the dissolution of assemblies.
The MQI chief said that he and his supporters had taken to the streets to stop those “who stir anarchy in the country.”
‘Peace at home and abroad’
Qadri said that Pakistan was considered as a terrorist nation and placed the blame on the government for “bringing the country to this state.”
He said that the people of Pakistan wanted peace to prevail in Pakistan and that they wanted to propagate the message of peace across the world.
“We don’t want to give refuge to terrorists here,” said Qadri. “We don’t want people with their backs tattooed with ‘devilish symbols’.”
He said “if the clothes of a few ministers are taken off, who is to say, they might also have such tattoos on their backs.”
The MQI chief said that the people wanted the same peace in the country which existed during Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) period.
‘The only right people of Pakistan have is the right to die’
Addressing “the rest of the world”, Qadri said that the people of Pakistan “have no food, their clothes are torn and their homes are broken. Millions of people of Pakistan are destitute without jobs; they have no money, while there is no income support programme in place.”
Hence, he said, that the “only right the people of Pakistan are left with is the right to die, the right to commit suicide.”
“People in Pakistan are living a life of anguish, misery and total desperation,” said MQI chief.” “Terrorism and target killing have become rampant. There is no protection of lives and liberty … no real freedom for the 99% of the poor people of Pakistan.”
‘Judiciary passes orders, government doesn’t implement them’
Qadri said that although the judiciary passed orders, the government does not execute them. “Rights of Pakistanis are infringed upon. Judgments are passed by the judiciary, but the government does not accept it. They rather criticise and challenge these orders politically.”
Qadri asked the participants to carry on their protest in Islamabad. He said, “I want to ask you to stay until tomorrow. I’m going to stay.”
The crowded shouted back “yes”.
“I will speak to you again tomorrow. Hopefully after tomorrow there will be no need to stay any longer,” he added.
Earlier, the police force took position around D-Chowk, while eight armed personnel carriers were deployed at the site.
A meeting of the district administration was underway with security agencies to deliberate on dispersing the crowd. At least 22,000 police personnel and a large contingent of Rangers are already present on D-Chowk, where Qadri’s supporters are staging a sit-in.
Qadri, who is still inside a bullet-proof container, has not yet addressed the followers, who braved a chilly night to support him. He has decided to address them from inside the container.
Earlier, security forces fired in the air and used tear gas to try and control protests.
The MQI blamed Interior Minister Rehman Malik for directing the security forces to resort to aerial firing and said that if an action is not taken against Malik, then the angered crowd might do something.
“We will not accept Qadri’s pressure because his demands are unconstitutional,” Malik told local television channels shortly after security forces fired in the air and used tear gas to try and control protesters.
Live television coverage showed forces firing in the air – a serious escalation in attempts to control crowds – while supporters of Qadri hurled stones at them.
Qadri’s spokesman told Reuters the crowds had prevented government forces from arresting Qadri. He said six supporters were wounded.