Minhajul-Quran International (MQI) chief Dr Tahirul Qadri has claimed that if he had allowed the participants of his January 14 long march a ‘free hand’, the country would have been placed under martial law “within five minutes”.
He told a press conference in Lahore on Sunday that the objective of the long march was to promote peace and convey a message to the world that Pakistanis are peaceful people. At the same time, he said had the government not come forth for negotiations, he would have allowed the marchers a free hand which he claimed would have culminated in martial law.
Qadri maintained the long march was a preliminary step in his mission to rid the country of ‘corrupt looters’. The MQI chief added that he would kick off the second phase of his mission soon and organise long marches ‘in every district of the country’.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Senator Pervaiz Rashid termed Qadri’s comments regarding martial law an attempt to save himself from humiliation.
“In order to save himself from humiliation after the failure of the long march, Qadri is levelling allegations against the country’s defence institutions. PML-N strongly condemns these allegations,” said the senator in an official statement. He asked the spokespersons of the defence institutions to take immediate notice of Qadri’s comments.
Rashid accused the MQI chief of using his religious seminary for political purposes and claimed this was a serious violation of the agreement under which he had been provided land free of charge for religious education.
He maintained that people were now aware of Qadri’s gimmickry and would not fall for ‘any new drama’.
Qadri relinquishes post as PAT president
At the same press conference on Sunday, Qadri relinquished his position as president of MQI’s political wing, the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT).
He named IT specialist Dr Raheeq Abbasi as his replacement. Abbasi was taken away from his MQI duties before being put into the political spotlight.
Qadri’s party is registered with the election commission, but he said that they would be sending the names of new office-bearers on Monday. Talking about the possibility of the party taking part in the upcoming elections, Qadri said he had been empowered by its leadership to take a decision but that he would announce it at an appropriate time.
According to MQI officials, the party has asked Qadri to conduct visits across the country to gauge public support. Once Qadri returns with feedback they would be in a better position to take a decision on the elections. They told The Express Tribune that Qadri was also holding talks with Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement for contesting the elections in Punjab under an alliance. Any decision on the elections would, however, hinge on the results of these negotiations as well.
This was confirmed during the press conference when Qadri vowed to hold “long marches against corrupt leaders” in every district across the country. He renewed his criticism of the election commission, announcing that he would unearth the “corrupt mafia” inside it soon.
Qadri also rejected the idea of the new Bahawalpur Janoobi Punjab and claimed it was nothing more than a political stunt by the ruling party. He suggested a referendum among the region’s populace before a new province is carved out of it.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 4th, 2013.