Minhajul Quran International (MQI) chief Dr Tahirul Qadri seems to have capitulated on all his demands in the Islamabad Long March Declaration.
On Saturday, a government delegation, led by Law Minister Farooq H Naek and comprising Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira, Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed, met Qadri at his Model Town residence to amend the declaration.
Under the new agreement, the National Assembly, which is scheduled to be dissolved on March 16, will be dissolved on time – as opposed to Qadri’s previous demand of dissolution before March 16.
The forthcoming elections will be held within 60 days of the assembly’s dissolution, with a 14-day period being allocated for the scrutiny of nomination papers. Qadri had earlier demanded that elections be held within 90 days of the dissolution of assemblies, so that the election commission could be allocated a 30-day scrutiny period for nomination papers.
Meanwhile, regarding the caretaker prime minister under the new agreement, the government and its allies will finalise the name of the candidate before sharing it with Qadri. The MQI chief had earlier demanded that all parties build consensus with the government over the caretaker prime minister and that the judiciary and the military be involved in the process as well.
Qadri’s prime demand – the dissolution of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) – has been scrapped altogether under the new agreement. The MQI chief, tried pursuing the matter through the Supreme Court on PML-Q’s suggestion, but his petition in this regard was rejected.
Addressing a press conference following the meeting, Qadri claimed he ‘deviated’ from his demands to dispel the impression that he was trying to delay the upcoming elections.
Talking about the caretaker set-up, he said the delegation has informed him that they had yet to finalise the names of the candidates. He added that the delegation assured him that he would be consulted once the government’s paperwork was finished in this regard.
Speaking at the conference, Information Minister Kaira thanked Qadri for ‘understanding the government’s difficulties’ in fulfilling the demands of the Islamabad Long March Declaration.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 17th, 2013.