LAHORE: Hasan Ashraf, a BCom student from Faisalabad, said he had come to support Tahirul Qadri in his campaign to change the system. “My father has to pay millions of rupees in bribes to the port authorities to clear each consignment of chemicals our company imports.” Ashraf said his entire family was “lifetime members” of Tehrik Minhajul Quran.
Waiting behind Ashraf for the main gate of the Minar-i-Pakistan complex to open was Ghulam Murtaza in his 2011 model Toyota Corrolla. Murtaza, a textile exporter from Faisalabad, said he also wanted change. “I can’t deliver goods to my clients abroad in time. There is always a delay either because of power outages or gas shortages. Businesses can’t be run in this manner.”
Hafeezur Rahman, who has a property dealing business in Lahore, said besides fighting corruption, his support for Tahirul Qadri was also because he wanted a solution for terrorism and poverty. “I don’t lack the basic necessities of life. But I know there are others who do and I support Maulana sahib because he wants to work for them.”
Rahman added that he refused to deal with anybody who was corrupt. “We don’t work with the Lahore Development Authority. They are corrupt,” he said. “Defence Housing Authority, Bahria Town and other such housing schemes have transparent procedures,” he added. His brother said he would vote only if the contestants were pious people. “We will not vote for rapists, drunkards and people who sell and purchase plots on fake documents,” he added.
A group of women waiting for their bus to leave the parking lot said they had come to attend the meeting from Bahawalpur. They said they were members of Minhajul Quran but added that they did not know much about the content of Qadri’s speech. “Our men know about these details,” they said.
A group of Sikh visitors came to the meeting under the leadership of Gayani Ranjeet Singh, who is a garanthi at the Auqaf Department and based at the Gurdwara Dera Sahib opposite the Minar-i-Pakistan. He said he was representing all the gurdwaras of the country.
“A government guided by any religion cannot be a bad government. Our country will overcome its crises if it is run in accordance with religious teachings,” he said. He cited terrorism, poverty and illiteracy as some of the major problems Pakistan was facing.
Other religious figures present at the meeting said they had cordial ties with Qadri and had come on his special invitation. Sain Makhdoom Syed Chan Pir Qadri, the custodian of the Mian Mir shrine, said he will would for the speech to finish and then comment about its contents.
Pir Sarkar Jee, the custodian of Astana Alya Gulshanabad Sharif in Rawalpindi, said he had come to support Qadri’s struggle for the supremacy of Islam. He said he was affiliated with Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamat (Hanafi Barelvi) and added that his organisation opposed all kinds of sectarianism.
Zulfiqar Ali, a Minhajul Quran member who was volunteering at the rally, said the organisation was preparing for the day for almost one-and-a-half month. Ali, a textile businessman from Lahore, said youth, women and traders’ wings of the Minhajul Quran had coordinated their efforts for the arrangements.
He said the compound was split into enclosures for people from different segments of society. The two main divisions were for men and women, gathered at the right and left sides of the main stage respectively.
People were seated in the front half in accordance with their professions. The main divisions were for foreigners, politicians, scholars, naat khwans, lawyers and education sector professionals. The ‘general public’ was gathered behind these main divisions.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 24th, 2012.