The dharna begins: The tipping point?

Published: January 15, 2013
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Thousands converged on the capital to join Qadri’s march calling for the indefinite delay of elections. PHOTO: MYRA IQBAL

Thousands converged on the capital to join Qadri’s march calling for the indefinite delay of elections. PHOTO: MYRA IQBAL

ISLAMABAD: 

Minhaj-ul-Quran International (MQI) chief Tahirul Qadri, who led tens of thousands of people into the federal capital, demanded dissolution of all assemblies before 11am on Tuesday (today) or else the people will take their own decisions on Tuesday.

“The long march has ended. Now, it’s the beginning of revolution,” Dr Qadri told his supporters at Jinnah Avenue in Islamabad late Monday. “I give you until 11am to dissolve all assemblies, including the National Assembly and provincial assemblies,” he said.

Hitting out at the critics who disputed Dr Qadri’s claim of leading a “million-man march”, the MQI chief said, “I invite all political leaders, including Asif Ali Zardari, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and Asfandyar Wali to see with their eyes this surging sea of people.”

Dr Qadri sought an oath from his supporters that they would stay put till the success of the revolution. MQI activists, including men, women and even children, promised that they would not move from outside the Parliament House.

Accusing Interior Minister Rehman Malik of backing out on his promise, Dr Qadri convinced his supporters to move the stage to D-Chowk outside the Parliament House.

How it all began

A historic freezing Monday night saw a scholar, accused of trying to sow political chaos ahead of elections, enter in the capital territory, with tens of thousands behind him in a long march — a demonstration that reeked of revolution.

Thousands of fluttering green and white national flags blanked the Jinnah Avenue. The long marchers’ leader, Dr Tahirul Qadri, in a twitter statement and later while talking to the media, asserted, “The time for negotiations is over”. He then pledged that he and his followers will continue the sit-in till the incumbent government leaves.

“People themselves will devise their decision, announce it before Parliament and then get it implemented,” said Dr Qadri. He declared that Islamabad will inevitably turn into a “Pakistani Tahrir Square”.

Meanwhile, thousands of protesters poured into Islamabad late Monday night demanding sweeping reforms from the government.

In overwhelming anticipation, several men, women and children received Dr Qadri and his “million-man march” at Jinnah Avenue.

The crowd at the long march destination swelled over at least two kilometres when the rally coming from Lahore, after travelling for over 36 hours, joined them.

Travelling from as far as Multan and Jhang districts in southern Punjab and Mirpurkhas district in Sindh, the charged-up participants waited for Dr Qadri’s speech for hours in Islamabad’s merciless winter.

Once there, they were anxious to know the “future plan of action”. They said they were determined to hold a sit-in for as long as their leader wills.

Most of the participants said they were fully aware of Dr Qadri’s demands and they believed that the demands were not only implementable, but to bring about “real change”, they were “inevitable”.

“We will not leave this place until this corrupt system and its produced government goes. We are done with poverty, injustice and corruption in this country,” said Zohra Bibi, a resident of G-7, Islamabad and the mother of toddler Fatima. She said her whole family was out at Jinnah Avenue to support Dr Qadri in his demands for “change of system”.

“I am here for change,” said nine-year-old Minahil from Islamabad’s Margalla Town.

A record number of women for any rally in Islamabad, coming from the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad and their adjoining areas, participated in the long march. They were joined by an even bigger number of women who accompanied Dr Qadri from Lahore in the long march. Men, women and children were seen piled onto rooftops of buses, flashing victory signs in a five-kilometre convoy of vehicles.

Anthems blasted out of loudspeakers as protesters danced to drumbeats and residents showered the passing convoy with rose petals.

So thick was the entourage at one point in time that when Dr Qadri’s vehicle crossed Faizabad Bridge in Islamabad, the march’s last vehicle could not be visible. It took 350 busses, trucks, cars and motorcycles about an hour to cross the bridge. “They are over 200,000 in number,” said a supporter of Dr Qadri.

Local observers, however, put the number at over 50,000.

Coupled with the determination to stay for an indefinite period of time, majority of participants brought with them warm clothes, blankets, stocks of dry fruit and sleeping bags. Volunteers provided tea and food to the people.

A bullet-proof rostrum was set up for Qadri surrounded by dozens of volunteers who guarded the venue entrances. The city administration deployed contingents of riot police around the venue of the sit-in. People were allowed to enter after a thorough identity check and proper frisking.

Hundreds of policemen in riot gear and equipped with tear gas shells were deployed between Constitution Avenue and the venue over the stretch of almost four kilometres. The red zone, host to all government buildings and the diplomatic enclave, was completely sealed with cargo containers.

(WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM AGENCIES)

Published in The Express Tribune, January 15th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (42)

  • jamshed kharian-pak
    Jan 15, 2013 - 4:12AM

    Ajhamdoullillah Pakistan flag defenders Long Live Islamic Pakistan

    Recommend

  • Khan - UK
    Jan 15, 2013 - 4:14AM

    Allah o Akbar. May Allah ordain whatever is the best for Pakistan and it’s suffering population.

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  • hina
    Jan 15, 2013 - 4:15AM

    hahaha drama!

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  • sabi
    Jan 15, 2013 - 4:35AM

    Pakistan had to see this day hypocrite giving warning to elected people to give him power.
    He will never ever be able to bring any good change but mayhem as is the tradition of mullah.
    Lying without limits,mayhem,denials.arrogance,threats are some of the signes of a hypocrite and this unfolding of hypocricy has already statrted.Pakistan tera Allah hafiz.

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  • Osman
    Jan 15, 2013 - 4:37AM

    People might dislike Qadri, but they’ll support anyone who stands against this corrupt govt.

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  • Dr.X
    Jan 15, 2013 - 4:38AM

    This is receiving suspiciously generous media coverage.

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  • Analyzer
    Jan 15, 2013 - 4:48AM

    Game over for the revenge of democracy.

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  • Jan 15, 2013 - 5:04AM

    This is going to be really interesting tomorrow… I bet all Pakistan will be tuned to their TVs tomorrow at 11 am.Recommend

  • imtiaz Hamid
    Jan 15, 2013 - 5:08AM

    People from motherland seem to in love with the word revolution.They should carefully read the French Russian and Chinese revolutions. Look at at the death destruction and carnage visited upon the people. I sincerely doubt they will have the courage to withstand it. Their Leaders as usual will escape to middle east or west. When you get a chance to vote you can elect decent people who represent your aspiration. If we keep on electing same actors we deserve the type of government we get.Since I no longer reside in Lahore these are mere observations. democracy is a very messy process I have seen in cook county first hand for some 40 yrs.

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  • Usama
    Jan 15, 2013 - 5:08AM

    Courage plus Cash in the time of crisis, is priceless ~W. Buffett
    Whether the government blinks first in the game of chicken or not, the quote pretty much lives up to be as relevant as possible especially in the political realms of Pakistan.

    Recommend

  • New Era
    Jan 15, 2013 - 5:31AM

    Qadri – The Agent who neutralizes the Khan factor and then disappears to let the status quo going.

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  • Raja
    Jan 15, 2013 - 5:49AM

    New beginning of Pakistan or the beginning of end of Pakistan ? Next few weeks will be very crucial in the life of Pakistan.

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  • Syed Shah
    Jan 15, 2013 - 5:59AM

    Qadri Saheb please announce Structural Reforms. Most important announce Land Ceiling.

    >Nobody should have more than 50 acres of rural land including 14 acres irrigated under a canal. Excess land should be distributed among the landless poor.

    It will remove the power of a few individuals who are controlling the parliament. That is the root cause of that ails Pakistan. The common man can only then enter the parliament.

    Make this your biggest demand Qadri Saheb.

    This will ensure that no body will be landless. Then with Gramin Banking we will help them to cultivate. Announce Land Ceiling. Give a death blow to vaderaism, choudhrism and sardarism and dadageeri. Thanks.Recommend

  • Usman786
    Jan 15, 2013 - 6:24AM

    he should demand Presidential form of govt.

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  • Jan 15, 2013 - 6:38AM

    Qadri’s agenda is to start violence to pave way for another military or military backed rule. I hope he will not succeed.

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  • Yaida M
    Jan 15, 2013 - 7:17AM

    @Syed Shah:
    Too late now. Land reforms should have been undertaken immediately after partition like India did. Now they are too well entrenched.

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  • A Khan
    Jan 15, 2013 - 7:33AM

    Love him or hate him, Tahir ul Qadri has done more to upset the status quo in Pakistan than anyone in past 5 years. Whatever his motives, if he can rid the country of PPP/PML(N), I am all for him.

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  • believer
    Jan 15, 2013 - 7:38AM

    dharna is an Indian origin word. we should use arabic equivalent.Recommend

  • Indian
    Jan 15, 2013 - 7:49AM

    As an Indian I am completely baffled. What is all this? What do all these people want? Since when did Dr Tahir Ul Qadri become a politician? Is the Army behind all this? What is happening to Pakistan??? Someone help me please…

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  • Aijaz Haider
    Jan 15, 2013 - 8:03AM

    Let’s wait till 11 am. So far so good.

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  • NAkhtar
    Jan 15, 2013 - 8:03AM

    Nothing is eternal,so the corrupt system always ended with force, this the law of nature.We ashould fpr good change only whether it is brought by Qadri or the General, we love Pakistan not the corrupt democratic rulers at all.

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  • GB
    Jan 15, 2013 - 8:13AM

    what is use to ask for resignation in time, when current government has only a month and few days left? effecting poor people. pakistan needs a positive political transition and maturity…

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  • Kamal
    Jan 15, 2013 - 8:14AM

    This is open treason by Qadri’s call to overthrow the lawful govenment and the elected Parliament by force and blackmail by a mob. I don’t belong to PPP or MQM or PMLn or any other political party and I think this govt is doing a bad job of governing.

    But there’s absolutely no justification, moral or legal or constitutional to overthrow the elected and democratic govt and the legislature by force. The only way to remove this govt is by elections. Tahir Qadri should be tried and convicted for treason, otherwise the state of Pakistan will suffer and loose its writ which is already weak. This is a must. .any other country Mr Qadri would be tried and convicted for treason and subversion of the rule of law and the constitution. If he’s not arrested and tried for treason, it will be the beginning of the end of democracy and the state of Pakistan. This is my impartial opinion as a patriot and as a lawyer.

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  • Jan 15, 2013 - 8:15AM

    What happened to the list of electoral reforms and the ways and means to end corruption as promised to announce on 14th January. ? Dissolution of all Assemblies is the only electoral reform announced by him. Let people evaluate it for justification am give her verdict. Other promises to disclose the ways to end corruption is forgotten by him. Does a man with such a poor memory . ( of his promise) is reliable..

    Dr. Qadri cunningly has not spell out next step as it is quite will known to him that his demand will not be met. His intention is to create further anger among his followers against the government which is corrupt. . The person talking so emphatically about the constitution has no respect for the constitution by demanding dissolution of assemblies immediately knowing well that otherwise also assemblies will be dissolved as their tenure is coming yo an end. . . There is nothing but to wait of his second attack
    i am afraid that there may be a temptation to create a street power to combat the street power of Dr. Qadri

    Recommend

  • saeed
    Jan 15, 2013 - 8:43AM

    Why don’t Muslim don’t believe in democracy. Not only in Pakistan every Muslim majority country no history of democracy. Story of every Islamic country Muslim bring dictator he rule for 20 yrs and than same kill him and than bring one more dictator to rule again 20 yrs

    Recommend

  • Kemal
    Jan 15, 2013 - 8:55AM

    TQ is loco, he is mad, the way he talks, the way he looks, the way he moves his hands and body show that he is a mad man. He needs to have his eyes checked, a few thousand people seem to be millions to him.
    How can a foreign up start come here and try to hijack the country and the government.
    I have no love or liking for the government, but they have been elected and should be removed by the system and not by the drama of a crazy mulla.
    TQ please go home to Canada and let the people of Pakistan decide who there true leaders are.

    Recommend

  • hameed rahim
    Jan 15, 2013 - 8:56AM

    Islamabad will be closed for several days. Karachi and lahore will also follow. a real revolution in the making. people rise.

    Recommend

  • usmanyy
    Jan 15, 2013 - 9:10AM

    dear fellow pakistanis,

    don’t like the government?
    get off the sofa and VOTE them out
    Register.
    research candidates in your locality.
    vote for them based on their qualifications and relative honesty instead of ethnicity, baradri etc.

    this kind of thing only brings more instability.

    we love jalsas and dharnas but we don’t participate in voting.
    if only biriyani was offered at the voting booths.

    Recommend

  • True picture
    Jan 15, 2013 - 9:14AM

    Qadri is irrelevant, people will follow & support anyone who is against this corrupt government. PPP & PMLN are even bigger hypocrites, who have mislead Pakistanis in the name of democracy, all those who were with Musharaf are now in these parties & not to forget 40% of fake votes on which many of these politicians were elected. People of Pakistan are sick of this mafia, they want to get rid of it to make way for free & fair elections.

    Recommend

  • Tauqeer
    Jan 15, 2013 - 9:19AM

    “demanded dissolution of all assemblies before 11am on Tuesday (today) or else the people will take their own decisions on Tuesday”

    so can a canadian national demand this from a national assembly of another country.

    Recommend

  • M Tariq Waheed
    Jan 15, 2013 - 9:23AM

    I think now elections are coming and every one is hoping for change.So
    Tahir ul Qadri should wait till election or participate in elections because this is a judicial way.The way he is protesting including childrens and women is an absrued.

    Recommend

  • Queen
    Jan 15, 2013 - 9:23AM

    I still don’t know why people want a Canadian national to tell us about our problems. It is just a game to delay the upcoming elections.

    Recommend

  • Ch. Ghafoor Islam
    Jan 15, 2013 - 9:33AM

    Tahir ul Qadri should be thrown in jail. He wants to derail democracy as per foreign agenda given to him.

    Recommend

  • Umer Rasheed
    Jan 15, 2013 - 9:35AM

    What a drama.

    Recommend

  • Ali
    Jan 15, 2013 - 9:39AM

    Lets wait for couple of days

    every thing will be visible

    TuQ get success or not

    but it is clear, people dont want PPP, PML-N

    Recommend

  • Jan 15, 2013 - 9:41AM

    @Osman:
    @MunnaTV:
    @Raja:

    Salams to Dr. Qadri and a new Pakistan 2013 looking ahead.

    Dr. Qadri’s political gambit will go a long way in outlawing the CORRUPT POLITICIANS and Inshallah establish irreversible effects. The good, the bad and the ugly will be:

    The good will is economic and political reforms thus improving security and stability.
    The bad will be a failure or a reversal of any success back to the moribund system.
    The ugly will be ruthless and inexorable accountability (MOST FAVORED).

    The reception Dr. Qadri is receiving is ENORMOUS and optimists are reservedly voicing their opinions and praying for success in their hearts. Agreed, this is no way to lead when a system is present in the Constitution. However, what are the results of sixty-five years of corruption and family limited political dynasties? The results are in front of us and have petrified leading to this present eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation. So, in the hope of a better morrow the people are braving the season with their little children exposed to the dangers of hunger, cold, illness, dehydration, sleep, suicide attacks, snipers, lawlessness, unhygienic conditions, CORRUPTION, and DAMNATION.

    Salams to Dr. Qadri and a new Pakistan 2013 (Mullah! Please do not stab us in the BACK).

    Recommend

  • O2
    Jan 15, 2013 - 9:46AM

    I wonder why Indians come over here & make comments about our internal matter, please mind your own business & stop commenting with fake Pakistani names! Pakistanis want change, they are not with Qadri, 99% of Pakistanis will be joyful when this Government goes.

    Recommend

  • Z.khan
    Jan 15, 2013 - 9:47AM

    Scores of people are being killed almost every day in every part of the country and now this guy had to jump into the ring with his narssistic and twisted ideas to do nothing but just prolong and delay an already complicated process. I don’t understand, where was he five years ago and why doesn’t he go and do his ‘dharnas’ with people in hazara community who are already bleeding with the loss of their loved ones. Why can’t Qadri go to Quetta and sit with those people on the streets. His statements such as turning Islamabad into tharir square clearly shows that this guy does not care about anybody else and just wants to be the next prime minister of Pakistan. Shame on you Dr.Qadri.

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  • Dawood Suleman
    Jan 15, 2013 - 9:50AM

    I live in Islamabad. Life has been miserable for residents of this city due to very little long march. I suggest that this canadian mulla should be deported from my Pakistan.

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  • Ricky
    Jan 15, 2013 - 10:09AM

    Qadri is the remnant of Gen Mush’s regime. The commando ran away but sent his agent. Did Qadri reply to this:
    http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/international/10-Jan-2013/al-azhar-scholars-expose-tahirul-qadri

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  • Ehsan uz Zaman
    Jan 15, 2013 - 10:43AM

    Qadri sahib should be dealt with iron hands. He cannot derail system by just gathering few thousands people. Only people belonging to Minhaj ul Quran have come in so called long march. In fact it is a short march.

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  • stranger
    Jan 15, 2013 - 2:51PM

    What business does he have now in Pak. He does not belong here.

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