Despite the week-long siege of Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) headquarters by the authorities in Punjab, the party’s whistle-stop Inqilab march left for Islamabad on Thursday without any resistance from the security apparatus.
Led by the mercurial preacher turned politician Dr Tahirul Qadri, the Inqibal march is now proceeding towards the federal capital at snail’s pace parallel to a separate but simultaneous Azadi march led by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan.
The march, which was formally launched by Qadri after an address to his party workers, began at 1:30pm from the PAT leader’s Model Town residence a few paces away from where 14 of his party workers were allegedly gunned down by the police during an anti-encroachment operation on July 17.
“This march is for real democracy. It is time to ensure true participatory democracy in the country,” said Qadri as he announced the start of his revolutionary campaign amidst a sea of baton-wielding activists in protective gear. “Our revolution is green, peaceful and democratic,” he added.
Spelling out his ideology, Qadri said that his revolution would establish an egalitarian society, as promised by the founder of Pakistan, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. He said that their efforts were geared towards ensuring the provision of basic necessities, employment, justice, health, education and alleviating poverty.
Advocating socio-economic reforms, the PAT chief said that he was in favour of strict, across-the-board accountability and the elimination of corruption to improve the country’s systems, society and governance structures.
He added that his revolution would ensure the eradication of terrorism and implement constitutional amendments to discourage sectarianism. He strongly advocated protection of minority rights and said that there will be no more attacks against Christians and other religious minorities in a revolutionised Pakistan.
“There will be zero tolerance for any form of oppression,” said the PAT chief. We will make Pakistan a moderate, democratic and progressive society, where there will be no place for Mullahism and theocracy, he added.
Advocating democracy and the devolution of power, Qadri said that there was no tolerance for martial law. We will create more provinces, devolve power to the grass roots and create more benches of the superior courts at the district levels.
Earlier, PAT workers, with the help of a crane, removed a shipping container blocking the Model Town Link road exit and made their way towards Ravi Road through Badami Bagh and Azadi Chowk from Allama Iqbal Road.
Originally planned to proceed on The Mall Road using the same route as PTI’s Azadi march, PAT’s Inqilab march left the PTI throng behind by taking a detour after The Mall Road was clogged by charged PTI workers. Khuram Nawaz Ghandapur, PAT’s secretary general, told The Express Tribune that while his party wanted to use the same route as PTI, it had decided not to merge with the PTI march and would proceed separately to Islamabad. PAT had earlier planned to join PTI at Charring Cross on The Mall Road.
Sources in the PAT, on condition of anonymity, told The Express Tribune that the change in plan was a result of the commitment given by the party to the government that it would not join the PTI Azadi march.
Later, the Inqilab march reached the residence of PML-Q leader Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, where it was welcomed by a throng of PML-Q supporters which joined Qadri’s caravan towards Islamabad. Leaders of Majlis Wahdat Muslimeen, Sunni Ittehad Council, Ghulam Mustafa Khar and former foreign minister Sardar Assef Ahmed Ali were also present. The Inqilab march had crossed Shahdara at 11:30pm on its way out of Lahore.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 15th, 2014.
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