The News: Reform system or four million will march on capital, Qadri tells govt

Asim Hussain
Monday, December 24, 2012
From Print Edition

LAHORE: Claiming that the present electoral and political system is a sheer violation of the Constitution, Tehrik-e-Minhajul Quran (TMQ) chairman Dr Tahirul Qadri has threatened to lead a protest march on the federal capital if the government fails to begin electoral reforms by January 10, 2013.

Addressing a mammoth public meeting at Minar-e-Pakistan on Sunday, which could be termed one of the biggest rallies at this ground, he warned: “If the job is not done till that time we will throng Islamabad on Jan 14, with a gathering double the size of today’s, and the marchers would decide for themselves how to eliminate the corrupt and dishonest from the system.”

He said the people of the country would not accept unconstitutional elections. Therefore, he said, reforms were inevitable in the electoral system.

He claimed that two million people attended the gathering, and warned the rulers of a march on Islamabad by four million.

Dr Qadri warned that if the authorities concerned fail, “I will convene a people’s parliament in Islamabad on Jan 14 to take decisions in the interest of the people which professional parliamentarians had been refraining from throughout our history.”

He did not specify what kind of changes he wanted in the electoral and political system, but kept shedding light on how the parliamentarians from feudal and capitalist families had been plundering national wealth and depriving the poor of their rights and their livelihoods. He said the entry of looters into parliament would be blocked.

While clarifying certain misgivings about his sudden return from over six years exile to launch a full-fledged movement that appeared to to be an attempt to postpone elections, Dr Qadri declared on oath that his movement was not part of the agenda of any secret agency of any country, and that he would be the first to speak out if the army ever tried to take over the country.

“My ultimatum is for all stakeholders of the present system, including the judiciary, armed forces, politicians, bureaucracy and common man, to sit together and decide necessary changes in the system within the specified time to ensure that all constitutional provisions governing the conduct of free, fair and impartial elections are implemented in letter and spirit.

“All I want is complete implementation of the Constitution, whether it takes more than 90 days to correct the rotten system, which is also allowed by the Constitution under article 254 that says the extra time taken to bring the system in line with the Constitution would not invalidate the move,” he said.

In his two-and-a-half-hour speech, Dr Qadri cited several articles of the Constitution which required honest, righteous and trustworthy people to contest elections that should be free, fair and independent. “But the parliamentarians coming from feudal and capitalist families had been violating the Constitution by loot and plunder, causing irreparable loss to the country and depriving the masses of their rights.”

Dr Qadri quoted articles, 3, 9, 37, 38, 38-2-b, 62, 63, 218, 218-c and 254 etc. elaborating what requirements had been made in them but which had been disregarded by the ruling elite with complete impunity that caused a plethora of evils in the country like corruption, terrorism, drone attacks, nepotism, rigging, unemployment, kidnapping for ransom etc.

“But all those who have been talking of implementing the Constitution had only known just one article of it, which required elections to he held within 90 days,” he said, ridiculing those people who had been rejecting the entire the Constitution with complete disregard but escaped punishment since they were those who made the law.

Dr Qadri’s mega show of power was fully supported by several parties including delegations from the MQM, Majlis-e-Wahdat Muslemeen (MWM) and several other small parties. The former PPP Punjab president Imtiaz Safdar Warraich was also present as was an MQM delegation, led by parliamentary leader in the National Assembly Dr Farooq Sattar, and comprising others including former MNA Haider Abbas Rizvi, Raza Haroon, Wassay Jalil and Iqbal Muhammad Ali Khan, MWM Punjab general secretary Abdul Khaliq Asadi and Iqbal Kamrani etc were also present on the stage but they did not speak on the occasion.

The TMQ chief said that those who have taken up arms and are indulging in extremism due to some misunderstanding are also the sons of the soil. He invited them to join hands with him if they wanted an end to drone attacks and to rid the country of foreign dominance. Addressing the extremists, he said if they talk of social and legal justice, the Constitution and real Islamic values, he would stand with them. “And if there is the matter of protection of mosques and Imambargahs and people’s lives, you would stand by me,” he added.

Dr Qadri particularly thanked the Muttahida Qaumi Movement chief Altaf Hussain for sending a 50-member delegation comprising parliamentarians and workers to attend the historic public meeting in Lahore. He thanked the MQM delegation for backing his party’s cause of ridding the country of the corrupt system. He also thanked Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan for sending a delegation to participate in the rally. He also thanked the media for providing complete coverage to the rally proceedings. Dr Qadri expressed his regret over the killing of Awami National Party leader Bashir Ahmad Bilour and offered his condolences to ANP chief Asfandyar Wali and the family members of the deceased.

Talking to the media, all of the visiting political leaders expressed total support to Dr Qadri’s agenda and said they wanted him to succeed in changing the corrupt political system.

Dr Qadri took a promise from the gathering that they must reach Islamabad at all costs if his deadline was not met and there should be no need for him to issue a formal call for Jan 14, 2013. He asked them to sell their houses, assets and other valuables to reach Islamabad if they had to. “This is a noble cause to provide the usurped rights of 180 million people, and not a petty selfish work to realise personal aims,” he exhorted them.

The gathering comprised mostly youth and students of educational institutions affiliated with the TMQ and its subsidiaries, who came from all parts of the country along with their families. A large part of the crowd comprised women who had been holding children and babies, and were chanting slogans.

The crowd exhibited complete discipline during the meeting, but trouble was seen after the culmination of the rally when people began to return to their buses and wagons, parked in the nearby Atiq Stadium and Manto Park. Some incidents of stampede also occurred as people rushed to board their buses.

AFP adds: “Elections without reforms will be meaningless and people will reject the results if they are held under the existing system,” said Qadri. He said Pakistan’s political and economic system had “collapsed”, as it revolved around wealthy, landed aristocrats, and industrialists, and failed to allow honest people to reach parliament.

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