Cleric leads massive rally, calls for change

The much-talked about long march to Islamabad by a supporters of a cleric, who is relatively unknown outside the country, started from Lahore on Sunday as the government tried it best to block its path. Two days ago, the government tried to starve the march by shutting down petrol

stations in Lahore and Islamabad and also setting up road blocks to check the identities of all those entering the federal capital.

On Saturday, President Zardari sent another emissary to Dr Tahirul Qadri, the head of the Minhajul Quran International (MQI) to stop him and his supporters entering Islamabad on Monday.

This, like a series of meetings held previously, also failed as Qadri stormed out of the room as he took exception to the presence of a businessman sent by Zardari as part of the delegation. “When he is there, the perception is that money is being offered and I want to have no part in this.”

Long traffic jams caused by increased deployment and checking by law enforcement agencies suggest that the Zardari government is taking the threat of a million man march by religious scholar Tahir ul Qadri seriously. Qadri which is dedicated to research Islamic issues, has said he will go ahead with his march on January 14 with the prime objective of postponing polls.

“Our biggest problem is not democracy, it is terrorism and corruption,” said Qadri, who warned that if elections are held on schedule, "the same crooks and thieves will reappear and we will see one of the world’s worst civilian dictatorship in action,” Qadri said.

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