Tahir-ul-Qadri worries Pak, India needs to worry too

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Tahir ul Qadri
New Delhi, Jan 15: India should keep an eagle eye on fiery cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri, who is demanding the dissolution of Pakistani Parliament and the new caretaker government backed by the Army. His leaning towards the all-powerful army in Pakistan should raise alarm bells in India.

The Pakistani army is given to adventure and border incidents point to its active role along with ISI to push militants into Jammu and Kashmir. Though Qadri is demanding electoral reforms and democracy, political observers are not sure about his 'real' agenda - whether he really wants the change or following some hidden agenda to bring back army to power.

Qadri, the chief of Tehrik Minhaj-ul-Quran, marched into Islamabad with tens of thousands of his supporters early this morning and demanded that the government step down and dissolve the national and provincial assemblies. He claimed that he would lead a "people's democratic revolution" to push his demand for sweeping electoral reforms.

However, the Pakistan government is to complete its five-year term in mid-March and the elections are expected to be held by May. Political parties have accused Qadri of acting as a front for the military and security establishment to delay the polls and prolong the term of a caretaker government.

Against this backdrop of demands by Qadri, Pakistan's Supreme Court and Election Commission today said there should be no delay in holding the next general election scheduled for this year.

At the hearing of a case on electoral reforms by a three-judge bench of the apex court, Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry said the next general election -- expected by May -- should be held on time.

During the proceedings, Chaudhry remarked that the actions of any individual were not important and the polls would have to be held on time at any cost. No compromise would be made regarding the schedule for the polls and the Election Commission should be prepared to conduct them, he said. Chaudhry said the Election Commission should be prepared to follow any guidelines framed by the government for holding polls. "Holding of elections is the responsibility of the Election Commission and it has to fulfill this obligation."

In a related development, Chief Election Commissioner Fakharuddin Ibrahim chaired an emergency meeting of the Election Commission in Islamabad. State-run Radio Pakistan quoted Ibrahim as saying the polls would be "held on time and no delay will be tolerated."

Qadri has proved to be unpredictable and this is a cause of worry. Qadri marched into Jinnah Avenue in the heart of Islamabad with tens of thousands of supporters and gave the government hours to quit and to dissolve the national and provincial assemblies.

The cleric's party had signed an agreement with the Islamabad administration to hold a peaceful protest a few kilometres from the National Assembly but the cleric surprised authorities by inciting his followers to remove barricades and move towards a square near parliament.

Meanwhile, police fired in the air and used teargas to disperse followers of Qadri. Footage on television showed policemen in riot gear firing in the air and using batons to push back dozens of supporters of Qadri, who lobbed stones at them.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik told the media that security forces fired in the air after Qadri's supporters pelted them with stones.

Qadri's spokesman Shahid Mursaleen claimed in an email statement that trouble erupted after police tried to arrest the cleric. "Once they realised that the crowd is not letting them come near him, they (police) opened fire in the air which lasted for 10 minutes," he claimed.

OneIndia News

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