Deadline To Government
To make sure the current government listens, Qadri has given it until
January 10 to meet his demands. If it does not, he has vowed, the march
will begin from Lahore on January 13 and reach the capital the next day. So far the government has refused Qadri's demand for a meeting with the
prime minister and cabinet to discuss his demands. But Interior Minister
Rehman Malik did visit Qadri on January 7 to discuss security
arrangements for the march.
Islamabad's superintendent of police, Mirwais Imtiaz, told RFE/RL's
Radio Mashaal that protesters will be barred from a "red zone" that
includes the main government buildings.
"We will provide security. Although the organizers have said the
procession will be peaceful, we will deploy police to avoid any
incidents," Imtiaz said. "No one may cross the red zone. There will be
checks at walk-through gates, and there will be separate parking
arrangements for participants of the procession."
Imtiaz said the red zone would be cordoned off with containers and
barbed wire. He also said that 4,000 to 5,000 police personnel will be
deployed in Islamabad to ensure security.
Motivated Support Base
How many people Qadri actually can bring to the streets is now the question that dominates Pakistani media. Omar Cheema of the Islamabad-based Center of Investigative Reporting in
Pakistan says Qadri has a highly motivated support base among his former
students. "The people who are aligned with him, these are the guys,
most of them, who have graduated from his institution called
Minhaj-ul-Quran," Cheema says. "So he has that kind of following."
Minhaj-ul-Quran International is
a Sufism-based organization that Qadri founded in 1981. The group's
declared aims are to promote a moderate vision of Islam and the
establishment of good relations and understanding between communities
and religions. Qadri has also been a professor of law at the University of Punjab,
where he taught British, U.S., and Islamic constitutional law for many
years. But if Qadri's dual role as a religious and educational figure help make
him a credible critic of Pakistan's troubled political system to some
people, his own dabbling in politics makes him a suspect figure to
He founded his own political party, Pakistan Awami Tehrik, in 1989 and
ran for a seat in the National Assembly in 2002. The party, which did
not enter the last parliamentary race in 2008, is widely seen as having a
one-man leadership with no other well-known figures apart from Qadri
Qadri spent the past seven years in Canada and largely out of the
Pakistani public eye. Now, with his pledge to lead a millions-strong
march on Islamabad, he has not only returned to Pakistani politics but
seized a place at center stage.
This post appears courtesy of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.