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Reform electoral system or face million march, Qadri warns govt

Afzal Khan
Filed on December 26, 2012

ISLAMABAD - Addressing a massive rally in Lahore on Sunday, religious scholar Tahirul Qadri set a three-week deadline for the Pakistan Peoples Party-led coalition government to introduce election reforms or else face a “million-man march” on January 14.

“Elections without reforms will be meaningless and people will reject results if they are held under the existing system,” Tahirul Qadri, who heads Islamic organisation Minhaj-ul-Quran International (MQI), told a much-publicised “Save the State, not Politics” rally at Minar-e-Pakistan in Lahore.

“I give the government a deadline of three weeks to establish an honest and independent body that will introduce electoral reforms and pave the way for free and fair elections,” said Qadri, who returned to the country after a five-year stay in Britain. “If that does not happen by January 10, millions of people will march on Islamabad on January 14 to protest the total collapse of system,” he added.

Qadri said if constitutional requirements were not fulfilled and all stakeholders, not just the two powerful parties (Pakistan Peoples Party and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz), were not taken on board on a new interim setup, he would reject the elections and would not let the lawmakers elected through “unconstitutional elections” sit in Parliament.

Qadri’s surprise but impressive entry in Pakistan’s political landscape at a crucial period has triggered speculations about his motivation and possible backing from the establishment though he vehemently denied it. Imran Khan, who himself had launched countrywide political campaign from the same place a year ago, reacted by saying that Qadri had focused on his PTI’s agenda.

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) sent a 50-member delegation led by deputy convener Dr Farooq Sttar to the rally for which Qadri later expressed his thanks on telephone to Altaf Hussain.

If voted to power, Qadri pledged, he would ensure provision of food, shelter, cloths, free and equal education, healthcare facilities, equal employment opportunities, speedy justice, elimination of terrorism, elimination of drone attacks, equal protection of Muslims and non-Muslims and a debt-free country.

Qadri termed Pakistan an “exporter of terrorism” and said the country has been made vulnerable due to the menace. He alleged that the government has failed to maintain peace in Karachi, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Pakistan has become a “laughing stock” the world over.

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