Tahir ul Qadri’s long march begins from Lahore

LAHORE: Tehreek e Minhaj ul Quran leader Tahir-ul Qadriis “million-man march” began from Lahore Sunday afternoon towards its destination Islamabad.

Tahir-ul Qadri accuses the government of being corrupt and incompetent, and argues that Pakistan must enact “meaningful” reforms before general elections, which are scheduled to be held within eight weeks after parliament disbands in mid-March.

But the government says Qadri is part of a dangerous conspiracy designed to postpone elections and grab power.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik says the Taliban are planning to attack the march and that protesters will be barred from the centre of Islamabad, where they are expected to arrive on Monday.

But undeterred, hundreds of cars, buses and trucks carrying around 7,000 people prepared to leave the easternmost Pakistani city of Lahore accompanied by a heavy security presence, an AFP reporter said.

Police said 10,000 officers had been deployed along the route of the march for the security of the protesters and that an elite commando squad would guard Qadri.

“No restrictions are placed on the protest, but we have asked the organisers to check all buses and participants before leaving,” police official Sohail Ahmed Sukhera told AFP.

Activists carried the green and white national flag of Pakistan and a mock coffin to symbolise the country’s “redundant system”.

An AFP reporter said the crowd was converging towards one convoy from different starting points in Lahore. Organisers say fuel canisters and trucks laden with rations will also travel with the protesters.

Qadri delivered a speech to more than 100,000 followers in Lahore on December 23, just three days after returning from Canada, giving the government until January 10 to initiate reforms, otherwise he would march on Islamabad.