Lahore: Prominent Pakistani cleric Tahirul Qadri will be arrested if he continues to use vehicles with fake registration numbers, Punjab provincial government has warned, ahead of his "long march" to Islamabad next month to demand electoral reforms.
"An instruction has been issued to the Excise Department to arrest Tahirul Qadri if he again uses a vehicle with a fake number. Qadri is using vehicles with fake numbers and excise authorities can arrest him," Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said.
Qadri, who heads the Tehrik-e-Minhajul Quran, stirred up a storm by returning to Pakistan after living abroad in self-exile for seven years and holding a massive rally during which he asked the government to carry out electoral reforms and install a neutral caretaker set-up before next year`s polls.
Sanaullah`s remarks triggered speculation that the PML-N government in Punjab could detain Qadri ahead of his proposed "long march" to Islamabad on January 14 to pressure the federal government to carry out electoral reforms.
The Tehrik-e-Minhajul Quran (TMQ) claimed Sanaullah`s warning reflected Punjab government`s nervousness ahead of the long march.
"We ask Sanaullah not to try to intimidate Qadri. There will be a long march starting on January 13 from across the country which will reach Islamabad the next day and there will be no compromise on it," said TMQ spokesman Qazi Faiz.
The Punjab government is "maligning" Qadri on the issue of fake registration numbers, he claimed.
"The police had made all security arrangements for Qadri`s public meeting at Minar-e-Pakistan on December 23. The Law Minister, instead of doing false propaganda against Qadri, should ask his police chief about this matter," Faiz said.
However, Sanaullah was of the view that Qadri`s call for a long march call would not amount to anything.
"There will be no long march and it will end in failure," he said.
Qadri has set January 10 as the deadline for the federal government to install a caretaker set-up in consultation with the army and judiciary, failing which the long march to Islamabad would begin.
His re-emergence in the political arena after seven years has perturbed the ruling Pakistan People`s Party and the PML-N, and several analysts have claimed Qadri is being used as a pawn by the powerful security establishment.