Pak army rejects Qadri's request for security for 'long march'
Islamabad: Pakistan army has rejected cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri's request for security for a "long march" he intends to lead from Lahore to Islamabad next week to pressure the federal government to carry out electoral reforms ahead of the 2013 polls.
The military's media arm said the army has rejected Qadri's formal request seeking security for the January 14 rally, 'The News' daily reported.
The army made the decision last night.
An unnamed official of the Inter-Services Public Relations said: "Yes, a letter was received in the General Headquarters which was signed by the secretary to Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri asking for security for him. A written reply was given advising him to contact the ministry concerned for the purpose."
An official of Qadri's party, Tehrik Minhaj-ul-Quran, however, denied that any request for security was sent to the army.
The army's decision came in the wake of serious concerns expressed by the federal government over the long march.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik met Qadri in Lahore yesterday and informed him of threats from the Taliban but the cleric said he was determined to go ahead with the rally.
Qadri recently returned to Pakistan after living in Canada for seven years and shook up political circles by demanding that the government consult the army and judiciary on forming a caretaker administration to oversee the upcoming general election expected to be held by May.
Ruling and opposition parties have accused Qadri, who has Canadian nationality, of acting as a front for the security establishment to delay the polls.
However, the army has sought to distance itself from the cleric, who has a long history of working with military regimes and religious hardliners.
Chief military spokesman Maj Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa recently denied that the military establishment was behind Qadri.
Asked if the establishment has brought in Qadri to derail the democratic system, Bajwa said, "This is all speculation and totally incorrect."
Bajwa said the army under Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani had supported democracy over the past five years.
Kayani recently assured the Chief Election Commissioner of the army's support in holding fair and free polls.
The federal and Punjab governments will have to decide about tackling Qadri's long march, Bajwa said.