PM’s arrest order elates marchers

As soon as Tehreek-e-Minhajul Quran (TMQ) chief Tahirul Qadri announced the Supreme Court’s order for arresting Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, to his congregation on Tuesday, thousands of protesters offered prayers and welcomed the verdict.
The Supreme Court earlier ordered arrest warrants for Ashraf and 15 other high profile accused personalities during the hearing of the rental power project case.
Over 40,000 long march participants gathered on Jinnah Avenue for the last two days celebrated the Supreme Court’s verdict by chanting slogans against the incumbent government and in support of Qadri. These protesters had camped under the sky in chilly weather a few miles away from the Parliament House, however their spirits lifted and they celebrated joyously when Qadri announced that the Supreme Court had ordered an arrest warrant for the PM.
“The Supreme Court’s order is the beginning of an end, all corrupt leaders who have looted the national exchequer will have to surrender and resign in the next few days,” said Ayesha Bibi, who had joined the march with her family at Gujjar Khan, also the prime minister’s hometown. She said, “This is rule of law and now is the time for change, this is our victory and we have won.”
Another participant, Lukman Khan said, “Enough is enough, we are here to get our rights, we want a uniform education system, better health facility, gas, electricity and basic necessities of life. We will not go back till our demands are met.”
Muhammad Arshad, a staunch supporter of Qadri, said the Supreme Court’s order had come about as a result of his murshad’s (teacher) initiative. “Half of Qadri’s speech was enough to send our prime minister packing and the Wednesday’s speech will take care of the rest of these corrupt leaders.”
These activists, following orders of their chief, shifted the stage for the protest from the Saudi-Pak Tower to D-Chowk late on Monday night. The government had planned to restrict the protest to a portion of the Jinnah Avenue near the Saudi Pak Tower. However Qadri, in a brief address, had ordered his supporters to shift the stage in front of the Parliament House.
The supporters managed to remove shipping containers and barbed wire used to block the roads, and managed to shift the stage to the new venue. Many protesters reportedly used these containers to sleep in during the night.
Earlier, the Islamabad Police had tried to arrest Qadri, but his supporters had refused to let that happen. They began to scuffle and more than 10 protesters and police officials were reportedly injured in the clash. They were then shifted to the Poly Clinic for treatment.
The police had to resort to aerial firing to quell these supporters who began pelting police officials with stones and helped their leader reach D-Chowk to continue the procession. Interior Minister Rehman Malik has ordered an inquiry into the incident.
Female protesters wearing baseball caps inscribed with TMQ logos, and waving the national flag, joined the march along with children, and chanted slogans at the top of their lungs.
Some female protesters carried gas cylinders and stoves with them and were seen preparing food. TMQ volunteers also distributed water and edibles to protesters throughout the procession all day. “We are here on a one-point agenda that is to send corrupt leaders back to where they came from, and we will stay till our demands are met,” said Ali Hussain, a farmer, from Rahim Yar Khan.
Large police contingents had been deployed in and around the protest venue. Hundreds of police personnel, paramilitary forces and TMQ volunteers searched all individuals before letting them enter the venue.
These forces also sealed the residential portion of the Red Zone housing around 70 diplomatic missions, with a wall of shipping scanners.
Traffic in the city remained sparse and markets appeared to be deserted. Low attendance was also observed in all private and public offices. Police contingents were also deputed along every road in the city.
After the Supreme Court’s verdict against the prime minister, people in the capital were gripped with fear and apprehension.
Rumours regarding a possible military coup d’état abounded and people chose to stay indoors expecting the army to intervene at any time.
“I’m telling you, something’s going to happen soon,” said Ilyas Khan,a resident of Sector F-8. Qadri’s procession in front of the parliament, the SC ordering arrests and the NAB chief’s resignation, can’t all be coincidences, he added.
After the ruling, residents of the twin cities stayed glued to their televisions to check for any possible developments.

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