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Pakistani religious leader starts long-march on Islamabad


08:35, January 14, 2013

ISLAMABAD, Jan. 13(Xinhua) --A Pakistani religious leader, Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri, Sunday started a long-march on Islamabad to press the government to introduce 'electoral reforms' to bar what he calls corrupt elements from taking part in elections, local media reported.

Dr Qadri started the march from the eastern city of Lahore and the participants are scheduled to stage sit-in outside the parliament building in Islamabad. However, the authorities in Islamabad have blocked the routes to the parliament house with parking containers.

Dr Qadri, who is head of a religious outfit 'Minaj-ul-Quran' returned from Canada last month after five years and getting Canadian nationality. Under a recent ruling by the Pakistani Supreme Court, dual nationality holder cannot run for elections. He had also issued a religious decree against the Pakistani Taliban and their violent approach in London in March 2010.

Officials said that nearly ten thousands of policemen have been deployed on the Lahore-Islamabad main road for the security of the marchers.

Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, has warned of possible attacks on the marchers by the militants. He said Taliban have planned attacks on the long-march and that the security agencies have traced a call from the Taliban leadership, issuing instructions for a hit of the marchers.

Qadri boarded a bullet-proof container outside his residence in Lahore, the capital of Punjab province as several hundreds of his supporters chanted slogans in his favour. The march was scheduled to kick-off at 9 a.m. local time but was delayed for several hours in view of the late arrival of the participants.

Qadri told the marchers that his struggle will lead to a ' revolution' that will 'ensure justice to 180 million people of Pakistan'. He said his march will establish the rule of law and eliminate corruption.

The federal government had advised the organizers of the march to stage their demonstration in Islamabad's main park and to stay away from the busy area but they are insisting to start sit-in outside the parliament building.

The Islamabad's administration has closed all routes to the so- called 'Red Zone', which houses diplomatic enclave, president and prime minister houses, ministers offices, the parliament house, supreme court building and other sensitive buildings.

Many embassies have announced holiday in view of restrictions on the movement of the people as the marchers are scheduled to reach Islamabad on Monday.

The government has also closed all educational institutions on Monday as the capital city will be on high alert on Sunday and the coming couple of days in case the marchers stay in the capital.

Government ministers and several opposition leaders have accused Qadri of disrupting the upcoming elections, due in a few months.

A delegation of government's negotiators, headed by Deputy Prime Minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, met Dr Qadri late Saturday to convince him to cancel his long-march in view of the possible security concerns but he refused and vowed to go ahead with plan.

Qadri also announced a seven-point charter of demand, including a call for the reconstitution of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) after its dissolution to ensure transparent polls.

He said that decisive negotiations with the government will be held in front of parliament in Islamabad and a formula about acceptance of his demands could be evolved after the march reaches the capital.

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