Clashes at cleric's march in Islamabad

Islamabad, Jan 15 (IANS) Police used teargas and fired shots in the air Tuesday to disperse a crowd of followers of Pakistani-born Canadian cleric Tahirul Qadri who converged near parliament, seeking dissolution of the institution and a corruption-free Pakistan.

Gunshots were heard and some demonstrators pelted stones at security forces, as Tehreek e Minhajul Quran leader Qadri led a two-day protest 'long march' into Islamabad, seeking a peaceful "revolution" and the dissolution of parliament, Geo News reported.

According to sources, police used teargas after someone from the crowd fired aerial shots. After the scuffle between police and protesters, the members of the Tehrik e Minhajul Quran party surrounded their leader for safety.

Qadri had given the Pakistan government, whose five-year mandate ends in March, an 11 a.m. deadline to dissolve the parliament. He had asked his followers to camp out overnight in Islamabad, despite chilly temperatures and advance towards parliament.

After the incident, Interior Minister Rehman Malik instructed police and Rangers to provide security to Qadri. He said Qadri was their guest and it was police's responsibility to protect him.

Malik said government was cooperating with Qadri and did not want any unpleasantness.

The minister sought a firing report from the Chief Commissioner Islamabad.

Qadri, who says he is campaigning against corruption, returned to Pakistan last month after years in Toronto.

His three main demands include reconstituting Election Commission of Pakistan, installing impartial and honest caretaker government, and implementing Article 62 and 63 of the constitution dealing with eligibility of an electoral candidate.

He maintains that the polls cannot be held until reforms are enacted.


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