ISLAMABAD: In a bid to avoid a possible smackdown, the government has surrendered to Tehrik Minhaj-ul-Quran leader Allama Tahir-ul-Qadri’s demand of allowing his long marchers to stage a sit-in in front of Parliament House, Geo News reported.
According to sources, Ministry of Interior has taken the decision to submit to Qadri’s call in a high level meeting.
The decision came as soon as the Minhaj-ul-Quran activists launched a "power march" towards the Parliament House after the negotiations between the sit-in organizers and the city administration failed.
On the face of it a showdown was in the making as the chanting protesters responded by pushing aside barricades made of shipping containers and barbed wire.
Though, riot police were on standby and authorities moved extra shipping containers into the road to block their way but the protesters pushed through.
Earlier, Tehrik Minhaj-ul-Quran leader, Allama Tahir-ul-Qadri, in the wee hours of Tuesday warned the government to dissolve the assemblies by 11:00 AM as he was declaring them null and void.
“The ones sitting in the offices out there (pointing towards PM House and Presidency) are former president and prime minister. Their time is up, our time is now”, he warned the incumbent government while addressing thousands of his devoted supporters sitting under the sky in the cold foggy night.
He told the government to dissolve the national and provincial assemblies voluntarily by 11:00 AM (Tuesday)or else people would start taking decisions of their own.
"I will give you (the government) a deadline until tomorrow to dissolve the federal parliament and provincial assemblies. After that, the people's assembly here will take charge," said Qadri, stabbing the air with his forefinger from behind a bullet-proof box erected on a podium.
Qadri says he wants the judiciary to bar corrupt politicians from running for office and has said elections scheduled for this spring should be delayed indefinitely until Pakistan's endemic corruption is rooted out.
Qadri said the mandate, which the so-called erstwhile public representatives seized unlawfully, had expired tonight.
"These millions of change-seekers here have rejected their ill-gotten mandate. They are no more their representatives", Qadri added.
He asked the Prime Minister to advise the President to dissolve the assemblies and the chief ministers of the four provinces to forward the same advice to their respective governors.
Qadri told his followers to camp overnight, despite temperatures plummeting to 8 degrees Celsius (46 degrees Fahrenheit), and after daybreak to advance towards parliament which has been barricaded off by shipping containers.
The TMQ leader also extended his heartiest congratulations to his followers on the culmination of a successful long march, which he termed as the biggest in the history of the world. “This marks the start of revolution,” he announced.
"There will be justice tomorrow. You will have to stay tonight, sleep here, go outside parliament and tomorrow after 11 am (0600 GMT), it will be the inaugural address of the people's democratic revolution," Qadri said.
"The end of the march is the beginning of a revolution. We have entered the age of change", said Qadri.
He invited all the politicians including President Asif Ali Zardari, Mian Nawaz Sharif, Mian Shahbaz Sharif, and Asfandyar Wali to his rally and see with their own eyes who this sea of bobbing heads was out here for and hear with their own ears whom the bell was tolling for.
He demanded of the government to shift the venue of the sit-in to D-Chowk in front of Parliament House.
“I am giving them (city admin) five minutes to move the stage and the lights to the place of our choice”, said he.
Qadri announced he would address the long marchers in front of Parliament House and not here at Jinnah Avenue.
"People's assembly would be set up in front of the Parliament", Qadri said.
He said he was on "Hussaini Mission", which he would take to its logical conclusion.
He said nearly a million of marchers are walking towards Islamabad as they were denied transport.
"We will wait for them until 11:00 AM and then move rally venue to D-Chowk as that's where we will stage the revolutionary sit-in", Qadri said.
He made the marchers swear on the Holy Quran to stay in Islamabad until the revolution was complete.
During his short address, he also vowed not to let a single flowerpot or windowpane break in the whole process.
The influential and moderate cleric, who runs an educational and religious organization with networks all over the world, only returned to Pakistan last month from years spent living in Canada, where he also has citizenship.
His demand for the military to have a say in a caretaker administration has been seen by critics as a ploy by elements of the establishment, particularly the military, to delay elections and sow political chaos.
But his supporters say they are drawn to his calls to end corruption and implement reforms in a country brought to the brink by a weak economy, crippling energy crisis and Islamist militant violence.
He was chauffeur-driven in a sleek black car and showered with rose petals as he arrived in Islamabad, where thousands waved Pakistani flags.
Mobile phone networks have been suspended as part of draconian security measures that have shut down much of the centre of the capital to guard against what the government says is a threat of Taliban attacks.
Thousands of security personnel were deployed while paramilitary soldiers, police and private guards searched all those trying to access the venue.
The lack of communications made it impossible to verify the size of the crowd. Qadri claimed to have mobilised four million people, but local TV station Geo quoted various officials as putting the number between 25,000 to 40,000.
Two security officials said that they estimated the turnout in Islamabad at 15,000 to 20,000. Officials had said 50,000 people turned out to greet Qadri earlier in the day along the route or to join his convoy.
Much of the significance of the rally will hinge on turnout. Observers
suggest that a show of under 100,000 would be a wash-out for the cleric.
Qadri wants the caretaker government set up in consultation with the military and judiciary when parliament disbands in mid-March, and is calling for reform so that "honest people" can be elected at polls due by mid-May.
If held on schedule, the election will mark the first democratic transition of power between two civilian governments in Pakistan's 65-year history, which has been marked by bloodless coups and extensive periods of military rule.
Earlier in the day, men, women and children were seen piled onto the rooftops of buses, flashing victory signs in a five-kilometre convoy.
They left Lahore on Sunday and passed through towns and villages waving Pakistani flags and dancing to drumbeats.