Islamabad, Jan. 15: A Pakistan-Canadian cleric, leading a long march against what he calls corrupt and inefficient government, on Tuesday asked thousands of his followers to continue their protest in Islamabad until Wednesday, as the country's Supreme Court ordered arrest of 16 people including Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf in a corruption case.
Tahir-ul-Qadri, who had Monday night gave a deadline to the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) until 11.00 am today to dissolve the national and provincial assemblies, came out with the new announcement hours after the venue was shifted in front of the parliament house from the main commercial Blue Area amid isolated clashes between the police and his followers in the morning.
"You should stay here until tomorrow and I don't think, there will be any need to syat beyond that," he told around 50,000 followers from behind a bullet proof podium in a veiled reference suggesting ouster of the government.
He described the government as inable, incapable, incompetent and corrupt and said, the protestors would have stormed the parliament and other pricinpal government buildings on his order but he did not believe in unlawful tactics."My march is constitutional and lawful aimed at bringing a change and to getting people rid of corrupt rulers."
People waived national flags and said "yes" in unison when Qadri asked thousands of his supporter if they stood by him for a change. There have been conflicting claims about the number of protestors with security agencies claiming presence of 50,000 protestors.
Police said there were some 35,000 people present while PPP downplayed all claims including that of Qadri, who said one million were present. "There are just up to 25,000 people attending the march," a PPP spokesman said.
The dramatic entry into Pakistani politics of Tahir-ul-Qadri, who returned to Pakistan from Canada after 10 years last month, has sparked concern from some that he is seeking to derail elections expected this spring at the behest of the army.
Qadri has denied those allegations and insisted his vaguely worded demands for election reform are simply meant to root out corruption in the political system. He pledged several weeks ago to lead a “million-man march” on Islamabad today to press his demands.
Meanwhile, an apex court headed by chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry ordered the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to arrest all the 16 men including premier Ashraf accused of corruption in the rental power projects case, private Geo TV reported.
The development coincided with crash of stock market where the idex dipped up to 450 points in just one hour with analyst believing the country will plunge into new constitutional and economic crisis..