Malik warns Qadri to vacate D-Chowk, protesters are at risk
ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Rehman Malik late on Wednesday warned Tehrik-i-Minhajul Quran (TMQ) chief Dr Tahirul Qadri, backed by thousands of protesters camped out in the heart of the capital near parliament, to disperse, saying they were at risk of attack from militants.
Speaking to media representatives, he said authorities had learned that militants might be planning to target the crowd, and that Tahirul Qadri would be held responsible for any such attack.
“There are four credible threats of suicide bombing on Qadri and other protesters and we take it very seriously,” Malik said.
“People are falling sick due to cold, rains are about to start and terrorists can strike anytime,” Malik said.
“He should leave tonight.” Malik said that a “targeted action” to disperse the protesters could start between any time tonight (Wednesday) or tomorrow night,” Malik said.
“Yes a targeted action is on the card and it can happen any time because I have to save people from terrorist attacks,” Malik said.
The minister, however, made it clear that no “Lal Masjid” like operation would be carried out against the protesters, adding that no harm would be inflicted to children and women of the march.
“It will not be an operation like Red Mosque,” he said referring to a 2007 week-long military operation in which more than 100 people were killed in Islamabad.
He said that the security forces have many ways to tackle the situation. “The best commandos are with me today,” Malik told reporters, saying security forces could take action against Qadri within the next two days to prevent “expected terrorism”.
“I hope that he listens to me.”
President Asif Ali Zardari, however, has ruled out the possibility of any operation against the participants of the sit-in.
Meanwhile, PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and MQM chief Altaf Hussain have also condemned the interior minister’s statement of the targeted operation. Both the leaders urged the government to tackle the issue without using force.
The clarification from the president came when all sorts of speculations were being circulated about the government’s next line of action to deal with the protesters.
Qadri, who backed a military coup in 1999, is calling for the immediate resignation of the government and the installation of a caretaker administration to oversee electoral reforms.
The protest rally has threatened to destabilise the nuclear-armed country as it inches towards what would be the first democratic transition of power between two civilian governments at elections due by May this year – DawnNews/Reuters/AFP