Pakistan’s federal capital shut down on Monday in anticipation of the the ‘four million march’, led by Pakistani-Canadian cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri for ‘human rights and true democracy’. Though he could not muster the numbers he had claimed in his December 23 rally, thousands had converged in Islamabad’s business district by evening to herald his arrival.
Dr. Qadri — who set out on his Long March from Lahore to Islamabad on Sunday afternoon — was scheduled to arrive at the venue of the sit-in at night amid tight security, which had turned the capital’s high security Red Zone housing government buildings and diplomatic missions into a no-go area since Saturday.
Huge shipping containers were lined up all along the Red Zone to prevent members of Dr. Qadri’s bandwagon from accessing Constitution Avenue — he had threatened to picket Parliament House till his demand for replacing the current federal dispensation with an interim government was met. Whether he will insist on an indefinite dharna or leave after his show of strength exercise is unclear.
Evidently, the Islamabad administration does not see the situation easing until Tuesday evening as schools have been ordered closed for the second day this week and cell phone services blocked.