LAHORE – Dr Tahirul Qadri – otherwise known as a defiant proponent of far-reaching electoral reforms and a formidable critic of the government policies – surrendered to the ruling coalition’s suggestions for electoral reforms in a fresh round of talks here on Saturday. Qadri however claimed he did it to dispel the impression that he wanted to delay the next elections.
The development is significant since the chief of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek has retracted one of his vital demands for a 30-day timeframe for scrutiny of the files of election candidates. The process be carried out in 14 days was what proposed to Qadri by the govt bloc comprising PML-Quaid chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira, Law Minister Farooq H Naek and PML-Q Secretary General Mushahid Hussain Syed.
After a tour to the Capital, Dr Qadri has gone on the back foot. He did not even ask the government team why it did not give out the name for the caretaker prime minister andPunjabchief minister. He preferred to agree to their excuse for not presenting to him two names for the said slots instead.
The Minhajul Quran International chief himself could not come up with any name of his choice.
Qadri-led Pakistan Awami Tehreek has lost the grounds it gained through its campaign at Minar-e-Pakistan inLahore. Dr Qadri and his supporters were no more a threat to the government, sources in the ruling party PPP said, “It is the time the PAT/TMQ listens to us, our proposals; the time that we follow their diktats through Islamabad-like shows is over,” they added.
About PAT’s joining hands with the Opposition of the ruling alliance, they said the PAT leadership would be offered some seats for the next polls inPunjabto counter its ‘spoiler role’. “If any such offer is to be made, it will be made after the announcement of the schedule for the next polls, keeping in view the political atmosphere,” the sources told this scribe.
In a brief media talk after the meeting, Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said Dr Qadri had accepted their proposal about 14-day time period for the scrutiny of the candidates for the next general elections. He said the two sides agreed to make it to 14 days from 7-day period.
The minister said, “Dr Qadri has also accepted our proposal about holding the next polls within 60 days, after the dissolution of the assemblies.”
Kaira maintained the government would take Dr Qadri on board when it decided about a caretaker prime minister.
To a query about the defections from the PPP, Qadri said these were the same members that did not vote for Aslam Gill for his membership with the Senate. He added that he would ask President Zardari to give an award to the PML-N high command on March 23 for this ‘achievement’.
Kaira, to a question about MQM’s parting ways with the PPP, said they would address the grievances of the MQM soon.
Qadri meanwhile appreciated the commitments of the government as regards the electoral reforms. He however parried a question about the timeframe for a complete legal and constitutional cover to the declaration he signed with the government on ending his long march onIslamabad. He told the media that he had accepted the coalition government’s proposal of 14-day time period for the scrutiny of election candidates. He was of the belief that the assemblies would be dissolved before March 16 and the next elections would take place as per the schedule. He also said that 14-day period scrutiny called for an amendment.
At this point, Law Minister Farooq H Naek said the government would carry out legislation for extending the period of scrutiny.