Tahir-ul-Qadri leads huge demonstration in Pakistan third day in row, issues midnight deadline to govt

Qadri

Despite Qadri 's claims that he is being supported by "millions", the crowd at Jinnah Avenue in the heart of Islamabad has been gradually thinning since yesterday.

Though this is the largest demonstration in Islamabad in several years, TV anchors dismissed the cleric's claim and quoted authorities as saying that 25,000 to 50,000 people were at the protest.

As Qadri today urged Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan to join his protest, footage on television showed large gaps in the crowd listening to the cleric.

He also said his followers should be prepared for a crackdown by authorities.

"Our chests are ready for your bullets...The first shot should be fired at me and not my followers," Qadri said, sitting inside his special bulletproof container.

Qadri 's supporters have set up tents on Jinnah Avenue, Islamabad's main boulevard that runs from the presidency to the commercial district of Blue Area, and brought in stocks of food and firewood.

The entire area was covered with litter. The sudden re-emergence of the cleric months ahead of Pakistan's general election has triggered fears in political circles that he is acting as a front for the military to delay the polls and prolong the duration of a caretaker administration.

However, Qadri said he had no interest in heading an interim administration as he was the "caretaker of the nation and of 180 million people".

The timing of the apex court's order to arrest the premier fuelled speculation about a judicial-military intervention.

Arrest warrant issued for Qadri

An arrest warrant has been issued for the fiery cleric Tahir-ul- Qadri , who is leading thousands of supporters in a protest demanding the ouster of the Pakistan government, after police here registered a case against him.

A case was registered against Qadri and some 70 unidentified people at Kohsar police station for attacking police officials at the venue of the protest in Islamabad.

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