Islamabad/Lahore: 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.

A source privy to the development said that an arrest warrants for Qadri had been issued by a local magistrate. Authorities were awaiting a go-ahead from Interior Minister Rehman Malik to arrest Qadri, the source said.

"There have been deliberations on the issue and, at the moment, the government is in two minds – whether to start negotiations with Qadri or arrest him," the source said.

The source said a decision in this regard was expected sometime soon.

Other sources said Qadri and the others were booked under provisions of the law related to attempted murder, interfering in the functioning of the government, snatching weapons from the police disturbing the peace.

Both the ruling Pakistan People's Party and main opposition PML-N are blaming each other for providing "safe passage" to Qadri for his "long march" from Lahore to Islamabad, a move that has allowed the cleric to dictate terms to the authorities.

"Why did the Punjab government not detain Qadri at his residence in Lahore? It is common knowledge that his Tehrik Minhaj-ul-Quran party does not have a second or third tier leadership.

"If he had been placed under house arrest, hardly a few hundred of his supporters would have come out on the streets," said a PPP member of the provincial assembly of Punjab, which is ruled by the PML-N.

The PML-N's suspicions that PPP was interested in delaying the general election scheduled for May might have led to a "wrong decision", the PPP leader said.

The leader further said the miscalculation of the PML-N government in Punjab could have repercussions for democracy.

"Had the PML-N leaders trusted the PPP and made a joint strategy to deal with Qadri's threats, he could have been stopped. Trust deficit between the two parties is the prime reason behind the current situation," he said. Another PPP leader from central Punjab said "some friends" of PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif in the security establishment had "misled" him by suggesting that the Punjab government should not stop Qadri's "long march" as the Punjab government would be blamed for any clash between the cleric’s supporters and police.

"That was the reason why the Punjab government facilitated the protestors to ensure that they quickly left the province's limits," he said.

On the other hand, PML-N leaders questioned the Interior Minister Rehman Malik's role in dealing with Qadri’s protest.

"Whether Malik was making efforts to contain the long march or facilitating it – there is a big question mark over his role," a PML-N parliamentarian said.

"Malik was making tall claims that Qadri would not be allowed to enter Islamabad and hold a demonstration near parliament. We believe that he is not sincere with the PPP government and may be helping execute someone else's agenda," he alleged.

The PPP government meekly surrendered to the designs of the establishment, the PML-N leader said.

"The PPP’s policy of reconciliation did not seem to work in this case as it should have nipped the problem in the bud. Now it should only blame itself for providing an open field to Qadri to dictate terms," he said.


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