Cleric's march could disrupt Pakistan vote

Jan. 12, 2013 at 11:30 AM

ISLAMABAD, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- An anti-corruption march that could draw huge crowds to Pakistan's capital may be a plot to disrupt the upcoming election, government officials said.

Muslim cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri says he plans to hold the march next week in Islamabad "so that the election will be guaranteed to be fair, honest and free of all corrupt practices," The Guardian reported Saturday.

The date of the election will be decided after the government completes its term in two months. It would be Pakistan's first democratic turnover of power.

Qadri says he expects millions to participate in the march, but most estimates place the likely figure at hundreds of thousands. Even so, officials say they fear the marchers could overwhelm the city, creating an excuse for a military takeover -- or the establishment of a caretaker government appointed by the military -- that could stay in power longer than the 90 days the constitution allows.

The cleric -- generally regarded as a religious moderate -- who returned to Pakistan last month after years of living in Canada, is demanding creation of a caretaker government not appointed by current politicians and the disqualification of any candidate for parliament who has broken the law or not paid taxes.

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