Islamabad: The Uttar Pradesh capital may be hundreds of miles away from Islamabad but the two cities have a connect of sorts in the fiery cleric Tahirul Qadri.
The 61-year-old former professor of international constitutional law does not only trace his ancestral roots to Lucknow but also visited the city in March last year.
That is when he interacted with old-timers and visited many an educational institution. His father had studied in Lucknow in 1929 and had lived here for more than a decade.
His father studied at the Tibia College and at the King George's Medical College.
Qadri is now rallying thousands in the Pakistani capital demanding the ouster of the government.
While in Lucknow, Qadri freely interacted with veterans of the old city and visited many places like the Farangi Mahal, Nakkhas, Chowk and Jhawai Tola where his father is believed to have stayed.
Qadri's visit to Lucknow was part of his four-week Indian tour. He met several eminent Muslim scholars of Lucknow and underlined that terrorism has no place in Islam.
Imam Maulana Khalid Rashid Farangi Mahali, the Imam of Aishbagh Idgah, whose house Qadri visited, told IANS that the cleric was clear about two things: Islam never had anything to do with terrorism and, secondly, that India and Pakistan should cut their military budgets and instead spend it on public welfare.
"We were mighty impressed by his peace overtures. But more than that we are happy that the Qadri saheb was very clear that Islam and terror were two separate things and Islam never allowed killings of innocent people," Khalid Rashid said.
Remembering him as one who relished the Avadhi cuisine and loved talking endlessly on the "similarities" between Pakistan and India, he says it was heartening to note that Qadri was still talking peace -- and become the rallying point of change in neighbouring Pakistan.
The cleric, the Imam said, was "fikarmand" (worried) about developments in Pakistan and was particularly critical of the fundamental forces which had wrongly interpreted Islam for their own gains.
"He was worried about the fluid situation in Pakistan and was yearning for a change," the Imam added.
Pakistan holds talks with Qadri
Pakistan's government opened talks on Thursday with the cleric Qadri.
A spokesman for the cleric said a 10-member delegation was holding discussions to defuse a political crisis that erupted after he led a convoy of buses carrying thousands of protesters into the capital on Monday.
The Pakistan government formed a four-member committee on Thursday to hold talks with Qadri shortly after he announced a fresh deadline for action on his demands for the government to resign and to dissolve the national and provincial assemblies.
The committee includes religious affairs minister Khurshid Shah, PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain' senior Muttahida Qaumi Movement leader Farooq Sattar and Awami National Party leader Afrasiyab Khattak.
Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf directed the committee to "immediately hold talks" with Qadri, who has been camping near parliament since Tuesday with thousands of supporters to push his demand for electoral reforms.
The committee was formed shortly after Qadri gave the government a 90-minute deadline at 1.30pm to act on his demands.
However, support for Qadri's protest has begun to dwindle and opposition parties led by the PML-N on Wednesday said they would oppose any unconstitutional or unlawful move to derail the democratic system.
Qadri's source of funding to be probed
Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has launched a formal probe against Minhajul Quran International (MQI) chief Dr Tahirul Qadri, after it obtained evidence relating to the source of the massive funding that has sustained Qadri's protest in Islamabad.
The FIA started investigations into the source of the funding, including the vast scale media campaign and the long march turned sit-in that is into its third consecutive day, reports The Express Tribune.
According to sources, the FIA sought details from the State Bank of Pakistan, the Federal Board of Revenue, Financial Management Unit, and other concerned agencies. It also approached Hawala dealers who deal in remitting money from abroad through illegal means.
The probe has been launched on the basis of complaints and reports appearing in media outlets questioning the source of funding that has sustained the long march, sit-in and the advertisement campaigns aggressively launched in the print and electronic media involving millions of rupees on a daily basis.
The agency is also inquiring into violations of the Foreign Exchange Regulations allegedly committed by Qadri and the MQI in Pakistan and abroad, as well as individuals who donated and remitted money via illegal channels, sources said.
The PPP-led government has also sought the Canadian government's help regarding details of the NGO operating under the supervision of Qadri in Canada, along with the manifesto and mandate of the NGO as well as its origin of funding.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik, during a meet with Canadian High Commissioner Greg Giokas, said the government might seek Ottawa's help to uncover the origin of funding being spent by Qadri in Pakistan.