Pakistani Cleric Plans Massive Rally

Some fear that his criticism of the Taliban and calls for tolerance may inspire terrorist attack


The "Arab Spring" seems a long way from Pakistan's winter of discontent.

Still, when religious scholar Tahirul Qadri talks about his hopes for the massive rally he is planning in Islamabad on Monday, one that he hopes will lure more than a million people into the streets of the quiet capital, the image he uses is that of Cairo's Tahrir Square.

Government leaders have tried to warn the gray-bearded mullah, respected by many for his denunciations of the Taliban and his espousal of tolerance, that a gathering on the scale he is planning would give militants the opportunity to carry out a major terrorist act. Pakistanis haven't forgotten that it was at a large rally in Islamabad's twin city, Rawalpindi, that former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated by a suicide bomber in 2007.