The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan is planning to attack a rally that cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri plans to lead from Lahore to Islamabad on January 14, Interior Minister Rehman Malik has said.
Authorities learnt of the Taliban's plan to target the rally when they intercepted a conversation between Taliban leaders, he said.
He said the transcript of the intercepted conversation was: "We have finalized arrangements for those coming to Islamabad, in which some sick people will be present."
Initially, the threat was not taken seriously but a Taliban spokesman had subsequently confirmed that the group was planning to attack Qadri's rally, Malik said during an interaction with reporters last night.
"We are trying to track the planners and assessing the threat to decide what kind of measures should be taken to foil any terror attack," he said.
The government will welcome Qadri and his followers to Islamabad as he was coming to the city to express his viewpoint, he said.
However, Qadri's rally should be peaceful and not create any inconvenience for the residents of the city, he added.
Qadri, a cleric with a huge following, recently returned to Pakistan after living in Canada for seven years.
He triggered a storm in political circles by announcing that he would lead a "long march" to Islamabad to pressure the government to consult the military and the judiciary regarding the formation of a caretaker set-up to oversee the upcoming general election.
Malik said the Pakistan People's Party-led government had mandated him to hold talks with Qadri and he would contact the cleric soon. "I will be happy to meet a religious scholar like Qadri," he said.
He said conspiracies were being hatched against the country and rumours were rife about the polls being put off.
But Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf has made it clear that the general election will be held on time and according to the Constitution, he said.
Over the past few days, Ashraf has contacted leaders of all major political parties, including the main opposition PML-N, to discuss ways to counter the threat posed by Qadri.
Several leaders of the PPP and PML-N have accused Qadri of acting as a front for the powerful security establishment.