Dr Tahirul Qadri’s long march to choke GT Road badly
LAHORE: Whether Dr Tahirul Qadri’s January 14 long march accomplishes its desired target or not, it is bound to literally block the Lahore to Islamabad section of the 16th century Grand Trunk Road built by Indian Emperor Sher Shah Suri, as neither does the motorway operate on most hours during the foggy winters in this part of the country nor is the Lahore airport available for to and fro traffic due to extremely poor visibility.
While extreme weather conditions, non-availability of food and washrooms etc would surely be haunting the Pakistan Awami Tehreek Chief Dr Tahirul Qadri’s followers, once they manage to reach Islamabad and are directed to camp there in line with their leader’s directives, the badly jammed G.T Road would leave thousands of ordinary citizens and VIPs stranded in both Lahore, Islamabad and even beyond for at least a day or so.
So smoggy and hazy was the weather in Lahore on last Sunday evening that even Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, the sitting Supreme Court Judge and former Lahore High Court chief justice, was witnessed buying a Daewoo bus ticket to Islamabad at the Korean company’s Kalma Chowk Garden Town terminal in city and telling this correspondent smilingly that he was option less as both motorway and the airport were not functional.
Though there is no doubt that both Pakistan People’s Party and the PML-N currently find themselves in a sticky situation arising out of Dr Qadri’s call, the protesters marching towards Islamabad would also be cognizant of the fact that just reaching the capital and camping there would not be enough.
It remains to be seen what might happen on January 15 or January 16, as even the flow of prophecies has dried up. The situation has left everybody guessing and analyzing the scenario by using “ifs and buts.”But if the government opts to remain silent and decides not to disrupt the march, the ball would be in Qadri’s court for sure.
How long could he keep his followers under the open sky in unfriendly climatic condition—-would just be his prerogative. Remember, on June 13/14, 2008, the then Supreme Court Bar Association president Aitzaz Ahsan had led a similar long march to Islamabad to register a protest against the delay in the restoration of pre-Nov 3, 2007 judiciary, but termination of the lawyers’ exercise without staging a scheduled sit-in outside the parliament had not only raised many questions about his (Aitzaz)’s leadership, but it had also dented the noted solicitor’s stature among his colleagues.
Aitzaz was never the same lawyers’ leader after his long march had “suddenly” vapourised and ended in smoke!
Just days later, this is what Aitzaz Ahsan had gone on to write in the prestigious US magazine “Newsweek” to salvage his pride: “As the first rays of the Saturday (June 14, 2008) sun streaked over Parliament, I delivered the concluding speech, and this remarkable crowd, the biggest in Pakistan’s recent history, dispersed peacefully for the trip home. Not a shot was fired or a pane of glass broken. Yet more than 200,000 Pakistanis had managed to make their point: they wanted their judges back.”
Many would agree that the situation for Dr Tahirul Qadri is a lot different from that of Aitzaz Ahsan.For Qadri, it is a “now or never” situation. He has to “do or die” because if he still fails to deliver despite his immaculate timing for an exercise such as this, he might never succeed to get the same reception from both media and the general public in future.
In fact, the print and electronic media has uplifted his campaign without any aorta of doubt, while seeking clarifications from the religious cleric regarding the controversies surrounding his words and deeds.
Even if Qadri is placed under house arrest by the Punjab government ahead of the march or arrested in Islamabad by the PPP regime, those following him keenly since December 23, 2012 and endorsing his viewpoint vociferously, would not hesitate to ask him a few pinching queries.
Qadri’s followers and his silent supporters among the inflation-ridden masses would not like him to chicken out any time before or during the long march under one pretext or the other.
Dr Tahirul Qadri, therefore, would not only have to march to Islamabad amid terrorism threats on the way, but would also have to ensure that his followers remained peaceful throughout, in line with his repeated pledges in this context.
A few unconfirmed reports from the Qadri-led Pakistan Awami Tehreek and the Minhaj-ul-Qur’an have hinted that dozens of thousands of his supporters would enter Islamabad on the night of January 13, but nothing could be confirmed.
As political punters continue to place bets on the outcome of Qadri’s much-publicized long march, innumerable analysts think that odds are heavily stacked against the Canadian national’s ability to achieve his real objectives in such a short span of time.
Whether he wants the forthcoming elections to be postponed or wishes to pave way for an indirect Army rule by forcing those at the “helm of affairs” to announce a technocratic caretaker set up for an indefinite period—-only time holds all the answers to this million-dollar quiz!