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The News: March long or short, change is inevitable

Brig (R) Farooq Hameed Khan

ISLAMABAD: Dr Tahir ul Qadri scored a convincing moral and legal victory when three petitions seeking the judiciary’s intervention against long march were rejected by Lahore and Islamabad High Courts on grounds that peaceful march was every citizen’s fundamental right. Those seeking legal support to frustrate Dr Qadri’s move, forgot that the higher judiciary owed its own restoration to Lawyers movement and Nawaz Sharif led 2009 long march.

In a marathon interactive session with Lahore based Council of National Affairs (CNA) comprising senior journalists/ columnists, academicians and retired military officers few days ago, Dr Tahir ul Qadri’s disillusionment with Pakistan Tehreek–e-Insaf (PTI) was quite evident.

Imran Khan was the first party leader to announce support for Dr Qadri’s electoral reforms agenda after December 23’s historic Minar-e- Pakistan rally. Dr Qadri’s repeated denial of any intention to delay elections or derail democracy was aimed at allaying fears of all, specially Imran Khan in this respect.

Dr Qadri’s just cause reflects the popular demand to enforce electoral laws, empower Election Commission and filter entry of known corrupt including tax evaders, fake degree holders, bank loan defaulters, dual nationality holders and money launderers into parliament. Undoubtedly Dr Qadri is fighting PTI’s war against status quo forces and PTI would benefit if meaningful electoral reforms are implemented before next elections.

The MQM factor may have been a major reason in PTI’s decision to stay away from Dr Qadri’s movement, as this could be difficult to defend before the media. The PTI’s focus on intra party elections may have been another factor. Long march or no march, by opting to stay away from the electoral reforms movement, the PTI’s anti status quo credentials may be questioned.

Is Imran Khan’s ‘wait and see’ approach part of his party’s wider strategy to strike when the iron is hot. The great Khan’s recent statement of leading a PTI tsunami march against a PML-N /PPP compromised caretaker setup, however, does indicate that the party could jump in at some stage to deliver the coup de grace.

With a history of U-turns in political power play, this time the MQM took only 15 days to reverse its earlier decision to join the long march. By ditching Dr Qadri at eleventh hour, MQM’s act reinforced public perception that the party was unreliable and could not be trusted in such matters of public interest/welfare. Whether MQM buckled under foreign pressure or backtracked after striking a golden deal with President Zardari, its credibility as a principled political party suffered irreparable damage.

After Altaf Hussain’s uncalled for and injudicious comments about Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah in his drone speech, the MQM’s backward march must be taken as a blessing in disguise as well as good riddance by Dr Qadri. With such unstable behaviour, the MQM may never be able to take off in Punjab. Will it not be appropriate to designate Altaf Hussain’s party as MQM(U)?

Has Pakistan become ungovernable? Like all Pakistanis in country and residing abroad, the Army’s top leadership as well as higher judiciary must be having nightmares over the worsening security situation in the country that reflects the collapse of Federal/ provincial government’s writs in Karachi, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Pakistanis have had enough of this mis-governance and apathy on part of this sham democratic government that has lost the moral, legal and constitutional authority to continue any further.

The bloody Thursday that consumed around 150 innocent lives in Karachi, Quetta and Swat calls for a coordinated and decisive effort by security establishment, sane political forces and Supreme Court to end this state of affairs, as the country cannot be run in this manner any more.

While the worthy prime minister of Gujar Khan concentrates on efforts to divert billions of development funds to buy votes in his constituency and while the PPP government is busy planning massive pre election rigging, the country’s top most leadership remains bunkered in Karachi’s Bilawal House busy in political engineering.

The sudden upsurge in drone attacks in Waziristan, continued/coordinated bloody violence in Karachi, Balochistan and KP and escalation on Kashmir Line of Control all add to the Army’s concerns. In case Army personnel providing security cover to Election Commission staff for door to door voters verification in Karachi, too, are targeted by terrorists, then Army could be drawn into the Karachi quagmire that could open yet another front for the already over stretched Army formations.

If Dr Qadri’s long march goes according to plan, all eyes would remain on the security establishment’s role. While Army would in all probability remain neutral, its security planners must have brainstormed likely contingencies and their responses to tackle any emergent situation. The ISPR has reported that country’s security environment was reviewed in 156th Corps Commanders Conference held at GHQ on January 04.

This meeting may have deliberated on the possible options in case Islamabad gets paralysed as a result of Dr Qadri’s prolonged Tahrir square sit in or if it turns into violent showdown with government. If a serious political crisis/stalemate emerges after January 14, General Kayani may be once again forced into a ‘soft intervention’ to facilitate a negotiated agreement based on Dr Qadri’s demands.

After inconclusive first round of negotiations with the Chaudhry brothers, the country’s crafty political wheeler dealers, Dr Tahir ul Qadri appeared determined to press on with his announced plans knowing fully well that he may have gone beyond the point of no return. Will Dr Qadri be lured into face saving deal so as to scuttle his march midway before it reaches Islamabad?

Given the panic and hysteria that gripped Islamabad’s power corridors as is evident from the anti people hurdles created and third degree use of state power, Dr Qadri may have already attained a high moral pedestal. Whether or not Dr Qadri along with teeming millions reaches Constitution Avenue on January 14, change seems inevitable.

(Email: fhkhan54@gmail.com)

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