The International News: Dr Tahir ul Qadri now a stakeholder in elections

Dr Tahir ul Qadri now a stakeholder in elections

Shaheen Sehbai

Friday, January 18, 2013

From Print Edition

DUBAI: Dr Tahir ul Qadri has finally pulled a fast one although he took a big risk of violence, terrorism, death of innocent women and children plus a huge financial cost, by forcing the beleaguered government, through his repeated deadlines, to agree to a declaration which may be almost impossible for the government to implement.

The opposition parties are enraged and their initial reaction has been to trash the Long March Declaration with Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the shrewd proponent of status quo, declaring it as a dead mouse which emerged after digging a mountain. The PML-N leaders are feeling betrayed as until a few hours before the agreement, their chief was preparing to meet the top PPP leaders and resume the bonhomie that existed in the earlier days of their coalition.

Some major question marks, however, have emerged after this deal between Dr Qadri and the PPP in which while the coalition partners are a party, the rest of the opposition is not.

What has practically happened is that Dr Qadri has become a stakeholder in the process of elections and even naming a caretaker prime minister, unless of course, some people in the government and PPP have bigger plans to ditch him at the crunch time and go back to their secret or underhand understanding with Nawaz Sharif, if any exists.

As the agreement says, Dr Tahir ul Qadri will now name two persons “in complete consensus” with the PPP and its allies and these two names will then be put across the opposition leader, as per the constitution. Now if PPP leaders have already agreed with Nawaz Sharif to nominate a PML-N candidate, then these two names, despite Dr Qadri’s input, will remain irrelevant. Some people in the government and PPP are fully capable of such twisted political tricks.

But other clauses of the agreement could help, especially the 30-day scrutiny of all candidates. If the Election Commission of Pakistan, which will also come under a fresh and closer look as result of this agreement, really becomes a tough customer to implement articles 62 and 63 of the constitution, a lot of filth and dirt could be cleared from our political process. Maulana Fazlur Rehman thinks this is not possible and Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan says 90 percent of the present lot will be eliminated.

This is possible only if PPP movers and shakers walk the talk, which is highly doubtful. Their first priority was to get the thousands of people off the D-Chowk and cool down Allama Qadri and that has been achieved. But what Dr Tahir ul Qadri and his devotees have proved is that if they are deceived by any political gimmickry, they could gather again at any point, not in a similar march but in any other form of effective protest in thousands and more. The potential political leverage to pressurise the government still stays with Dr Qadri.

The clever tactician that Dr Tahir ul Qadri is has also grabbed the initiative from the mainstream opposition parties which only 24 hours ago were celebrating what many media pundits were calling “the day of democracy”. From nowhere, in a matter of weeks, this Islamic scholar has parachuted into the Pakistani political scene and become a player, a stakeholder.

His role and his fast forward march to become a relevant factor must be pinching no one more than our dear Imran Khan who has been pulling equally big crowds and has been campaigning but was never allowed by the PPP or other political allies to be get such a role as Dr Qadri has grabbed.

Imran Khan played conservatively and cautiously, probably slowed down by the old school politicians who had joined him. He had the momentum but he went after electables and lost it. Then he hesitated and did not join the Qadri march, which could also have given him, and Dr Qadri, even a better deal than has now been extracted from the government.

One critical point is that if all the talk and speculation about the Establishment supporting Dr Qadri had any grain of truth, the people in Rawalpindi and in military barracks all over the country would be celebrating because they now have a direct say in matters of key importance, thanks to their proxy, Dr Qadri, who has managed to get inside the political tent with a bang.

To dismiss this speculation the Long March Declaration specifically rules out any consultations with the military or the judiciary but the truth will be somewhere between the lines and between the minds who think and who make others to think alike.

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