Daily The News: Can Dr Qadri prove to be the game changer?
By Brig (R) Farooq Hameed Khan
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
From Print Edition
ISLAMABAD: While Dr. Tahirul Qadri’s December 23 rally at Minar-e-Pakistan was undoubtedly historic, it also revived the memories of Imran Khan’s equally successful October 30 public meeting last year at the same venue. If October 30 proved to be a turning point in Pakistani politics, December 23 could be the first step to rescue the country’s sinking ship.
While Dr. Tahirul Qadri claimed he drew around two million record crowd that surpassed Imran’s Minar-e- Pakistan’s attendance, this could be attributed to the religious scholar-cum-politician’s unmatchable eloquence/ fiery style of speech and mass followers of his Tehrik–e-Minhajul Quran (TMQ).
The Minhajul Quran chief spoke for over two hours sitting behind a bulletproof glass shield under visible protection of security personnel. This extraordinary security cover seemed logical given the militant threats after his 600 page international fatwa decreed against terrorism two years ago.
Dr. Qadri’s stinging criticism of corrupt political electoral system put political parties/leaders in power to shame. At a time when national morale and confidence had hit the rock bottom due to unending terrorist attacks in Karachi, Balochistan and KPK, specially ANP’s Bashir Bilour’s tragic assassination, the thousands of Pakistani flags at Minar-e-Pakistan, were a comforting sight for the distressed nation.
If the looters and plunderers could rally together under the garb of political reconciliation, then those who stand for a positive change must also unite on one platform. Imran Khan and Dr. Tahirul Qadri seem natural allies in the fight against the status quo forces and their monopoly over the country’s resources.
Imran Khan lost little time to announce support for Dr. Qadri’s speech, a clear indication that both may join hands in their struggle to strive for a peaceful change and block the entry of feudal lords, jagirdars, tax-evaders, fake degree holders and willful bank loan defaulters to parliament. Both enjoy overwhelming support of youth which could become the engine of positive change in Pakistan.
The MQM’s presence in full strength at Minar-e-Pakistan may be seen as a desperate attempt to rehabilitate their image of an anti-feudal/pro-middle class political party that has been severely dented by their coalition/power sharing with feudal lords/exploiters class in the last five years. By teaming up with Dr. Tahirul Qadri, the MQM gets an opportunity to take off in Punjab where its efforts have not delivered fruitful results so far.
Dr. Tahirul Qadri should expect sharp opposition/criticism by his detractors and old Model Town friends-turned-rivals, about the motives behind his dramatic return after a six-year stay abroad. During a live video interactive session with Lahore-based journalists at Minhajul Quran Headquarters a few days prior to his return to Pakistan, Dr. Qadri denied he had launched his ‘Save Riyasat, not Siyasat’ movement with the backing and financial support of the security establishment or foreign powers to disrupt the democratic/ elections process in Pakistan. He publicly swore to the same at Minar-e-Pakistan as well.
The expensive electronic media campaign and his reported Canadian nationality will be exploited, too, by those who had sleepless nights since December 23 so as to publicly malign Dr. Tahirul Qadri’s image and make his reforms movement controversial.
With little chance of the government meeting Dr. Tahirul Qadri’s demands for electoral reforms by January 10, the TQM chief is likely to go ahead with his planned four million march on January 11, culminating with his call for convening ‘peoples parliament’ in Islamabad on January 14. But will Dr. Qadri be able to mobilize such a massive turnout? If Tehrik-e-Insaf, MQM and some other political parties, too, decide to come on board, Islamabad could witness a real display of people’s power.
While the government has indicated it will not block the peaceful march, yet the convergence and prolonged sit-in of even a million plus committed protestors in close proximity to parliament could result in a serious law and order/security situation. In the wake of recent upsurge in terrorist attacks, especially in Peshawar, January 14 may present a nightmarish scenario for the security establishment.
The army has a history of intervening to prevent long marches to avert political instability, confrontation and breakdown of security in the federal capital. Following several weeks of political turmoil and Benazir Bhutto’s threat to march on Islamabad, the then Army Chief General Abdul Waheed Kakar defused the crisis with the resignation of both President Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on July 18, 1993.
The present COAS, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, too, intervened to stop Nawaz Sharif’s long march at Gujranwala and prevailed upon the then Prime Minister Gilani to restore the judges on March 16, 2009.
If General Kayani is once again forced to intervene and act as a neutral umpire to prevent a possible Imran Khan-Dr. Qadri-led Tahrir Square type scenario in Islamabad, will it lead to an early dissolution of parliament and formation of a caretaker setup? It is true that the Constitution provides no role to the judiciary/army in the caretaker setup process. If Dr. Tahirul Qadri’s demand that the judiciary/army or major political parties outside parliament are also consulted in selection of clean, honest and competent caretakers and implemented openheartedly, it may enhance the credibility/ neutrality of such a setup . Let the caretaker setup be not seen as a compromise to further interests of two major political parties that have brought Pakistan close to becoming a failed state.
Although Dr. Tahirul Qadri did sound convincing in his explanation of Article 254 of Constitution that apparently allows going beyond 90 days election deadline; however, any such delay may derail the democratic process which is not advisable at this stage. The government/Election Commission should however accommodate Dr. Tahirul Qadri’s demands that lead to greater public confidence towards genuinely free and fair polls.
Will January 2013 herald Pakistan’s year of change? Can Dr. Tahirul Qadri prove to be a game changer in Pakistani politics? It is time to change faces as well as the rules of the political game in Pakistan.