Daily The News: Dr Qadri has a plan and it may work
DUBAI: Dr Tahirul Qadri appears to have a plan and one which he can probably put in practice as evident from the blueprint he revealed at a huge gathering in Lahore, promising to hold one twice its size in three weeks in Islamabad.
The impeccable organisation of the show, its finesse and optics, technology and design, all indicated that the show was choreographed in detail by trained professionals while the Dr himself rehearsed his words, flagged and highlighted his text and presented his case as if a seasoned lawyer was arguing in the top most judicial forum of any country. The footprints of a large secretariat working behind the scenes on each section were visible all around. That millions would have been spent on the show is obvious.
That his blueprint has the backing of the forces needed to carry it through is a big question mark but without a commitment all this effort and expense would be a meaningless exercise, a shot in the dark.
Three main points of his Tehrir Square plan grab immediate attention, picked up from his address, a litany of errors and disasters that Pakistan has been facing in recent years.
One: he wants a caretaker government which is strong, competent and neutral, meaning that it is not picked by incumbents Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif alone and does not follow their agenda. His demand to include all stakeholders in naming the caretakers, including the judiciary and the army, is clear. He wants a break from this power set up on the day the term of this parliament is over, or even earlier.
The second constitutional argument is meant to prepare for a legal challenge in the Supreme Court to declare the holding of the elections as unconstitutional, unless the conditions he named in several articles and clauses were met first. These are conditions which no government can meet even in a full five year term with the best of intentions. But his complaint is genuine. Even lip service was not paid to these pro-people articles.
Thus by January 14, when he plans to gather hundreds of thousands of people in front of parliament and the Supreme Court, a well prepared legal case would have been filed and would probably be heard by the judges.
The third point of his address was the definition of politics which he thinks he would accept, or permit. This means the present politics of deceit, corruption and buying and selling of mandates will not be in his plan. This practically means overthrowing the system and bringing in a new arrangement, may be a presidential system as being hinted by many supporters and analysts of key vested interests.
The repeated refrain of Dr Qadri was that his movement will be peaceful and non-violent, something like Anna Hazare did in India. If Dr Qadri gathers the crowds and stages a sit in, Islamabad would be jammed, all work coming to a halt and serious pressure built on the politicians and the judges to reach a decision.
Two key players will, however, decide the fate of this exercise. If the security establishment does not interfere and allows him to stage the show, it would be a big boost to Dr Qadri, a tacit approval of what he has planned. The late night intervention of General Kayani when Nawaz Sharif had threatened the Long March is too fresh in all minds. If such a call does not come to Dr Qadri, new meaning would be given to the whole development.
The second player would be the terrorists and how they treat the whole show. Dr Qadri and his supporters would be sitting ducks for suicide bombers, while they are on the move and when they camp outside the power corridors in Islamabad. One or two big blasts with casualties could force the law enforcement bosses to cut short the event. Which side they pressurise cannot be predicted yet.
On the issue of a neutral and powerful caretaker government, the security establishment will have no objections as more strongly than Dr Qadri, who has just returned form his new country of citizenship, they would like power to go into credible hands who can stop the free fall and chase some of the billions which have left the country. Judges and courts will willingly help in this pursuit.
Initial reactions to Dr Qadri’s Tehrir Day Plan has been interesting. A major surprise has been the MQM’s role as Altaf Hussain has thrown all his eggs into Dr Qadri’s basket by asking all his top men to be present in the Lahore show and then congratulating Dr Qadri on its success.
This obviously means that before the Jan 14 sit in, a similar big event can be expected in Karachi where the MQM may play the host and Dr Qadri could refine his plans and rehearse the event.
For MQM it is a difficult time as it is caught between the Scotland Yard probe in London and the fight between PPP and the other Sindhi politicians at home. A break from PPP, for any reason whatsoever, will give the MQM a shelter to hide in the large crowds of Dr Qadri’s Long March.
Qualified support has also come from Imran Khan who said much of what Dr Qadri said was similar to the PTI agenda.
The problem for Imran would be that if Dr Qadri succeeds in getting his way which may include a strong and powerful caretaker set up, which could begin to put things right in the manner suggested by Imran Khan, where will his politics go. If Imran finds that the security establishment and the judiciary buy the Qadri plan and give more time to the caretakers, he could be left out. It may then be a good idea for him to join the caretakers to press for difficult decisions, a massive change of system.
Given a choice and given his lack of parliamentary experience, Imran would be the ideal politician to opt for the presidential system, directly elected by the people, if that idea has to materialise any time, sooner or later. It may be his best shot to get into power, with some real room to operate and change things. It may also suit the establishment to get someone on the top slot who is honest, means business and could be persuaded to carry out his national and social agenda in return for cooperation on security policies and defence issues.
All this remains a highly speculative matter but Dr Qadri has definitely dropped a cat in the ring where all the scared mice were running helter-skelter fearing what the upcoming polls may bring for them.