Daily The News: The Qadri show
Monday, December 24, 2012
From Print Edition
The grand show put up in Lahore on Sunday by Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri, the chief of Tehreek-e-Minhaj-ul-Quran, has brought the proverbial cat out of the bag. His massive show during a highly organised and obviously terribly expensive rally culminated in a virtual deadline for the present system to either pack up or face a Pakistani version of Tahrir Square on January 14. The entire exercise was well planned and perfectly executed, which gives some credence to his threat that a similar show in Islamabad may also produce similar numbers and a gridlock in Islamabad, posing serious problems — both political and administrative — for the incumbent government and the security and judicial establishment. An analysis of Dr Qadri’s arguments in support of his decision of a four million strong ‘Long March’ on Islamabad may take time, but some of the fundamental points that he pointed out are quite obvious. There can be little disagreement over the long list of political, economic, security and governance failures of the current political dispensation that Qadri recounted during the rally. The political system has barely survived, dragging on for five years, and the political parties have miserably failed in addressing most of the issues confronting the nation. There are no excuses but it is clear there can be no quick fixes either. What was more important in his address — and Qadri came well-prepared to set the tone for his case — was his assertion that constitutional provisions for holding elections and for providing security, food, shelter and jobs to the people had been violated.
The Minhaj-ul-Quran leader emphasised certain articles of the constitution, without which — according to him — any electoral exercise to perpetuate the same dysfunctional system was unconstitutional and unacceptable. And therein lies the ‘real point’ of the whole exercise. While he has threatened to bring four million people to Islamabad, even if he succeeds in gathering 10 percent of the number he claims he can gather, a major crisis may become unavoidable. While he did not explicitly say it, Qadri has more or less made the case for a ‘judicial challenge’ in the Supreme Court on these grounds. With several hundred thousand people on the streets, the judiciary may find itself under tremendous pressure if such a case were to be presented before it. The real cat that emerges from Dr Qadri’s bag then is that the new caretaker government must include all stakeholders; he named the judiciary, the armed forces and other major political parties but did not include himself in the list. That may probably be the crux of his exercise and could also be the ultimate bargaining point to stave off a standoff in Islamabad that has the potential to seriously threaten the system. Qadri repeatedly warned that a two party deal between the PPP and the PML-N over the next caretaker government would not be acceptable, and called for a strong, competent and thoroughly representative caretaker setup. For long-term goals that need more time, he suggested an Italy-like solution — the constitution providing a two-year cushion, by which he obviously means an intervention by the judiciary. All this falls within the framework of a constitutional change that he repeatedly demanded and promised, stressing that he would resist any intervention or takeover by the military. Dr Qadri’s formula may have serious implications for many stakeholders and throws an urgent challenge to the security establishment, specially the Pakistan Army, to decide where it stands were such a crisis to descend on Islamabad. Many analysts had already been talking of some sinister behind-the-scenes plans. The Qadri formula, on the face of it, has sprung up rather suddenly but with a finesse that hints at long and meticulous homework. It will certainly evoke cries of foul play from mainstream players. Yet what Dr Qadri says is sure to sound convincing to many among the people. The idea of dealing with the same political failures for the next five years is a nightmare that haunts the oppressed masses crushed under the unbearable burden of making it through each day. If Qadri can achieve some of what he claims are his immediate goals without upsetting the applecart, he may have contributed positively.