VIEW : ‘Long March’ aftermath — Naeem Tahir
In my opinion, it is a tribute to Dr Qadri, and the ruling alliance that some issues of serious public concern were settled
Allama Dr Tahirul Qadri started the ‘Long March’ to Islamabad from Lahore on January 13 and arrived in Islamabad the next night. There are different figures about the number of people in the march that are being circulated. In a conservative estimate, the actual number of men, women and children, braving the weather at the D square and on Jinnah Avenue, was not less than 150,000. It is also noteworthy that the numbers did not reduce with the passage of time and actually increased because new groups joined in. People were determined to stay until their demands were met; they were in high spirits and knew that ‘change’ was the only answer to the miserable quality of life they had been pushed into in the last five years.
The crowd was composed of many individuals who were not part of the Minhaj-ul-Quran set up. However, they were there because the demands by made by Dr Qadri reflected their feelings and experiences. His speeches and histrionics may have not impressed all but his demands did.
The unfortunate thing in the aftermath is that most of the TV anchorpersons, columnists and his opponents criticised the person and personality of Dr Qadri. They hit the messenger carrying the message of the people but ignored the importance of the message. I feel this is low calibre criticism. The message is the most important. If the demands were not fair, constitutional, and truly reflective of the sentiments of the people, then the political parties in government would not have bowed down. They delayed and hoped that the long march would fizzle out, but there were no signs of that. People in the sit-in were determined, resolute and peaceful but ready to face all eventualities. The message finally went ‘home’ only on Dr Qadri’s final ultimatum when the risk of a physical conflict arose.
At that point, the ‘democratic’ spirit of the parties in government woke up, thanks to Chaudary Shujaat Hussain’s efforts. Ultimately, the ruling parties agreed to the demands. What were the demands? Here are these briefly:
1) The National Assembly shall be dissolved at any time before March 16, 2013, (due date), so that the elections may take place within 90 days. One month will be given for the scrutiny of nomination papers for the purpose of the pre-clearance of the candidates under Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution so that the eligibility of the candidates is determined by the Election Commission of Pakistan. No candidate would be allowed to start the election campaign until pre-clearance on his/her eligibility is given by the Election Commission of Pakistan. (This demand was agreed and accepted as it is.)
2) The treasury benches in complete consensus with the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) will propose names of two honest and impartial persons for appointment as the caretaker prime minister. And that the proposed names will be forwarded after consultation with all stakeholders, and not by just the PPP and PML-N. (It was agreed that the caretaker prime minister would be proposed after consultation with all parties and finalised in consultation with Dr Qadri; thus, this demand was also agreed upon.)
)3) Issue of composition of the Election Commission of Pakistan will be discussed at the next meeting on Sunday, January 27, 2013, 12 noon at the Minhaj-ul-Quran Secretariat. Subsequent meetings, if any, in this regard will also be held at the Central Secretariat of Minhaj-ul-Quran in Lahore. In pursuance to the agreement, the Law Minister will convene a meeting of the following lawyers: S M Zafar, Waseem Sajjad, Aitzaz Ahsan, Farough Naseem, Latif Afridi, Dr Khalid Ranjha and Humayun Ahsan to discuss these issues. Prior to the meeting of January 27, the Law Minister, Mr Farooq H Naek, will report the results of this legal consultation to the January 27 meeting.
4) Electoral Reforms: It was agreed upon that the focus would be on the enforcement of electoral reforms prior to the polls on:
A. Articles 62, 63 and 218 (3) of the Constitution B. Section 77 to 82 of the Representation of Peoples’ Act 1976 and other relevant provisions relating to conducting free, fair, just and honest elections guarded against all corrupt practices.
C. The Supreme Court judgment of June 8, 2012 on the constitutional petition of 2011 must be implemented in toto and in true letter and spirit.
5) With the end of the long march and sit-in, all cases registered against each other shall be withdrawn immediately and there will be no act of victimisation and vendetta against either party, or the participants of the march.
In my opinion, it is a tribute to Dr Qadri, and the ruling alliance that some issues of serious public concern were settled, and a hope of a more credible democratic government in the future could be entertained after the next elections.
The most disappointing reactions were the targeting of the person of Dr Qadri. The hate campaign was led by the PML-N and its satellites. They find fault with his dual nationality, mannerisms, past contradictions, sources of funding, even his looks and gestures. I find such reactions very petty. Let us look at the message, not just the messenger. The message is beneficial to the country. The message is supported by millions who do not want to suffer the painful outcome of the previous elections: no power, no gas, no employment, no law and order and so on and so forth. Dr Qadri showed the resolve to lead a strenuous, unparalleled long march, and achieved the result without the loss of one drop of blood or damage to property. What does it matter if anyone finds fault with his mannerisms or looks? He may not even contest the elections! I believe that he accomplished something that other political leaders could not, and that is bothering his opponents. He did not lead the long march to set up power plants or gas pipe lines; in my opinion, he went there to create ‘hope’ and that he did.
The writer is a former DG Pakistan National Council of the Arts, Secretary Arts Council Alhamra, COO of ICTV US, Chairperson Fruit Processing Industries, Chairperson Export Promotion Committee, head of several business delegations to European countries, specialist in arts management and cultural diplomacy. He is an expert callishtenist, dramatist, researcher, and the author of 8,000 years of the People of Indus Valley. Presently, he is the Central Vice- President APML and General Secretary, Punjab APML