When I was growing up in Pakistan, I had too many exams to take and prepare for them. There was always a section of multiple choice questions, where a question had 4 or 5 possible answers and one had to choose the right one. Most of the times, if I had studied well I used to get all of them right, but sometimes, there were questions for which I had not studied or didn’t know the answer. For such questions, I was always advised to leave the ones where doubtful and then choose from the rest.
I will do the same with the question ‘Who is behind Dr. Tahir ul Qadri?’
Possible answers could be the following :
b) People of Pakistan (Awwam)
c) Current ruling parties (PPP, PML-Q, MQM, PML-N etc)
d) Foreign Powers (USA, UK etc)
a) The very first thing that comes to our mind (thanks to media) is that Dr. Qadri cannot do such a show on 23rd of December without the help of establishment, why because establishment have been doing such adventures before as well like Asghar Khan case. Frankly speaking, I don’t think establishment is behind Dr. Qadri because he has said that he will not take part in politics or run for elections. Since he will not be getting elected or going to the parliament, Dr Qadri would have no authority or power to influence decisions which concern national security or other establishment objectives.
Secondly, if army wants to intervene and impose a ‘martial law’ they “can” do it anytime, they don’t need help from Dr. Qadri. If in future, Dr. Qadri would give up his Canadian citizenship and announces that his party Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) will participate in coming elections, then there is a high possibility that establishment could be behind him, but at the moment, it doesn’t look like it.
b) The 23rd December rally of Minar-e-Pakistan was no doubt a huge one, but does it represent a popular sentiment or make Dr. Qadri a popular leader? He has been a religious scholar for many decades and has a large following, but so do many other religious scholars of our country. I don’t think I have seen any protest in Pakistan where people have demanded and begged that Dr. Qadri “must” come back to Pakistan and save them from the current system. Moreover, none of any recent international survey suggests that Dr. Qadri is the most popular leader among the masses. There are people who follow him in Pakistan and around the world, but they follow him as a religious leader, not as a political leader. Saying that majority of 180 million Pakistanis are behind Dr. Qadri would be wrong and I have to exclude this option as well.
Before coming to point “c” and “d”, let’s just see what Dr. Qadri said before the 23rd December rally and what he said afterwards. All along, we have seen this slogan, “save the state, avoid politics” riyasat bachaoo, siasat nahee, but in the 2.5 hours speech on 23rd December, Dr. Qadri demanded electoral reforms, free and fair elections and a neutral interim setup. It doesn’t matter how long it will take for the interim setup to implement these things, but no elections should happen before that, and if these demands are not met in 3 weeks, he will do a long march towards Islamabad.
With all due respect, these are not “state saving” demands. For example, if he could have said that he would do a long march unless everyone in the state is given the basic food items, standard healthcare, security and education, then these are state saving demands, but asking for electoral reforms, free and fair elections and neutral interim setup are pure political demands and in no way meets the slogan “save the state, avoid politics”.
Dr. Qadri said earlier that he wants a 4 years interim setup to sort out the current political situation which will infact delay the general election process.
c) It wasn’t clear on the 23rd December 2012 but it is becoming clearer now that Dr. Qadri wants an “interim setup” prior to election to meet his demands, not for 90 days but for a prolonged period. Who will benefit from the delay in elections and how come an interim setup will save the state?
Moreover, presence of MQM and their unconditional support to Dr. Qadri from the day one of his arrival in Pakistan is suspicious as MQM is part of the ruling alliance in federal government and in provincial Sindh government. The deputy PM, who belongs to PML-Q , have also decided to support Dr. Qadri demands. PML-N says they have left to the PPP to deal with Dr. Qadri, means they are silently supporting it. And PPP says that they will not stop the long march and welcomes Dr. Qadri in Islamabad.
So it doesn’t matter what they say in daily political shows, all current ruling parties are supporting Dr. Qadri demands and have no objection on his long march towards Islamabad. A long interim setup will suit all of them as they know that they will not be coming back to the power next time if free and fair elections are held in coming 6 months, however, they can be in power through neutral setup as it will be a non-elected process and will be based on nominations. Dr. Qadri agenda also suits President Zardari, as he will be able to extend his tenure for another 5 years through interim setup.
d) An interim setup also suits foreign powers like USA, UK and other NATO allies, who are ready to leave Afghanistan by end of 2014, and an “interim” or a non-elected puppet government will be for their benefit. Secondly, Dr. Qadri is a Canadian citizen and Canada is a strong ally of NATO forces, he could have been possibly influenced or might have been given the task to fulfill this agenda of a puppet government in Pakistan till end of 2014, so it is easy for them to deal with Pakistan.
If I had to answer this question in an exam, who is supporting Dr. Qadri, I would have ticked current ruling parties and/or foreign powers.
Suggestion for government: if Dr. Qadri wants strong electoral reforms, free and fair elections then all that current government has to do is to give Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) more power and authority. We already have a neutral chief election commissioner of Pakistan, all that is required is to make him more powerful and give him the authority to select his team.
All in all, I fail to understand how will Dr. Qadri agenda can change a common man’s life in Pakistan who has to stand in queue for hours to get CNG, who has to suffer from load shedding everyday, who doesn’t have gas at home to make his breakfast or dinner, how will this agenda stop target killings and suicide bombings, how will this agenda bring peace and inter-faith harmony? For me, all this agenda looks like a smoke screen to meet “other objectives” and Dr. Qadri appears to be a pawn in a bigger game of power and politics.
If Dr. Qadri really wants to bring revolution in Pakistan, first thing he should do is to give up his Canadian citizenship and move back to Pakistan for good. Then he should take part in upcoming elections, get elected and become the next PM. He can then implement whatever he has said in his 2.5 hours speech and even more as it will give him at least 5 years to “save state”.