Gen Mirza Aslam Beg

Monday, January 21, 2013 – Dr. Tahirul Qadri’s Long March started from Lahore on 13th January 2013, challenging the “most corrupt government and the equally corrupt opposition” but ultimately it fell into the lap of those very people, he had been calling ‘Yazidis’, after signing the peace accord on 17th January. This declaration was countersigned by the Prime Minister of Pakistan, whose arrest orders by the Supreme Court were celebrated by Dr. Qadri a day earlier and his devotees claimed that “one of the objectives of their movement was achieved and “Zardari was the next to fall.” It was nothing short of miracle for so much of the impossible to happen in such a short period of time. The way this drama has been enacted, demonstrates the brilliance of the Master-Mind and the mavericks of Dr. Qadri that led to the signing of the accord, demands a careful examination, act by act:

Act One. During his seven years of self-exile in Canada, Dr. Qadri preached the concept of liberal and political Islam and having won acceptability of the West, returned to Pakistan, for the “cleansing of the corrupt politicians of the present and future governments.” He held the first jalsa at Lahore on 23rd December 2012 attended by over a million devotees. This was the ‘first miracle’ he performed, from a distance of thousands of miles in Canada. He was provided full protocol and security reserved for the heads of the government.

Act Two. He gave a three weeks ultimatum to the Angels to remove all the ills and ailments of the last fifty years, failing which he marched towards Islamabad, reaching there on 14h January, where he was facilitated by the government, to establish his camp opposite Aiwan-e-Sadr, where no other agitator has ever been allowed such activity. For three days and nights, Dr. Qadri thundered & threatened, pressing for his ever increasing demands of “termination of government and threat of take-over by the people’s parliament.” The govt functionaries like Mr. Rehman Malik and Mr. Kaira engaged with him in theatrical verbal duels, calling each other ‘compulsive liars and debauches.’ On the fourth day i.e., 17th January Dr. Qadri gave the ultimatum to the govt to come to terms with his demands, or else he would unleash his revolutionaries numbering 15-20,000, drenched in rain and shivering under cold. The govt got nervous and acted fast to nominate the team, to negotiate with Dr. Qadri, the leader of the “revolution in waiting.”

Act Three. The negotiations started after dusk, and in three hours time succeeded in reaching full and final accord, and got it signed by the Prime Minister. It was read out by Dr. Qadri to the utter joy of his devotees. Dr. Qadri and the members of the negotiation team also rejoiced the deal as “a great victory for democracy and a befitting gift to the nation.” By midnight the drama ended, curtains were drawn and the weary devotees, started moving back to their transport to take them to their homes, leaving behind a stinking Jinnah Avenue.

There have had been several political developments in Pakistan in the past, which were unique, some bordering on absurdity, such as the majority in East Pakistan chose to separate from the minority in 1971. The political movement of 1968 brought General Yahya Khan to power. In 1977 the political movement put General Zia into the saddle to rule for eleven long years. The 1999, the Grand Democratic Alliance, led by PPP produced General Musharraf, who ruled the country for over ten years, but the phenomenon of Dr. Qadri is something very different and demands a careful analysis:

Dr. Qadri sought political asylum in Canada in 2005, yet, he is now politicking in Pakistan, he escaped from. Dr. Qadri drew a large crowed of over a million in Lahore, drawn mainly from Punjab, but he could not muster more than 35-40 thousand inIslamabad. There was no visible participation from other provinces either, yet he claimed to speak for the Pakistani nation. The government responded to his threat of revolution, at a time when he was totally isolated and his devotees were quietly slipping away. Why did the govt boost-him-up, when his options were limited and he was almost in a blind alley. Dr. Qadri put up seven demands, five were rejected and only two were conceded with amendments. In the process the Prime minister was made to sign the agreement relegating himself to the position of Dr. Qadri, the head of Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), who was also awarded the right to suggest the names of the care-taker Prime Minister and also to change the composition of theElection Commission.

The govt also awarded sanctity to Qadris movement by calling it Long March Declaration. Thus for all political purposes, Dr Qadri was made part of the government. Dr. Qadri has been helped to create a new political power base of the Left in Punjab, in support of the PPP, encouraging the religious right, to make similar demands for marches and jalsas in sensitive zones ofIslamabad. The Shia community in Pakistan remains part of the majority, yet with the emergence of Qadri’s phenomenon, the Shia representation in his movement, coincided with the killing of Hazaras in Quetta by foreign agents, which causedcountrywide agitation. Thus, there was a visible design to create a Shia power-base in the country, which our enemies have failed to create, despite years of Shia-Sunni riots, killings and direct foreign intervention, such as in Parachinar.

Who is the brain behind Qadris movement? How it will impact the coming elections? Who is it to foretell peace and political stability in Pakistan? Thus the enigma of Qadris’ movement for change,” would linger on, leaving one wondering, “If change means tons of revolutionary garbage” to be left behind on the clean and shining Jinnah Avenue of Islamabad?

—The writer is former COAS.

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