General (Retd) Mirza Aslam Beg
No, this is not going to happen the way Dr Tahirul Qadri wants nor his ‘dharna’ (sit-in) at Jinnah Avenue is going to be the “tipping point”, as some analysts have opined. In fact, Dr Qadri is now on the back foot and would soon be booted out. The government has so far treated him with political decency but no more. In fact, Rehman Malik has put Dr Qadri under siege, behind a tight security cordon, restricting his space for maneuver. Dr Qadri landed in Pakistan with one-point agenda — ‘restrain Nawaz Sharif.’ He held a mammoth gathering at Lahore and it was there that he lost his bearing.
Dr Qadri’s agenda in 1999 was “Hatao (topple) Nawaz Sharif”. He was then part of the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA), led by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Awami National Party (ANP), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Imran Khan. They succeeded in installing General Pervez Musharraf and waited to be rewarded. He supported Musharraf through the referendum and the 2002 elections and was expecting a big reward for the services rendered, but got only a seat in the National Assembly. Out of frustration, he left the country and acquired the citizenship of Canada. For over seven years he preached and propagated “the concept of liberal and political Islam” and gained acceptability by the West and returned to Pakistan, armed with a mission: “Get the elections postponed and restrain Nawaz Sharif coming to power” because he (Nawaz Sharif) was not considered a friend of the United States as Washington Times lamented after the 2008 elections when Zardari formed the government:
“Washington’s Pakistan kibitzers will soon rue the day, they squeezed President Pervez Musharraf to restore democracy. ‘Democracy’ is what has now emerged, or an unholy alliance of long-time America haters. Acting as behind-the-scenes catalyst are the prominent America haters. The new behind-the-scene godfather of this broad-based, anti-US coalition is Nawaz Sharif, chief of the Pakistan Muslim League. This also puts Kiyani [General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani] in a quandary, [as] Musharraf has handed [him] over his military powers, along with a Rubik’s Cube.”
The response, which Dr Qadri received at Lahore on December 23, 2012 turned his head and he lost his bearing. He fell like humpty dumpty, breaking into parts:
- His demands were genuine but to say that the cleansing must be done within five weeks of all the ills and ailments of the last five decades was ridiculous, unless he were “to call the angles to perform the tasks.” He also didn’t spell out the mechanism for this mundane task.
- As his march started on January 13 for Islamabad, he had a new brain wave to demand dissolution of the Election Commission, which sounded the alarm bells in Islamabad.
- On reaching Islamabad on the January 14/15 night, he demanded dissolution of the assembly, termination of government and take over by people’s parliament by 11 a.m., otherwise he will storm and take over the government (as I write these lines he has crossed the barrier and is addressing the public opposite the assembly building).
- Because of lack of response and the restricted space, he has not been able to muster more than 25,000-30,000 people, mostly his Minhaj-ul-Quran Schools students and teachers, thus shattering the myth of “the critical mass” of millions of the Al-Tahrir Square of Egypt.
- Some political parties and persons, initially supported him, but have kept a distance from him now. Only Musharraf’s All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) and Sheikh Rashid seem to be betting on him. He is isolated.
- Dr Qadri has lost the support of the PPP government, who soon may decide to deport him and put a ban on the movement. The judiciary has warned him not to interfere with the ongoing process of elections. The army stands by its promise to uphold the Constitution, which embodies the will of the people. The media, by and large, has rejected his buffoonery.
- Dr Qadri’s unbridled ambitions and his unconstitutional demands have caused his self-destruct within a short period of a few days, whereas Tahrir Square revolution needed a larger time span of weeks for the materialization of its aim, and remained firm and constant throughout the period of the struggle.
“Dr Qadri’s surge” has, however, left a strong message for the political parties in power and those who are likely to form the next government that “the burden of change now falls on their shoulders.” The change must come through a very conscious and deliberate reckoning of the failings and weaknesses of the democratic order and the means and methods to bring about the change.
Tahirul Qadri seems to be at the wrong end of history in his demand to “save the country and not politics”. Pakistan came into being as a result of the political movement launched by Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. In 1971, Pakistan used the military power to correct the political split but failed. Now there is no other option other than to follow the path the nation has set for itself i.e., fair and free elections, on schedule, so that the new democratic order takes its corrective course to remove the scars of the present order.
As for Dr Qadri and his likes, they must remember the words of Allah:
“They consider themselves the greatest in the earth and maneuver evil schemes. And the evil schemes encompass only the schemers.” (Surah Fatir)
*The writer is Pakistan’s former chief of army staff and can be reached at:email@example.com