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March Madness in January

Considered the usual month for political madness in Pakistan, March came early this year, the turmoil complicated by election year factors. The obstacles of the Federal and Punjab Governments notwithstanding, the Tehreek-i-Minhajul Quran (TMQ) “Long March” came nowhere near the “million” mark claimed by Dr Qadri, People in small numbers kept joining those assembled in the kilometer plus D Square space in front of Parliament in Islamabad, by late afternoon Tuesday the calculation was closer to 100000 plus/minus.

A former professor of international constitutional law at the University of Punjab, Dr. Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri is a prominent authority on Islam, with more than 400 published works on Islamic scholarship, law and Sufism.  Born on 19 February 1951 in Jhang, he was educated at the Christian Sacred Heart School, going on to study Hadith at the Muhaddith al-Hijaz.  The late elder Sharif was his mentor, when Mian Nawaz became CM Punjab in the 80s, Dr Qadri was given 300 Kanals in Model Town to establish his Minhaj-ul-Quran.  Briefly becoming Member National Assembly during Gen Musharraf’s democracy before leaving for Canada, Dr Qadri considerably expanded Minhaj-ul-Quran International (MQI) using that base. Representing a moderate vision of Islam, its long term strategic vision is promotion of peace, love, harmony and modern Islamic sciences. MQI explicitly rejects terrorism and all other unjust violence as being entirely un-Islamic.

Elections in the present circumstances meaning a mere change of faces, Dr. Qadri wants them delayed until Pakistan’s endemic politically-based corruption is rooted out.  These calls for sweeping reforms have riled both the ruling PPP and the loyal PML (N) Opposition (late Gen Ziaul Haq’s “club of politicians”).  The means Dr Qadri is advocating to pursue demands for “good governance” may be wrong, the political parties decried such means quite rightly, why did they remain silent about peoples’ cries for good governance? Most politicians view him not as a champion of reform but as a tool of those with their own motivated agenda. These disturbing questions were raised earlier in a Dec 22, 2012  article, “Tahir-ul-Qadri is planning to return to Pakistan to instigate a “revolution” like the ones that have brought civil wars and instability to North Africa (i.e. Libya) and the Middle East (i.e. Syria), causing catastrophic grief and releasing a flood of extremists,” unquote.  The question bedevilling most analysts in Pakistan, a majority of whom trashed Dr Tahirul Qadri’s “invisible” agenda without taking issue with the stated one, who put Dr Qadri upto it?    In her piece “Who is Tahir ul-Qadri”, Shamila N. Chaudhry, writes “Could Qadri be another Imran Khan prototype, informally sponsored by the military? At least Khan can deliver the people. We should not overlook the meaning behind Qadri’s interestingly timed, well-organized and well-funded return. He says he wants to put “true democracy on track,” but Qadri comes at a time when the PPP-led government and the main opposition party PML-N are near agreement on the timing of elections and the caretaker government setup.” She goes on, “Speculating on the military’s connections to Qadri is unavoidable, but it is not the only issue Qadri brings to the fore. Something else much more tangible and visible is at work, the desperate desire of ordinary Pakistanis for change.” That aspiration for change is very visible, not only on primetime TV but in streets throughout the country.  Whoever’s agenda Dr Qadri is pushing is certainly important, far more important are his objectives, ushering in electoral reforms for a genuine democracy in Pakistan to replace the fraud in practice today.   How can those who break the law at will become framers of the laws of the land, and be expected to uphold the rule of law?

While the vast majority of muslim clerics are targeted and labeled “terrorists”, with so much anti-Islamic propaganda in the media,  why has Qadri remained unscathed and unmentioned, heralded as the advocate for world peace? As with all politicians, corrupt leaders and other such exploiters of the human race, one finds multiple flows of financing as a result of self-started organizations, political ties, and memberships. From where does Dr Qadri get his primary funding?

If the present regime has made bad governance into an art, what did others do before them? This democracy only functions to fulfill the needs and greed of the rulers and their functionaries.  This stood out in stark relief during the recent Balochistan crisis when no one of any consequence visited the Shia protestors, a majority women and children, braving the cold for several days and nights alongwith the dead bodies of their loved ones. The Provincial Government was dismissed by Presidential diktat only when it became apparent that the crisis could possibly derail the Federal Government itself.  Asif Zardari was helped along in his decision when a large group of Shia protestors somehow evading the strict security cordon in Clifton to stage a “Dharna” near Bilawal House in Karachi.

Democracy cannot work where its practitioners have no sincerity of intention or purpose. Most analysts agree that there is nothing wrong about the present Constitution, even though some do not agree with how the SC interprets it from time to time. Rulers present and past flout the Constitution at will themselves, at the same time they remain holier-than-thou about everyone else but their kith and kin remaining within its parameters.  Many TV analysts who bad-mouthed Tahirul Qadri (and his objectives) never once mentioned the crass criminal activity blatantly indulged by the rulers, their friends and relatives under the camouflage of the Constitution.  Dr Qadri’s contention that elections will simply replace faces is correct, for the most part.

All this dissolved into a Constitutional crisis tuesday when the SC ordered the PM arrested alongwith more than a dozen others in the “Rental Power Rental” (RPP) case.   Not Coincidence claim the conspiracy theorists, only fulfilling of an invisible agenda to derail democracy.  Qadri helped this perception along by immediately claiming partial “victory” in the middle of his speech, promising to continue the “Sit-in” till fulfillment of rest of the demands for change.    If the Shia protesters could sit out the Quetta’s freezing cold till the Balochistan Govt was shunted out, they can brave Islamabad’s freezing rain.   Certainly there is need for elections sustaining democracy but what if this democracy continues to sustain corruption, a Catch -22 situation? Do not confuse SC’s orders for Raja Pervaiz Ashraf’s arrest as an attack on democracy, a coincidence perhaps but orders for his arrest for corruption as an individual coincided with him being PM.  Let another PPP stalwart become as PM or simply announce the general elections! The country cannot afford a constitutional crisis because of the likely confrontation between the govt and the SC.  Previous experience shows Asif Zardari will back down if push comes to a shove, why let it come to shove?

When he made him PM, Zardari well knew that “Raja Rental” had been indicated by the SC in the RPP case. For those familiar with Zardari’s feudal mindset this appointment was a cold calculated display of contempt for the rule of law, a callously planned slap by Zardari in the SC’s face.  Well, the Honourable Justices just slapped back!


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