How religion can be exploited to serve one’s political ambitions and how a network of madrasas can be mobilized to a street force, with all the trappings of ultimatums, threatening, sit-ins and fuming demonstrations, was driven home last week by Tahirul Qadri’s ‘long march’.
Intoxicating fresh minds on the religious plane is not that laborious nor does it need much investment as Qadri’s ‘democratic’ project reflected. Just blow a whistle the show gets staged. The frantic ease with which Qadri drugged his followers to leap and frolic, fret and frown, sing and swoon, bow and bend, has in it all the acrobatics of a maverick. He “succeeded” in pulling off a “marvelous” feat. That fetched him a delirious crowd of thousands of people. All loyal and on his single drag gesture.
As the media created the hype around his persona and cultivated his image of revolutionary, having a Holy Grail in his hands, Qadri perched himself and his Tehreek Minhajul Quran atop Pakistan constitution and the democratic institutions. He talked in language of ultimatums. Flexing muscles and waving clinched fists he thundered, he won’t ‘order’ his followers to vacate D Chowk (Islamabad) till all his demands are not fulfilled. And this meant virtually, nay literally, handing power to him and his TMQ alone. A string of demands he made included dissolution of parliament, all provincial assemblies and Election Commission, dismissal of PPP government to make way for impartial caretaker setup.
Whatever the shortcomings of the federal and provincial governments, they are legitimate bodies with constitutional authority, entitled to mandatory 5-year legal term. Election commission too derives its legality and authority from constitution. Also Pakistan Constitution provides that caretaker setup shall be decided by ruling and main opposition parties after parliament is dissolved.
All these demands were in direct clash with democratic institutions. It meant what Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan wanted to achieve with the barrel of gun, Qadri’s TMQ wanted to achieve through street force of dharnas, demonstrations and siege. And that too at a time when fledgling democracy in the country was struggling hard to strike roots and process of institutionalization of system of governance was gaining momentum and trust. His demands threatened the first ever possible transition in Pakistan.
His sudden and abrupt advent in Pakistan’s present polity, with 24X7 media coverage and his discordant speech at D Chowk, one for local audience in Urdu and other in English to please his masters abroad has in it many answers that eluded analysts and Pakistanis at the time he left Canada for his ‘country’. (Country? he has double-citizenship).
Now that his ‘million march’ (which did not swell beyond thirty thousand), far from turning out to be a game changer for different players in already beleaguered Pakistan, has proved a damp squib for Qadri and the proxy’s purse string holders, Pakistan has heaved a sigh of relief. The initial shock, though panicked Pakistanis, yet they showed resilience and absorbed it gracefully. For the first time in Pakistan’s history, an elected government was to complete its mandatory term and all the sordid attempts to derail the democratic process were defeated. A moment of great triumph for Pakistan certainly.
The ‘Long March Declaration’ he signed with authorities in Islamabad though has provided asylum seeker in Canada a face-saving exit yet in all its manifestations it has brought him all ignominy and ridicule. They say all is well that ends well. For ‘Islamic’ Republic of Pakistan, sure. Not for Maulana Sahab. One didn’t hear him since he left D-Chowk!
Tail Piece: – The ‘long march’ inflicted 28 billion of economic loss on traders of Islamabad when the hysteric crowd occupied D-Chowk? Another blow from Qadri’s TMQ. Add the tons of garbage which littered the Chowk . Does ‘Quranic Tehreek’ enjoy this eccentricity?