Cleric Tahir Ul Qadri and cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan have brought the political traffic to a standstill in Pakistan. The events unfolding in the volatile country for more than a month now give a feeling that Pakistan, which recently saw the first smooth transition of power since its birth, is still far off from evolving as a real democracy.
Right from the departure of British rule in 1947 and the birth of Pakistan, the country has witnessed the ebb and flow of political turmoil in the form of democracy being replaced by the military dictatorships. The feudal elements have remained intact in the Islamic country and they virtually control its bureaucracy, military and politics. On the socio-religious level, the influence of Ulema has been overpowering.
The current crisis is a logical corollary of many factors. Imran Khan, Chief of Tehreek-i-Insaf party, was projected as the future prime minister of Pakistan by many before the elections to the country’s National Assembly. His charisma was captivating for one and all. His capability to act as a bridge between the extremist elements (non-state actors) and the state was appreciable. He took a lead in the protest march aimed at the supremacy of judiciary. No wonder he didn’t support the protest March of Tahir Ul Qadri when the latter went all out against the erstwhile president of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zadari, demanding the sweeping electoral reforms.
Qadri’s protest march was largely snubbed as an attempt to derail the democracy in the country. However, the National Assembly election results of 2013 drove frustration in the rank and file of Pakistan Tehreek-I- Insaaf. Khan demanded an impartial inquiry for he believed that “large scale rigging” had taken place. He kept clamoring for revisiting the election results but couldn’t find many takers within the Parliament. No wonder, Khan in support of his claim has repeatedly mentioned the statement of interior minister of Pakistan in which he said that thousands of votes were unaccounted for. It set the stage for the impending crises Pakistan is grappling with at the moment.
As for Tahir ul Qadri, his aggressive posture against Nawaz Sharif-led government should be seen more as a reaction to the 17th June, Model town, Lahore tragedy in which scores of his workers were killed in police barbarism . The police went berserk at the Minhaj-ul-Quran headquarters, Lahore which saw scores of people dead from indiscriminate firing. Moreover, the heart rending scenes of police brutality could have moved any heart in the world. I don’t take up the case of Qadri but one should not lose sight of the fact that the government action was uncalled for and it should have acted with more maturity before going with and deciding for arbitrarily removing the ‘barricades’ around the Minhaj-ul-Quran Headquarters. To add insult to the injury, no FIR was registered against this barbarism.
Nevertheless, we may have differences with the stubborn approach adopted by Qadri and Khan but there is least scope for having differences with them with regard to their apparent goals aimed at effecting reforms in Pakistan. Khan should be credited for bringing in the educated middle class in the Pakistan politics – a healthy trend for any democracy. And then the Minhaj-ul-Quran of Qadri is a religious and philanthropic organization active in more than a hundred countries. He is widely respected across the world as a moderate religious scholar. One cannot but appreciate his scholarly attainments.
All said, Pakistan is going through tough times. Both Khan and Qadri should have given credence to the negotiating teams who apparently accommodated their main demands. Khan was and is being assured that a judicial commission will probe the election results of 2013 Pakistan Parliamentary elections and in case the allegations of election manipulation and mass rigging proved right, Sharif will have to go.
Simultaneously, an FIR has been lodged for the 17th June Model town, Lahore tragedy which indicts among others the chief minister of Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif and the Prime minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif. Moreover, he has been assured that his scheme of reforms aimed at percolating the benefits of democracy to the grassroots level will be given a space and duly accommodated.
Khan should not forget that he is left on slippery ground. His party president, Javed Hashmi, has left him and he has revealed and leveled some startling allegations against him. Hashmi alleged that Khan was following the script written by Pakistan army. Moreover, Khan was alleged to have some understanding with Qadri before commencing their respective ‘Azaadi’ and ‘Inquillab’ marches. That Army intervened and both the leaders happily reciprocated by having a meeting with the top brass of Pakistan military. This lent credence to the view that they prefer army rule over democracy. Further, the parliament of Pakistan has remained united in its support for the incumbent prime minister of Pakistan. Every party has pledged its support to uphold the sanctity of constitution and safeguard democracy. Khan and Qadri should realize that Pakistan cannot afford another spell of political turmoil. Pakistan is up against her more vocal rival India ever since the Narendra Modi-led BJP took the guard at Delhi.
An example of how hyper- sensitive the BJP government in India is can be had from its recent step whereby it called off the diplomatic correspondence with Pakistan just on the pretext that Abdul Basit, its top envoy to India, hosted the Hurriyat leadership of Kashmir.
An unstable Pakistan is certainly not a viable option at present given the enormous threat posed by extremist elements in Pakistan. Operation Zarb-i-Azb against the extremist elements is in operation and a unified political leadership is required in Pakistan to hold the country together. Pakistan witnessed a smooth transition of power in 2013 Parliamentary elections and the world acknowledged the steady march and triumph of democracy in Pakistan. Any attempt at military coup will isolate and discredit Pakistan at the international level.