Qadri — a genuine threat?

Published: January 10, 2013

The writer is a freelance journalist based in Islamabad. He has previously worked at The Express Tribune and Newsline

In all the excitement over Tahirul Qadri, Canada’s most popular export since Bryan Adams, one thing has been overlooked: his power is restricted to holding meaningless rallies and will not translate to electoral victory. This likely does not matter to Qadri, who will enjoy his 10 minutes of fame, but it must be very aggravating for his patrons. The establishment, if you want to use a euphemism for the men in khaki, is used to silently guiding elections in its favour from behind the scenes. If that is not an option, it simply takes the reins of power and meets no resistance. Neither of those options seems possible this time round.

Instead, the military is reduced to just parading its man around Pakistan and whipping up likely paid participants into a frenzy over some of the most boring demands ever made by a demagogue. Unconstitutional though his suggestions may be, Qadri is hardly threatening to bring down our democracy with fire and brimstone. He just wants a caretaker government to be appointed — with the military being part of the selection process, of course — for a bit longer than it normally would. This is hardly the stuff of which anti-democratic revolutions are made.

Qadri may just end up representing the last ineffectual stand of the military. The institution that has been accused of rigging results is now not in a position to select our next government. The waning of its power was hastened by Imran Khan, who looked like he may be the man to take down the PPP, which the military has always abhorred, and the PML-N, whose anti-military stance has the army worried. But there now seems no chance the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf can win enough seats to have any influence in a coalition government, let alone emerge as the largest party in the country.

Recent events aside, the relative sidelining of the military has been in motion for a few years now. Thanks to the Supreme Court, whose brave stand against General (retd) Pervez Musharraf and recent investigation into the rigged elections of 1990 put the army on the back foot, the military would meet more resistance than ever before if it tried to dust off the doctrine of necessity for another round. This time, the PPP and the PML-N would be united, their many differences aside, in opposing army intervention. And there is absolutely no public desire for a military government despite the frustration and anger at the PPP’s shockingly poor governance.

We should look at Qadri, not as a threat but as the establishment ineffectually lashing out at its own lack of influence. Here, you have a man who has not lived in the country he hopes to change for many years. Renting a crowd is still easy for the establishment but there is a huge difference between feeding a couple of hundred thousand people pulao and buying off the entire electorate. Qadri is a nuisance, not a threat.

This does not mean the military has been sidelined forever. Part of the reason the PPP government has been able to complete its term is that it has abdicated huge swathes of foreign policy to the military without even trying to fight for it. Every time the military has felt threatened, it has lashed out like a spoiled child. The only difference is that now it does not bring down our entire system of democracy. It might get scalps like Husain Haqqani but the ultimate prize will continue to evade it for the forseeable future.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 11th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (16)

  • Khan Bhai
    Jan 11, 2013 - 12:11AM

    Nadir, you lose credibility every time you pretend overseas Pakistanis are “unPakistani” or lesser Pakistanis. The man who made Pakistan lived overseas for many years, we know him as Baba-e-Qaid. Using this as your argument just makes you look desperate in my view and I am not even a Qadri supporter.


  • Sterry
    Jan 11, 2013 - 1:26AM

    Tahirul Qadri may have run away to Canada the last few years and sworn allegiance to the British Monarch in order to become a Canadian citizen but he hardly qualifies as a Canadian export. Bryan Adams is a singer who earns his own money not because he solicits funds from followers. To hear Tahirul Qadri justify his need to get Canadian citizenship was simply amusing. In his words spoken on a TV interview, he needed ongoing medical care in Canada as advised by his doctors. No doctor I know would say such a thing. Most agree that Tahirul Qadri is only serving his own agenda of power and attention seeking and not the military agenda. I would say the military understands the need for strong institutions. Tahirul Qadri may be able to confuse some working class religious zealots in Canada who will part with their hard earned money but most seasoned Pakistani citizens see him for who he is. An opportunist who has returned to play the role of spoiler a few months before the elections. I am sure Tahirul Qadri will be running back for medical care in Canada very soon but this time it will be to nurse a bruised ego after his attempts at chaos fail.


  • sabi
    Jan 11, 2013 - 2:33AM

    There were times when people used to distribute sweets on military coup.Now same people are a possible hurdle towards military coup.To force people to distribute sweets for next intervention terrorists are let lose mercilessly upon them.Is there any confusion??


  • saleem
    Jan 11, 2013 - 3:13AM

    After a long time a very correct assessment, however the escalation of firing in the border areas may be another trump card and will be used effectively once the caretakers are here. So watchout


  • sabi
    Jan 11, 2013 - 3:15AM

    Agreed 100%.But let’s hope he doesn’t escape.He owes a lot to this nation.


  • sabi
    Jan 11, 2013 - 3:22AM

    @Khan Bhai:
    Was there any Pakistan.And what overseas-He lived in british empire whether India or england didnt make any difference.You are Comparing orange with apple.



  • sanman
    Jan 11, 2013 - 4:33AM

    Qadri is more a military import than a Canadian export. Just like mysterious overseas businessmen who are able to tell tales about Pakistani ambassadors, likewise Qadri is another “overseas asset” who is being pulled back in to save the generals and their chauffered limousines. I don’t see Qadri giving up his foreign Canadian citizenship, though. Is he ready to become a full Pakistani, or is he hoping to be sent back abroad on another plum military assignment?


  • ifti
    Jan 11, 2013 - 8:49AM

    Good… I think that the writter is lacking something very importent.. Analsis power….
    Please tell me just 2 questions… Do you have solid evedence that Ik and Qadri are being funded by Militry…? and Do you have any info about the Qadri’s statements …He is just saying that We need to ActUPon the Pakistani Constitution…. Rule of Law…and and the omst importent one ….Elegibilty Critaria to become a Polular Representative….


  • Mirza
    Jan 11, 2013 - 10:18AM

    A balanced and precise analysis of the current affairs. Thanks ET for this wonderful Op Ed.
    Here is the truth about the claims and achievements of Qadri. This is a response by the most prestigious Institution of Islamic education.


  • Zab
    Jan 11, 2013 - 12:11PM

    This piece by Mr. Nadir and ET can be said anything but, balanced! What is Qadri demanding? All what is written in the constitution to be actually implemented, right? The military establishment has supported this pathetic government in most of its actions.. The writer praised the Judiciary here, but forgets the treatment this “Democratically” Elected government gave to the landmark and historic decisions given by the same Supreme Court et al (Judiciary) during the last five years? Please recall, one of such decisions made by Supreme Court to get rid of MPs with forged degrees: 91 MPs had forged degrees, 250 MPs didn’t submit their degrees for verification to the HEC and many of those MPs returned to the parliament in the ‘Fair’ bye-elections held under the highly praised CEC, Mr. Fakhruddin G. Ibrahim?

    How many of these elected MPs pay taxes? The Masses faced all sort of inflation, fuel shortages, Power Failures, but these All Democratic MPs and their leaders enjoy free fuel from the government as a perk of being an MP, regular increments in their monthly salaries etc not mention the government sponsored jalsas of the Khadim-e-Aala, Qaid PML-N, and the Prime-minister who was named the main suspect in the Rental Power case by the Supreme Court and the Barsi of the “Shaheed BB”? Did anyone read that piece yesterday where Election Commission published the assets and party accounts of the Political Parties—-isn’t it ‘funny’ to read that PPP had only a few lakhs in its accounts? and similarly other parties which spend millions on single “jalsa” have a few millions in their party accounts? if one thing is considered right for the democratic parties why the same is considered wrong for someone else…

    If Nawaz Sharif had the RIGHT to have Long March to enact the Judiciary? That Difa-e-Pakistan Council (which had all Taliban Sponsoring Parties the ASWJ (former Sipah-e-Sahaba), Hafiz Saeed, Hamid Gul etc) had the right to do the long-march? why not Mr. Qadri being allowed to do the same? Why the TV anchors and Media Men (who had been portraying themselves over the past ten years or so as the sole men of honour and integrity for the betterment of Pakistani Society) find this Long March as destabilizing factor for our Land of the pure – Pakistan. Whats the agenda behind media onslaught on Dr. Qadri? To me it only seems that every one that I mentioned above wants to continue with the status quo.


  • Jan 11, 2013 - 8:26PM

    ” Instead,the military is reduced to just parading its man around Pakistan and whipping up likely paid participants into frenzy over some of the most boring demands ever made by a demagogue”
    The writer seems oblivious of of the fact that Army has accepted civilian control and supports the democracy.It is now unfair that one continues the campaign of army head bashing and spewing venom against a state institution.


  • observer
    Jan 11, 2013 - 10:57PM


    How many of these elected MPs pay taxes?

    More than Qadri, to say the least.

    All Democratic MPs and their leaders enjoy free fuel from the government as a perk of being an MP, regular increments in their monthly salaries

    So do the faujis, so why is Qadri asking for role of Army in Government?

    If Nawaz Sharif had the RIGHT to have Long March to enact the Judiciary? That Difa-e-Pakistan Council (which had all Taliban Sponsoring Parties the ASWJ (former Sipah-e-Sahaba), Hafiz Saeed, Hamid Gul etc) had the right to do the long-march? why not Mr. Qadri being allowed to do the same?

    Because, Mr Qadri is a Canadian and not a Pakistani citizen.


  • True_Pakistani
    Jan 12, 2013 - 12:30AM

    Even if Tahir-ul_Qadri is a military import, he is better than two of the most corrupt leaderships in Pakistan’s history. I think its time to dissolve this corrupt ,feudal and so called democratic system and introduce genuine democratic system in Pakistan,Parliamentary system in Pakistan will only nurture feudalism. Pakistan is need of a Presidential system.


  • Zab
    Jan 12, 2013 - 11:24AM


    Dear, Its all your call and decision, I have no issue if you and others like those in the media want to continue with the status-quo..

    BTW the judiciary has returned all those petitions where it was requested to stop a “Canadian” (Dual National) from holding the long – march..


  • stevenson
    Jan 13, 2013 - 2:58AM

    @True_Pakistani: When an opportunistic runaway like Tahirul Qadri wants to fly back and create anarachy and disorder in Pakistan, it is the job of the government to arrest him and put him in jail. Now that Qadri has pledged allegiance to the British Queen to get Canadian citizenship, ask him to try balck mailing the governemnt in Ottawa or London to change like he is doing in Pakistan. I can guarantee you, this guy would be thrown in jail. It is a shame that this guy who worked with the dictator Musharraf wants to interfere in Pak politics now.


  • True_Pakistani
    Jan 16, 2013 - 2:54AM

    Even if Qadri as a dual national, the rest of people are not, Can u explain why are they protesting. This govt has lost the right to govern people.You can not get elected on the basis of false slogans, there has to be some performance and even after all this these people get elected than there is major problem in this electoral system.


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