Cleaning up the mess after Dr Tahirul Qadri's Long March

Compare Tahirul Qadri to Imran Khan; Khan didn't sleep in comfort at his rallies, he slept outside with supporters.

Vaqas January 21, 2013
The long marchers are gone, but fear not fellow Islamabadis, they left us something to remember them by, namely, a 100-odd tons of trash lining the city’s commercial district.

The icing on the cake however, was the fact that many were praising the marchers for their behaviour and the freezing cold they were putting up with. I am yet to hear of a person who goes to work, leaves without punching anybody, and gets praised for it. Similarly, if someone were to go on a skiing trip with only t-shirts in their luggage, I doubt anyone would feel sorry for them.

The fact that violent protests are the norm in our society does not mean that we praise the non-violent ones, for not creating havoc. Rather, it is grounds for fresh (peaceful) protests to push for the punishment of the esteemed figures, including parliamentarians and local business and community leaders, who are behind the violence.

As for the cold, nobody ordered them to come here, and for many in the crowd, it was just a touch-and-go vacation --- a limited tour of the capital, and while there are many better places around Pakistan to spend a week, a free vacation is a free vacation.

Then of course, the sanitation complaints. While it would seem ludicrous to expect the government to set up temporary toilets for 50,000 people, the issue ended up becoming one of the protesters’ informal complaints against the state.

Exactly how many instances are there of a government facilitating protesters who want to overthrow it?

Most of that garbage would have been out of sight and in trash cans and bags if the long marchers, touted by many as 'organised', had actually planned ahead for the fact that they would eventually have to use the loo. Instead, they left the cleric at a nearby mosque in tears over what the mosque, and specifically its toilets, were looking like.

But then, there is no surprise in the fact that the rally fizzled out as soon as it rained. For all of the focus on keeping the sexes segregated and distributing tents and raincoats for the long haul, the ‘all the world’s a toilet’ strategy would, sooner than later, have proven to be their undoing.

One feels for the CDA’s sanitation workers, whose efforts to make the mess disappear have already been forgotten.

If there was an issue with sanitation, it must be blamed on the organisers, who got Mr Qadri a bulletproof SUV and container office to protect him from the elements while the crowd suffered.

Compare that to Imran Khan.

Whether or not you support the philanthropist and cricket legend’s political positions, he does not hide behind bulletproof glass when he addresses the public, even in places like Waziristan. He didn’t sleep in a comfort-controlled box at his rallies, he slept outside with his supporters. Neither of them are ‘true’ revolutionaries, but ironically, only the wealthy, Aitchison and Oxford-educated celebrity seems to understand the importance of being one with the people.

But then, one can’t blame Mr Qadri. He’s a refugee getting a chance to live the high life.

That of course brings us to the gent’s talking points on corruption and dishonesty.

The Mounties and Revenue Canada may force him to put his foot in his mouth over his hypocrisy. The Canadians aren’t the least bit happy about being played by this refugee, who ran off too Canada and asked to be given asylum because he was afraid to live in Pakistan anymore.

In addition, the much debated source of the funding issue might be cleared once the Canadians look into whether he was using charitable donations for political purposes (which is also a crime here, but our politicians will just claim that as per their finance statements, they are deserving of charity). By the way, according to DAWN,
“A TMQ spokesman said [Qadri] did not obtain Canadian citizenship because of security concerns but to get a credible travel document for seeking visas of different countries.”

That would seem to be an abuse of immigration laws in itself. So are his own spokespersons admitting he abused the Canadian immigration system?

As for Qadri’s “save the state, not the system” message, yes, our democracy is broken. It is an obvious ruling elite system rife with nepotism and internally-undemocratic political parties, but that does not mean the army should intervene. Democracy has a self-correcting mechanism called elections. If one feels the politicians aren’t doing their jobs, they should vote for change, not call for a military coup.

A functional democracy allows for gradual change and public opposition such as protests to avoid any radical shifts. It is democracy that gave Mr Qadri and others with varying ideological allegiances the right to protest against real or perceived injustices.

Dictators don’t clean up messes, they make bigger ones and blame them on the guys they kicked out.

So, before calling for a coup, just ask anyone who was protesting during the 1980’s how tolerant of opposition dictators usually are.

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