Of self-exiled Canadians and 'peaceful' revolutions
For the past three days, headlines portray a Pakistan on the verge of descending into chaos; a long-awaited tsunami is about to sweep the capital; a self-claimed messianic revolutionary and his supporters are locked in a ‘peaceful’ struggle against the ‘Satanic’ government, while the sluggish government leaders are almost lazily dealing with a problem by barricades and containers that aren’t achieving their objectives.
Indeed, the main players of the government have more or less avoided admitting the failure of their leadership in dealing with a Canadian cleric, desperate to gain something out of perceived government dissatisfaction. In any other functional state, Tahirul Qadri, would have been sent to jail the minute he cried ‘revolution’ and called upon his supporters to ‘topple the government’.
In Pakistan, however, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has allowed police officers and lower-tier politicians to become scapegoats by tiptoeing around Qadri since his arrival in June. There is nothing ethical or liberal in allowing a ‘self-exiled’ Canadian national to come into our country and start launching tirades against state machinery, in the hope that his annual visits eventually allow him to achieve the highest office of Pakistan.
While Qadri claims his revolution is peaceful, the fact that his own statements call for a Bolshevik-like extermination of the Sharif family and a proper rebuttal of the police; makes his march worth stopping. The severe exaggeration he has made about the situation, by comparing it to the humanitarian crisis of Gaza, is ridiculous.
The deaths of four Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) workers and the arrests of nearly 500 did not come because the PML-N was afraid of the PAT’s non-existent political dominance, but after a police station was torched and the media itself circulated reports that a police officer had been killed, which has since been discredited. Six police officers from Pakistan’s most peaceful city, Lahore, are still missing; and there is little Qadri has to say about them or the many incidents of mob violence, except to lament about how brutal the government has become.
Qadri’s opportunistic use of women and children as human shields is equally disgusting. He calls upon his supporters to bring their ‘wives, daughters and mothers’ into protests, not because of any feminist beliefs he might uphold, but to further shame the government as it struggles to maintain national stability. Meanwhile, the women of Qadri’s own household are nowhere to be seen. Does he not trust the public enough or does he apply the rules of ‘purdah’ only on his womenfolk, knowing that without women martyrs, his protests won’t be nearly as pitiable or populated?
And of course, Qadri promises to defend democracy and introduce ‘real democracy’. Yet, those beside him are stooges from the Pervez Musharraf–era; stooges who undeniably lost last year’s general elections and only won once because of military approval. The likes of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) further corrupt his pro-democratic claims, as these parties only side with him in the desperate hope that the future will be in their hands to control, without having to deal with the hassle of gaining public support.
Some parties, now reduced to provincial borders, are celebrating the plight of Punjab by echoing Qadri’s grief and his Gazafications all the way in Sindh. Even though, the entire province has last year’s worst performance record, ranking behind insurgency-ridden Balochistan and Taliban-infested Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P).
Thankfully, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) has remained committed to its oath of being non-violent and hasn’t swooped to the Qadri-level of politicking. Someone needs to steal the spotlight from Qadri, and Imran Khan has always made big shows of support and will probably find success this time as well, even if the only marchers that make it to the show are local residents. But his objectives are just as murky as Qadris’, with grand exposes planned almost weekly never materialising, and with many PTI members being very public about their PAT-ward tilts.
From his simple demand of recounting in four constituencies, Imran Khan has jumped to demanding the retirement of the prime minister and wants mid-term elections, albeit, there is no legality in such demands. Perhaps clarifications do await us in the future, but it is clear that Imran Khan does have the right for such protests as the second-most voted party in parliament.
Just as clear as a person, who lives in Mississauga for most of the year, cannot come to Pakistan and claim his party is the right representative of the people, even while it ditched the electoral process and disrespected the power of a Pakistani citizen’s vote.