Second coming or a damp squib?

Published: December 26, 2012
The writer is a senior journalist and has held several editorial positions including most recently at The Friday Times. He is currently senior adviser, outreach, at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute

The writer is a senior journalist and has held several editorial positions including most recently at The Friday Times. He is currently senior adviser, outreach, at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute

So, Mr Tahirul Qadri has been dusted, remade, put in shining robes and para-dropped over Pakistan. By a strange coincidence, he has hit out at both major political parties, the PPP and the PML-N. Coincidently also, the MQM has declared full support for Mr Qadri, sending in a strong delegation to his rally at Minto Park. Strangely, he also chose to speak to the international community. As Mr Spock would say, ‘Fascinating!’

Conveniently enough, Mr Qadri also seemed to have a copy of the Constitution of Pakistan, flagged at Article 254, titled “Failure to comply with requirement as to time does not render an act invalid”, and stating that “When any act or thing is required by the Constitution to be done within a particular period and it is not done within that period, the doing of the act or thing shall not be invalid or otherwise ineffective by reason only that it was not done within that period.”

He has now given a deadline and wants the inclusion of all stakeholders in putting together a caretaker government. And while he says that he has neither been put up to this by the establishment — a euphemism for the long shadow of the military and the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate behind any move in combination with some politicians — nor does he want the next elections to be delayed, his invocation of 254, wrongly, and his insistence on including all stakeholders are ominous signs.

Let’s put some facts on the table. Mr Qadri wants things done according to the Constitution. That’s commendable. In 2008, elections were held under the Constitution. The parties that contested are in parliament; those who boycotted them are not. By all indications, in the 2013 elections, all parties plan to contest the elections. This is a positive trend.

Voters’ lists have been largely purged of bogus votes and the exercise of recording voters in Karachi is on. We have a new chief election commissioner who is known for his integrity and for speaking his mind. The Twentieth Amendment to the Constitution makes it mandatory that the prime minister and the leader of the opposition agree on the appointment of a caretaker PM and if they cannot do so, they will “forward two nominees each to a Committee to be immediately constituted by the Speaker of the National Assembly, comprising eight members of the outgoing National Assembly or the Senate, having equal representation from the Treasury and the Opposition, to be nominated by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition respectively”.

A similar exercise is to be repeated in the provinces in case of a deadlock. But the important fact is that any caretaker set-up must be agreed upon by the Treasury and the Opposition.

I am not a jurist and I will leave it to my eminent friends like Feisal Naqvi, Babar Sattar, et al to interpret Mr Qadri’s invocation of Article 254 to make space for a caretaker set-up beyond the mandatory 60-day period, but common sense tells me that Mr Qadri does not intend well in invoking the Article as he has done and without reading it in conjunction with Articles 224(1) and 224(A)(1) that deal with the caretaker set-up. In fact, 224(A)(1) was inserted into the Twentieth Amendment after a petition was filed in the Supreme Court requesting that the SC interpret the term ‘consultation’ and its scope as referred to in Article 224(1) and which was likely to become a contentious issue.

These articles do not refer to the operation of Article 254 as influencing their own mandatory stipulations both in terms of the 60-day period in which a caretaker government has to hold elections as well as the process through which such a government has to be formed.

To recap, if Mr Qadri is invoking the Constitution and if he wants to uphold it, as he did while waving a copy during his charged speech, he is unlikely to find any provision therein that makes even elbow-room for what he is implying. Of course, we have seen shyster interpretations of the Constitution in the past and that danger lurks still. But were anyone to combine the spirit and the letter together without the urge to find something in that document to justify mischief at the behest of forces extraneous to the political processes, he will not be able to do so.

Mr Qadri also fulminated against the current government for poor performance. In that he is largely right. But two points need to be stressed here.

One, it is incorrect to lump together the performance of a government with its constitutional existence. These are two separate domains and poor performance cannot be used as a weapon to call for extra-constitutional measures in the name of the Constitution.

Two, when Mr Qadri invokes the Constitution, he submits to its provisions. In which case, now that he has launched his party with such fanfare, it is his legitimate right, like all other parties, to contest for political space. The procedure for that is given in the Constitution. If he wins, he will have the opportunity to translate his vision into reality. Unless, as some say, he is a Canadian citizen.

Of course, there is the issue of performance. I also agree with him that the system needs to be reformed. That is a necessity about which I wrote in this space many months ago. But such reforms have to come from within the system that does not just include the political parties but also interested groups within civil society, think tanks, pressure groups, the media and the judiciary.

Any reform exercise from without, we being privy to such attempts in the past, will continue to fail and will always be haunted by the problem of legitimacy. Worse, it will leave the system more divisive than before. As Orwell said in a different context, “an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely”.

Finally, since Mr Qadri talked about probity and accountability, it will be appropriate if he were to begin at home and declare his assets and inform us of the source of his funding because adverts and political rallies, like the proverbial lunches, are never free.

Where did the money come from, sir?

Published in The Express Tribune, December 26th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (18)

  • afzaalkhan
    Dec 26, 2012 - 12:34AM

    Million dollar qts and rightly asked, who is funding Qadri? My inclination is to vote PTI but PPP led govt/ PML – N govt (punjab) are legitimate constitutional govts, I might disagree with governance but I have no disagreement over legitimacy and constitutionality. Ppl like qadree are danger to Pakistan when they openly propose unconstitutional means. If PPP get elected again I would hate it but won’t question its legitimacy.


  • Arifq
    Dec 26, 2012 - 2:12AM

    Dear Ejaz Sahib, why ask Allama only about his funding or intentions, why not Lion of Punjab Nawaz Sharif or Imran Khan? Were you not surprised by their sources of funding or popularity? This is Pakistan, we should let the people decide who they wish to elect or reject. If Allama or PTI surprise people with their popularity then it is the fault of experts for not being able to gauge public sentiment and resorting to preconcieved notions of unsubstantiated charges.


  • Aebak
    Dec 26, 2012 - 2:45AM

    See for yourself how this self proclaimed Sheikhul Islam is lying straight from his teeth, in Pakistan he claims to be the Messiah and in west he claims no political aspirations, very funny:
    How Allama Dr Qadri Mislead With his Doublespeak:


  • F
    Dec 26, 2012 - 3:57AM

    Not sure how journalist commentators can fly to Davos, DC, Delhi etc., write articles that parrot the GHQ and claim objectivity! In the interests of full public disclosure all influential sections of society, including journalists, should disclose their funding and biases.


  • Hamed
    Dec 26, 2012 - 5:50AM

    I think the writer of this article did not listen to the complete talk of Dr Tahir ul Qadri. He clearly addressed the question of where and how the biggest gathering for CHANGE was funded. It was funded by the people of pakistan and members of Minhaj ul Quran. If you know otherwise please give evidence and do not make allegations without any proof.

    Also, I have seen that many people have uploaded videos which are edited. I would request people to see the full video which are clearly available on youtube. Please do complete research and do not upload any edited clips.


  • mujtaba
    Dec 26, 2012 - 6:26AM

    I don’t think the writer listened the full speech. Just by listning his speech would have given you most of the answers.
    His funding comes from his followers. He has extensive following in & out of Pakistan. But people who benefit from this corrupt system didn’t expect such a large gathering. So now they’r opposing it one way or the other. Including getting personal and not listening the message he is giving.
    @ Aebak if you are capable enough to find this video, you must have enough ability to find its official reply too. Tahir-ul-Qadri has been presented out of context in your video.


  • Mirza
    Dec 26, 2012 - 9:50AM

    This is the independent and bold EH that I initially liked. Thanks for the Op Ed. The rightwing leaders have every right in Pakistan to descend upon the masses and have a safe life. It is only the democratically elected popular leaders that are targeted and butchered. You have to be careful before asking the Moulana for his source of funding. Many people have never inherited lot of money or worked in their lives till their deaths yet they spend tons of money on politics and live large.


  • nadeem
    Dec 26, 2012 - 10:32AM

    As Mr Spock would say ’eminently logical’. Where is this good Canadian citizen getting his campaign financing from?


  • Riaz Khan
    Dec 26, 2012 - 11:10AM

    Establishment new guy from the block! He is in politics since ages & could not win even a single seat but was able to attract lacs of people after becoming Canadian national. Pakistan is surely a Very Funny Country!


  • salman k
    Dec 26, 2012 - 11:30AM

    frankly i dont’t care about qadri my vote will be only for imran khan


  • nadya
    Dec 26, 2012 - 12:23PM

    you have raised a very pertinent question Ejaz, what is the source of funding of various political parties in pakistan. As far as i see Qadris funding, it has been generated over the years by the pakistani diaspora living in Europe. I am referring to my personal experience in Copenhagen where i have seen all the minhajis going crazy for contributing to the cause of Shaikh ul Isalam as he is quoterd. I have also heard from friends who have seen women take their jewellery off and contribute to Minhajul quran funds. the minhajis are quite organised. they have immense funds, ask for contributions during ramadan, floods and other calamities in pakistan. They own properties in Europe in the form of mosques and islamic schools. Also because mostly the Minhaj is the only Pakistani mosque structure available to Pakistanis in Europe as others are mostly Turkish or Egyptian, Moroocan, so it is quite popular. Last year when teh ban on Qadri was removed by the Saudi government and he had to perform Hajj, thousands of pakistanis living in Europe wanted to perform this task with the Sheikh and just to get a glimpse of their religious icon. That unfortunately is the popularity of Qadri.


  • EM
    Dec 26, 2012 - 2:13PM

    I am not supporting anyone here, but those in the civil society and the media talk about not derailing the system. We should ask ourselves whether this is this the right system? the constitution of Pakistan was designed by the man who was a himself a democratic dictator and a parliament mostly consisting of feudals. So who do you think they made the system for ” People???” Oh come on! give me a break!. They obviously made it to suit themselves, and people like them. They This system has repeatedly been giving us illiterate and corrupt feudals to rule our country. it is the right system for the politicians because it suits them. Does it suit the public?

    Now the question arises, as to why the same system works in India. It works there because they have abolished the feudal system at the very initial stage after getting independence while we have stuck to it. The result, incompetent and corrupt politicians getting in the parliaments. If people think it is the right system, then continue suffering. It will not improve let me tell you, even in 200 years, infact it may even deteriorate further.


  • Uza Syed
    Dec 26, 2012 - 6:37PM

    Whether you or anyone else likes or not what this Qadri is talking about is one of the articles of the same constitution that we never miss a chance to mention and hold sacrosanct as far as requirement of holding of elections within 90 days by a care taker, if this is a compulsion that we must follow (due to its constitutionality) then why must we be so slective and ignore Article 254 of the same sacred document called Constitution of Pakistan. I fail to recognize what makes one article of the same document hollier than the other, either the constitution must be followed in toto or whatever suits us and the situation demands.


  • Aahjiz BayNawa
    Dec 26, 2012 - 6:58PM

    Excellent anysis. Feudalism is one of the core of problems of Pakistan.Recommend

  • Aahjiz BayNawa
    Dec 26, 2012 - 7:51PM

    I second EM.Recommend

  • Hafeez
    Dec 27, 2012 - 11:28AM

    And what is your take on Mr Tahirul Qadri’s citizenship of Canada? Does he have the right to tell us what to do when he already has taken oath of allegiance to another country which means he will stand for Canadian interest if there is any conflict between Canada and Pakistan. Now here he comes and threatens a democratically elected government. I really do not understand you guys that how can you defend such a phony character.


  • A.U
    Dec 27, 2012 - 7:09PM

    cthe mass of people tugth of Qadri was not of him, it shows how fervently we Pakistani’s wish for a change. One had pinned thousands of gigantic hopes with Mr.Change (imran Khan) but he spectacularly failed . if you let met quote Orwell as you too have quoted him (all animals are equal but some are more equal than others) , after Lahore show Khan thought he had become nepolean of animal farm. He started inducting same pedigrees, same pirs ,chieftains, bla bla bla whom his followers were euphemistically against.this was the gathering once khan had attracted but as the people saw his actions turned their backs to him, that’s why a dispaired youths shifted their loyalties back to Pml (n).i am sure if khan again tries to hold Jalsa in Minar-e-Pak he will never be able to bring the crow he once had brought.


  • abu-uzhur
    Dec 28, 2012 - 3:46AM

    In spite of all the cynicism of the author I admire Maulana Qadri for two reasons . First , he presents a version of Islam which is compatible with values and realities of modern times We need such a formulation of Islam so urgently . Second , Maulana is the
    first Pakiatani leader ever who has tens of thousands of followers who are not just
    a rabble , but are a highly disciplined lot with vision and commitment . This is an absolutetly new phenomenon in Pakistan . Wish Maulana a constructive role in our
    political and spiritual life .


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