Qadri’s Long March and democracy

Published: January 13, 2013
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File photo of Tahirul Qadri. PHOTO: AFP/ FILE

File photo of Tahirul Qadri. PHOTO: AFP/ FILE

The only thing we know about Tahirul Qadri’s January 14 Long March in Islamabad is that it will be attended by a lot of people. We still don’t know who has gathered those people and if they are being paid to attend. We don’t know who is behind Qadri and what his ultimate game is. Most bizarre of all, we don’t even know exactly what Qadri is protesting against. He claims that the democratic system has failed Pakistan and what is needed is a long period of caretaker rule by technocrats, appointed in conjunction with the military and judiciary, before we can ‘clean up’ our system and hold democratic elections. These are hardly the kind of soul-stirring revolutionary words which bring people by the millions out to the streets and yet, if one is to take Qadri at face value, he has struck a vein and become one of the most popular political figures in the country.

There is reason to doubt the nobility of Qadri’s intentions. His rallies have simply been too well organised, brought out too many people for a previously marginal figure who has spent much of the last decade abroad and served the agenda of anti-democratic forces too well to simply be accepted as what they are. Even if Qadri is not directly supported by the military, they are surely cheering on the sidelines as this religious leader seeks to undermine a government that is at the fag end of its term. Elections are scheduled to be held in a few months and there is a process in place to appoint a caretaker government but Qadri would rather we do without the democratic process. For this alone he is a dangerous threat to our burgeoning democracy and thus should be treated warily by everyone. The MQM has finally, after a period of flip-flopping, decided not to support the Long March but that it ever considered doing so shows just how threatened our democracy may be, even by parties which constitute a critical part of it.

Qadri presents himself as a man of integrity but it must repeatedly be pointed out that he wants to essentially hold the Constitution in abeyance. The Constitution has specifically laid out the roadmap for conducting elections, which includes the appointment of a caretaker government for a specified period to be selected by our politicians. There is absolutely no provision in our Constitution for a caretaker set-up to be appointed indefinitely and there is certainly no role for the military or the judiciary to play here. Any appeal Qadri has should be strictly limited to those few people who actively want democracy to fail.

Even if Qadri’s intentions are taken as genuine and we assume that there is no malignant force behind him, his proposed solutions betray a certain ignorance and impatience. The biggest problem with our democracy today isn’t our politicians and political parties but that we simply haven’t given democracy the time it needs to take root and work. We gladly allow military dictators to rule over us with false promises for a decade but start yearning for quick fixes after trying out democracy for just a year. This is not the way to build political institutions. Instead, we should celebrate the fact that we are poised to hold consecutive elections for the first time and resist Qadri’s appeal to take the politicians out of politics. Putting aside our democratic system for now will only mean an even longer wait for much-needed improvements in the process. Qadri isn’t proposing any solutions; he just wants to kick the can down the road.

Every well-wisher of democracy should hope that Qadri’s Long March in Islamabad turns out to be a non-event. The last thing this country needs is a postponement of the scheduled elections. This will also be a test for our politicians, all of whom need to stand firm and united against Qadri and his desire to hold democracy hostage. Ultimately, we need to make sure that Qadri is not a harbinger of future events but merely a footnote at this momentous time in our history.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 13th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (20)

  • Tariq
    Jan 13, 2013 - 1:09AM

    Starting an article with cynicism is amateur !

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  • sabi
    Jan 13, 2013 - 1:15AM

    Half work is done by MQM,the rest half will be done by punjab government and long march will reduce to just few thousands scatered people.chanting slogans destroying public property,laying blame on government for every damage.That is the history of religious clerics and natur is not going to change.Zardari once again appears wining.

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  • Ch. Allah Daad
    Jan 13, 2013 - 1:45AM

    Excellent editorial..This is how an anarchist can creat chaos and uncertainity in our counrtry.

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  • iLiberal
    Jan 13, 2013 - 1:53AM

    Well I would be a well wisher of democracy if I know exactly what democracy has given to Pakistan in the last four years otherwise its better that we rid ourselves of this revenge of democracy.

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  • Sharique
    Jan 13, 2013 - 2:11AM

    Qadri is just another joker in the pack of jokers called PAKISTAN. They had never understood the meaning of democracy nor can they ever understand it. Qadri’s real intention to achieve political powers is becoming clear after he long pretended to be a “religious scholar”.

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  • Mirza
    Jan 13, 2013 - 2:55AM

    Qadri was a tool and supporter of Gen Mush. No wonder he still does not like democracy. The commando was supposed to come back and APM to contest elections. That balloon has popped and a new “commando” has descended at the right time before elections. The reason Qadri is sighting for his long march are the same each and every dictator has given before he usurped power. In 21st century world the generals cannot come to power directly. Hence another tsunami or revolutionary is brought in. While Shia and others are killed by hundreds the last thing we need is disturbance in the other areas as well. If Qadri has any love for his previous homeland he would go to Quetta and have a long march there to protect the innocent people. But the road to power does not go via Quetta.

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  • stevenson
    Jan 13, 2013 - 3:07AM

    Tahirul Qadri took part in Pakistani politics under Benazir and under Musharraf before running away to swear allegiance to the Queen and become a Canadian citizen. He lacks any moral authority to comment on politics or anything in Pakistan – especially when he tells Pak media that he had to become a Canadian citizen in order for medical treatment! Such a character would be thrown in jail for trying to black mail the government in Canada or any society but Pakistanis quitely allow this man to create anarchy and mayhem. He shold be deported or thrown in jail for calling for unlawful behaviour a few months before the elections!

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  • khalid
    Jan 13, 2013 - 4:53AM

    a biased piece of crap without any substance, only assumptions and guess work. Recommend

  • Zahid Iqbal
    Jan 13, 2013 - 4:55AM

    “His rallies have simply been too well organised”

    …could this be because his supporters are good at…ummm..organising?

    He may have spent a few years abroad, but in that time he hasn’t neglected his followers in Pakistan, whom he’s developed into a force to be reckoned with. A much more plausible explanation, perhaps.

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  • Fouad
    Jan 13, 2013 - 7:36AM

    Oh come on, nothing wrong with our politicians or political parties? There is a reason why Qadri has struck a cord with this hapless nation. Please think outside this closed “democracy”box you are living in and you will see how terribly people have suffered in the last 4 years of “ddemocratic” rule. Ask the Quetta victims, where the he’ll is that democratic CM?, oh yes vacationing in dubai. Wow great democracy indeed.

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  • Clear Black Bag
    Jan 13, 2013 - 10:59AM

    This can never be said assuredly and surely that if any accord shall be or is signed or not between the government and Tahir-ul-Qadri in Islamabad on or after 14th January 2013 during the long march but this is confirmed that national and provincial assemblies are not going to be dissolved by this long march and as usual shall be dissolved in March 2013,but if provided that the government shows honesty,sincerity and truthfulness and fulfills its commitments and promises,as the government has announced the date of March 2013 and there may/shall be the biggest threat of any mishap/blast during this long march because according to the Samaa TV’s yesterday’s news (12/01/2013) that the government has blocked the road by a container filled with 32 ton acid and batteries intentionally besides knowing exactly and accurately about the harmfulness of acid……

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  • padishah
    Jan 13, 2013 - 11:02AM

    @Tariq:
    Agree completely. ET ostensibly is protecting the status quo rather than support constitutional supremacy that Qadri is seeking. As a person who has no charges pending against him, unlike most of our representatives and establishment, E T cannot see a good thing when it arrives but still trying to carry us on the road to perdition.

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  • Aijaz Haider
    Jan 13, 2013 - 12:12PM

    “Every well-wisher of democracy should hope that Qadri’s Long March in Islamabad turns out to be a non-event.” and there are no terrorist attacks – Ameen.

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  • Z.Khan
    Jan 13, 2013 - 1:29PM

    Not all the contents of ET editorial aught to be agreed. I do not know ET editorial will have the courage to publish these comments or not but I consider my duty to express them explicitly. Close observation of all the unfolded events explicitly indicates establishment and judiciary supporting the event though in an implied way. In his whole conversation, “Sheikhul Islam” many a times praised both the institutions. Except for PPP and PML (N) no one is his target. The military in the past has also suggested that free and fair elections can be held only after the system is cleaned up, said Raza Rumi, director of the Islamabad-based Jinnah Institute.”TQ clear stance is also that elections should be delayed, that way cleanse the electoral system and then go for elections.The Pakistani establishment is widely believed to dislike both the PPP and the PML-N and wants a more pliable government that would protect its interests, though it has denied playing any role in Qadri’s campaign.In a country where conspiracy theories abound, there are also rumors the U.S. and Britain are backing him, something both their embassies have denied.

    Establishment and judiciary both wanted some strong person to jolt the politics of these two main stream parties. In the hat of Sheikul Islam they found a right man for the right job and that too when the iron is quite hot. Long march is bound to be held as is the aim of establishment and judiciary. Lot many people will attend it. Probably there will be no violence and extremist attacks. Shiekh will submit his charter of demand and will force the government to bow its head to some of these points. Most important is the appointment of care taker PM. Sooner this demand is met will call off the march. At the other end is also a genius politician in the form of Mr Zardari. Till the end he will keep on playing his cards.

    On the other side ET editorial has a clear cut message for establishment and judiciary to let the democracy work in the country. However it is also true the current democratic system does not permit morally good people to share the governance of the country. Some thing in middle is needed and hopefully this long march will lead to this aspect to an extent. Now let us see how events unfold.

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  • nadeem
    Jan 13, 2013 - 2:51PM

    Qadri is basking in his 15 minutes of fame. Too bad he tried his luck at a time when the citizens of Pakistan are more capable of identifying charlatans and martial-sponsored candidates (than they were a few years ago).

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  • Trax
    Jan 13, 2013 - 4:20PM

    Fine…don’t go with him…but pls do tell how will we ensure that someone who does not pay taxes, does not pay their utility bills, gets big bank loans and gets them written off cannot take part in the elections? Don’t say “people will reject them in the elections” because the other option against them is also their son-in-law or brother…and they can’t be rejected bcuz they stand from the tickets of the two major parties…and thanks to the election commission for enhancing allowable election expenses to around Rs.6 million, which I am sure everyone of the upright people have to contest against these “leaders by birthright” … So does anyone have any other solution other than the people standing up for what they believe is right?

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  • Ch. Allah Daad
    Jan 13, 2013 - 7:28PM

    Thank you Lahore. You have passed democracy test. Hardly any Lahore resident went with this crazy entertainer. This has proven to be history’s smallest long march.

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  • John B
    Jan 15, 2013 - 6:32PM

    @Z.Khan:
    Guess your analysis proved to be correct. I also mentioned as such but yours is more detailed and turned out to be on the dot. Good work.

    Who is the care taker PM now ?

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  • W. S.
    Jan 15, 2013 - 6:35PM

    @Mirza:
    Well I’ve no idea that whether Qadri has anything to do with Musharraf or what. I don’t know what’s behind him, what are his plans but the thing is that he is the man who united our nation for the sake of fighting for our rights. Can’t you see the long-gone unity, faith and discipline in the Pakistanis in the long march? I think it IS the time for change. If Qadri is unfaithful, then our government heads are worst than him. For those who consider constitution, I’d like to say that revolution has nothing to do with constitution. Was it crazy? Yes, it was. Was it smallest and unfaithful? No it wasn’t. At least with his help we can get rid of our “smart” government’s problems.

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  • W. S.
    Jan 15, 2013 - 6:37PM

    @Aijaz Haider:
    There are NO terrorist attacks, as perceived by Rahman Malik “sir”, and Qadri’s long march has brought the change.

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