So says Canadian-Pakistani-Canadian Tahirul Qadri’s spokesman, Shahid Mursaleen, speaking to Reuters as his leader was arriving, reclining in Club Class, in Lahore, on diverted Emirates flight EK 612, on which, according to another report in the press, he was accompanied by up to 150 of his acolytes, the rest of the passengers numbering about 46 or thereabouts.
The Mureeds arrived in Dubai from Europe and North America to accompany him to Pakistan, and were strictly ordered to check in singly so as not to arouse the suspicions of the Dubai airport and Emirates airlines authorities. However, as soon as the plane approached Islamabad for landing, these braves took up defensive positions on all the doors despite the cabin staff and the Captain of the aircraft asking them repeatedly to sit down in their seats.
The plane was, quite correctly, not given permission to land in Islamabad where the airport was under siege by Qadri supporters and was at risk of being vandalised by the several hundred who had gathered there, bolstered by people bused in by the Chaudhries of Lahore’s Doongi Ground Scandal, and Shiekh Rashid ‘Talli’s’ several goondas. There was serious concern that an aircraft belonging to a foreign airline, of the 10 or so that still service Pakistan, would be damaged and passengers harmed.
The police were so terrified of acting strongly because of the hugely botched ‘operation’ in Model Town, Lahore, where 11 poor followers of the rabble-rouser had been killed and several injured just three days before, that they might well have wilted before a determined assault on the aircraft itself. Recall, too, that the preacher had taken an oath from his cult followers that they lay down their lives for the Cause!
But back to the flight and to the puerile actions of TUQ and his cultists. As soon as the plane gained height and changed direction and the announcement was made that the new destination was Lahore due to a security situation, the toughs sat down for a while and as the plane landed at Lahore, packs of 10 each took command of all the doors shoving the cabin crew aside, not allowing anyone off or on to the plane. They also raised blood-curdling slogans as if a political meeting was going on inside the aircraft, scaring some of the cabin crew so much that some of the poor things locked themselves in the toilets. The aircraft captain’s entreaties to sit down went unheeded, immediately attracting charges of hijacking and terrorism which would have led to stiff penalties anywhere else in the world.
And now Qadri’s politics, and of course the disgusting role of our electronic media in this sorry episode. First, the media. It seemed as if the only news in the world was the preacher and his so-called ‘Club Class revolution’. And as if the tragic but necessary exodus of up to 400,000 poor and defenceless and hungry and thirsty IDPs from North Waziristan was of no consequence.
Indeed, one of the few times that the Punjab Puls acted sensibly and UNDER CONTROL of its officers as one saw Live on our TV screens, and followed the riot-control SOPs of most civilised police forces in the world was in Rawalpindi outside the airport: advance threateningly towards the stone-throwing mob, shields up, and then after the mob runs backwards, withdraw. To advance again, then fall back, and so on; disorienting the crowd with tear gas.
And what do our disgraceful channels do? ‘Police paspah ho gayee’! Police maidan chorr keh bhag gayee’. ‘Maidan Dr Qadri kay hamiyon keh haath mein’! Neither was this all. The few times there was tear-gas shelling and a baton-charge, a silly and very breathless girl of a TV channel out of Islamabad likened the situation in Rawalpindi to Gaza and Indian-held Kashmir! I ask you! And this in face of the fact that her male counterpart, and a senior anchor taking part in the ‘show’ tried to calm her down.
As an aside: When the Commando wanted to give out tens of licences for electronic media outlets I repeatedly warned him that having lived under censorship for most of its life, our country was not ready for such complete madar-piddar azaadi. I gave the example of the BBC and suggested the government study proposals made in 1989 by the peerless Aslam Azhar to grant complete autonomy to PTV as a start. I know this because as Press Secretary to the much missed, much lamented Benazir Bhutto, I strongly recommended the proposals which she, too, agreed with. As chance would have it Mr GIK and Aslam Beg conspired to dismiss her government just then.
Must add that a man named ‘Shahid Aziz’ vigorously opposed what I was saying to the Commando, in The Nation!
‘He wants to topple the whole system’ does he? He wants the Constitution rolled up (Suo Motu, My Lords?); he wants the present National and Provincial assemblies and the Senate to be shut down; the courts closed (Suo Motu My Lords?). Most of all he wants the elected governments to be sacked. Er, how? From his insistence that only the Army can get him off the aircraft in Lahore one can see what he means. Sadly for him, the Army was not interested, so when the threat was made that the air-conditioning inside the plane was about to be switched off, the self-styled Shaikhul Islam suggested the Governor Punjab take him off the plane!’
Hot on the heels of all this tamasha came the news that brilliant lawyer SR Kasuri and Shahid Latif (Retd., Air Marshal) were members of a ‘Core’ committee of the Commando’s and TUQ’s parties. Hot on the wheels of which we were told that ‘Coach’ Sh. Rashid ‘Talli’ had asked his trainee Imran Khan to join this grand alliance, which includes the much vaunted Chaudhries of Doongi Ground.
Hot on the heels of which came the news that Imran Khan had threatened to dissolve the K-P government and join the revolution, leading many people to believe that he/his party can’t take the heat off the brave military operation against the murderous terrorists!
Published in The Express Tribune, June 27th, 2014.