The Imran-Qadri headache

Daily: Daily Times
Date: 03.09.14

The political horizon of Pakistan has finally witnessed the emergence of a new pressure
group comprising the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) led by Imran Khan and the Pakistan
Awami Tehreek (PAT) led by Dr Tahirul Qadri. The other day, the latter called both parties
political cousins hell bent on altering the political trajectory of Pakistan. Perhaps these
parties could not be political brothers because one had a legitimate (electoral)
representation in parliament whereas the other was deprived of that privilege. By not
countering Dr Qadri’s claim, Khan tacitly accepted it and thereby reduced the status of the
PTI to that of the PAT.

Their synchronisation in several aspects showed that both parties share a common agenda
in intent and action. One of the more dangerous common tactics adopted by these political
cousins was inciting their followers to break the law. Unfortunately, on August 31, 2014, a
press release issued by the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) at the conclusion of a
hurriedly convened corps commanders’ conference, fell short of identifying or showing
concern about the incitement -- if the ISPR was keen to issue any such statement at all.

There are a few other injustices the press release conveyed. For instance, it said, “While
reaffirming support to democracy, the conference reviewed with [a] serious concern the
existing political crisis and the violent turn it has taken, resulting in large scale injuries and
[the] loss of lives.” The question is, why did the conference reaffirm its support to
democracy only, why not to the constitution as well? Similarly, why was no support to the
parliament extended by the conference? Do the corps commanders think that Prime
Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif should resign on the demand of Khan for the sake of
democracy even if the constitution does not demand it? Do the corps commanders think
that the parliament and all the provincial assemblies should be dissolved to meet the wishes
of Dr Qadri to realise his revolution?

The press release went on to say: “Further [the] use of force will only aggravate the
problem.” The question is, how have the corps commanders assumed the role of advisors
to the elected government? Even if the corps commanders assumed such a role, they
should also have given suggestions to the government about how to refrain the unruly and
fully provoked mob from crossing the red line of storming buildings. The aggravation of the
problem may be important but the question is: who created the problem? The activities of
Sheikh Rasheed, exchanging messages between people, indicate something. If not the
army, which institution of state does Rasheed claim his public association with? If not
something suspicious, what does the meeting of PTI Vice President Shah Mehmood
Qureshi with General (retired) Pervez Musharraf in Karachi a few days ago indicate?

If this was to be the quality of the press release, what was the hurry in calling the corps
commanders’ conference? In principle, the press release should have mentioned that the
corps commanders would not support any unconstitutional act by any party. Second, the
press release should have mentioned that the corps commanders would not support any
agitation or protest that could undermine the parliament. In fact, instead of leaving
ambiguities in the press release, the corps commanders should have been clear on their
stance on both the constitution and the parliament. This was important because the means
adopted by the followers of both the PTI and the PAT to access their ostensible rights
cannot be confined to them. The followers of other parties can repeat the same.
Furthermore, in the electoral rebound of the PPP and the PML-N and in the electoral
rejection of pro-Musharraf parties in the past two general elections, there is a point of
caution for all those thinking of the introduction of any version of martial law.

The press conference by Javed Hashmi, the president of the PTI, on August 31, should be
an eye opener for all those who still believe in the illusion that cricketing leadership is equal
to, if not better than, political leadership, that a good cricketing sense can also do wonders
in politics and that a cricketing hero can be a political hero. From the top of his container,
Khan kept on exposing his political naivety and stubbornness. Khan’s words and acts were
a blessing in disguise for the political system of Pakistan. One can imagine what would have
happened if Khan’s party had secured an overwhelming majority in the parliament. The
tendency in Khan to listen to no one could have put the whole region in crisis. Did the corps
commanders think about that?

It is understandable that the youth living in the homes of corps commanders consider Khan
their hero but it is not understandable how the same youth (and their parents) are blind to
the repercussions of the success of Dr Qadri’s revolution, in whatever form. Khan did an
unpardonable act of injustice to the political system by providing the cover of his party to
the PAT. Alone, Dr Qadri could not have gone to the extent he has gone and his followers
would not have resorted to breaking the law as they did on August 30. Khan has failed to
realise that the political treasure he gathered over the past 18 years has been lost in the
past 18 days.

Many people lament the procrastination of the government in meeting the demands of both
the PTI and the PAT. On the contrary, the present indicates that even if Khan’s initial
demand (of recounting votes in four national electoral constituencies) were met, August 30
was bound to visit Pakistan. Now, Pakistan must be ready to embrace a new kind of politics,
the one originated by the political cousins, the intent and actions of whom were overlooked
by the corps commanders.

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