The Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri show, or as my friend Ejaz Haider puts it, the “Lucky Irani Circus”, finally made it to where they wanted to be in the first place and where the Mian Nawaz Sharif regime did not want them at any time, at the “D Square” in front of Parliament (in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad). While it was a massive crowd, the numbers do not matter. The emotions of the men, women and children who braved both the artificial and natural odds to follow their leaders to their date with destiny did. Contrary to the government-fed propaganda most of our more renowned television anchors were parroting ad nauseam, the PTI (Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf of Imran Khan) followers remained true and faithful.
Not politically extensive nationwide as Imran Khan’s, Tahirul Qadri’s flock in Islamabad numbered far more. Their remarkable capacity to remain resolute and with resilience, all with remarkable discipline, belies political reckoning. Make no mistake, the Sharifs under-estimated Tahirul Qadri’s political nuisance value. Alongside Imran, he may well bring down their govt.
Any strategy is nonsense until it is successful, by converging in front of Parliament by midnight, give and take a little, the two columns have become a constitutional headache of some proportion for the govt. It will take a Houdini act for the Sharif brothers to get out of this one, including shutting up the likes of Pervez Rasheed, Saad Rafique and Marvi Memon for some time (fortunately for the Sharifs, Khawaja Asif has become a born-again khaki fan recently).
One feels sorry for Chaudhary Nisar Ali Khan, as the government’s pointman for the bluff and double bluff the regime was attempting, he must be embarrassed but thankful that the police did not do another “Model Town”. Despite the Sharif regime’s insinuations about the Army backing them to the hilt and Mian Nawaz Sharif using every photo-ops moment with General Raheel Sharif, the Army failed to come to the party.
That the regime has turned repeatedly to the army chief recently by itself conveys the seismic shift in the political power game. What was said in the private conversation when the Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and the Federal Interior Minister Chaudhary Nisar Ali Khan, flew into Rawalpindi on June 12 to see the Army Chief, can only be repeated by those who participated in it. One can safely surmise a polite but firm advice to avoid confrontation (and bloodshed) by allowing the two columns starting from Lahore on their “Long March” to exercise their democratic right of protest.
From the professional vibes one gets from the present lot in the senior military hierarchy, the Army has no intention of taking over. However, given the broken promises of the Sharif regime and the penchant of some of their functionaries shamelessly to badmouth the uniform day in and day out, the khakis are probably letting the Sharifs stew in their own self-created problems when the chips are down.
Unfortunately for the Sharifs (and their kith and kin in government). With the police refusing to brutalize the assembled protestors, many of them women and children on live TV, the writ of the govt, if not the State, collapsed. Once such authority is shown to be a bluff and such a bluff is called, it is almost impossible to restore the credibility of such authority.
The Pakistan Ex-Servicemen’s Association (PESA), called for “an immediate dissolution of assemblies, formation of a constitutional caretaker government, electoral reforms and appointment of an independent Election Commission before fresh elections are held. The present crises in the country has exposed cracks, failings and vulnerabilities in Pakistan’s constitutional democracy. It is time for the government to take initiative and resolve the crisis through political and constitutional means avoiding the use of force”.
Expressing grave concern that the political leaders had failed to rise above party affiliations at the cost of the country’s interests, the ex-servicemen noted that enough doubts had been raised regarding the fairness of elections, calling for “dissolution of assemblies, formation of a constitutional government, electoral reforms and appointment of an independent election commission before fresh elections are held.” Past midnight the same day, the ISPR chief Major General Asim Bajwa read a statement broadly agreeing with the feelings of his retired khaki colleagues, “The situation requires patience, wisdom and sagacity from all stakeholders to resolve prevailing impasse through meaningful dialogue in larger national and public interest.”
Nobody wants democracy to be derailed but neither can democracy persist in this present form. The protestors in front of the Parliament are going nowhere unless most of their demands are met, the Sharifs must face ground reality. These last seven days have exposed our present facade of democracy for what it really is, a purchasable commodity available to the highest bidder. In absence of the grassroots governance essential at the community level for democracy to function effectively, the individual stakeholder has no place.
Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri are simply articulating the desire of the people of Pakistan, the Constitution of Pakistan must be an effective document protecting the fundamental rights of the people, not a meaningless paper that is hold aloft by the greedy and selfish to perpetuate their own rule while riding roughshod over the basic rights and aspirations of the citizens. Such a document is not worth the paper it is written on.
The Sharif regime is now only a few miles from midnight.
The writer is a Pakistan-based defense and political analyst. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: The author had predicted in his July 13 article that Pakistan’s powerful military will not stage coup but may not rescue Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif either. Here is an excerpt:
Islamabad’s D Chowk may not be Tahrir Square but any incident similar to the Model Town excess and all bets are off in this summer’s heat. If the Sharifs remain hell-bent creating problems for themselves politically, matters may well spill out of control in the streets. Public perceptions notwithstanding, the Army will not use that as an excuse to throw the Sharifs out. When (and if) the people decide enough is enough, the Army may simply stand by and not bail them out.