Return of the ‘Padri’


Never underestimate the collective stupidity of our ruling classes

Time to descend to earth. Time to pause from delving into heaven after death to hell before death. Things had become stagnant.

Now there is a new kerfuffle – the return of the ‘Padri’ and another long march that threatens to bring Islamabad to a standstill yet again.

I had been predicting it for months: a visitation by the latest pretender to the messiah mantle, to wit one Tahirul Qadri, doctor of philosophy and a scholar of theocracy who speaks many languages and whom the wags have taken to calling Tahirul ‘Padri’ – as in ‘Padre’.
He claims to having been visited by the Holy Prophet (pbuh) who was so unhappy with Pakistan that he threatened to leave and never return.
Qadri begged and pleaded with him but I don’t remember whether the Prophet (pbuh) relented. People cry when they hear this story and regard Qadri as the anointed one.
So once again the illusion of change in the air is upon us. Once again there is no gainsaying that it too won’t turn out to be another mirage.

People flocked to Qadri’s rallies in droves. Not all could have been hired or rounded up.
No surprise with a people who have dynasts and messiahs in their bones, for that is all they know, perpetually in search of a monarch and at the same time a messiah to deliver them from the dynast’s tyranny.

We first knew Qadri as head of – wait for it – PAT, acronym for Pakistan Awami Tehreek. Then he went to Canada and got citizenship. For years he honed his political philosophy.
Now he’s back with a new set of demands: change the constitution, change the system, end feudalism, reform before elections, blah, blah and more blah, things we have heard many times before but never seen come to fruition.

On the face of it, none could disagree with Qadri. We all want reforms towards a truly democratic and egalitarian society.
But talk comes cheap; action is difficult. Qadri hasn’t told us how he is going do it: we know his strategy – what to do – but not his tactics – how to do it – except for the inevitable ‘long march’ (Poor Mao. When O’ when will they have an original thought?).

What could Qadri’s real objective be? If you cut through the jungle of his rhetoric it becomes obvious: to delay elections that are nigh – ‘reforms before elections’ gives it away. Elections can be delayed for a year constitutionally, but how reforms can take place constitutionally defeats me.
Why should the disease willingly provide the cure and kill itself? Why would our parliamentarians bring reforms that end their overlordship?

Conventional wisdom has it that Qadri has America’s backing. Proof? Where is Qadri’s money coming from? Fair question. It’s more than his supporters could muster or the ISI provide.

Why would America want the present government to continue a while longer? Because they have been brought to the realisation that without Pakistan it would be impossible to exit Afghanistan safely and honourably.
Pakistan’s support is vital to getting hundreds of thousands of troops and some $35 billion worth of heavy armaments, equipment and materials out, which can only be done via Pakistan’s land route through Karachi Port.
They might never find more pliant and obedient satraps as they have now. They can’t risk what new elections might bring. Even the return of the same satraps won’t guarantee continued compliance for their power might be limited.
There is no guarantee that an interim pre-election government with a long extension will be able to deliver without electoral ‘legitimacy’ and a mandate. They certainly don’t want Nawaz Sharif whom they regard as unreliable and unpredictable.
So the best option is to continue with the present setup.

Indian writer Bhadrakumar agrees in ‘India’s Afghan Moment’: “America’s ‘dalliance’ with India is over and Pakistan is back in the ‘core group’ of three with America and Afghanistan and an ‘outer ring’ of Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
An end to America’s Afghan War is not only good for Pakistan, America and Afghanistan but also for the rest of the world. We should help them for our own sake.”

The Peoples Party’s and the Nawaz Sharif’s opposition’s minds are preoccupied by Qadri’s impending long march to Islamabad on January 14. If it materializes, it will bring the capital, and thus the state, to a standstill.
It could eventually also bring Pakistan to flashpoint. If there is violence there will be chaos and eventually anarchy. The army will have to step in.
Some people think this is precisely Qadri’s purpose: to create justification for a coup, overt or covert. MQM supporting him lends credence to this theory for its leader Altaf Hussain has repeatedly asked the army to join the people for once to bring reform and end feudalism. I don’t think so.

The army knows that Pakistan is already in so much turmoil that they will not be able to control it. The army’s statement that now internal security is its main concern fortifies the coup theorists but they forget that the war within is worse than the danger without.

However, things could go so out of control that a coup becomes inevitable. The earlier ones couldn’t deliver because while it is relatively easy to do a coup it is very difficult to know what to do the day after.
Without a plan of precisely what to do, another coup would be a disaster.
Remember an uncontrollable Pakistan suits no one. Its falling apart suits them even less, especially India, whose own centrifugal forces would accelerate and the Taliban come to its borders and soon inside it.
Who wants such a powerful country with a huge armed forces laced with a nuclear arsenal in chaos? Old countries like Egypt can withstand the turmoil that it is going through and still remain intact.
What about a new, fragile state brimming with contradictions and problems?

How to counter Qadri? I had predicted Zardari and Sharif ganging up again, this time in an electoral alliance of convenience driven by self-survival. That has nearly come to pass.
The alliance will be so huge that it will take the wind out of Qadri’s sails.
It might even suit America and our establishment: Zardari the senior partner, Sharif the junior, PPP prime minister, PML-N deputy prime minister. Let’s see.
As President Lyndon Johnson said, America might think of Sharif that it is better to “have him inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in”. With the MQM, ANP, JUI, FATA and PML-Q – perhaps Qadri too – rushing into the tent as well, it is the closest thing we will have to a national government.
No bad thing at this juncture.

I say what I have been saying for years: let our evolutionary process continue to its natural conclusion.
If that conclusion is self-correction, good, but if it is demise, all the better. Best it dies naturally than becomes a martyr to rise again as a zombie as it has done.
Something better will emerge from its ashes. The people will have learned and will not make the same mistakes again – hopefully. Some people never learn and remain mired in the past, stuck forever in decadence, degradation and poverty.
There is no system that can correct them. This is how nations die.

You might think that I am being perverse, but I am happy because things are going in the right direction.
I thought it would take longer, but it has taken only one full term of elected governments to expose the system as unworkable.
An increasing number of people are seeing that this system isn’t for working.
Best to let it go to its natural death and hope that a brave new world emerges naturally from its ashes.

Once again Pakistan stands at a crossroads. Take the path less trodden upon and go to fortune.
Or take the path most trodden upon and go to more misfortune. Let us see what lies in store but never underestimate the collective stupidity of our ruling classes.

The writer is a political analyst. He can be contacted at [email protected]


  1. Our nation is obsessed with change and that too an immediate one. People are out there to exploit this national obsession.

  2. In the context of Pakistani politics a change in real sense is a far cry. Yeah the change of faces is probable. But that will take us farther away from the change that we all are looking for.

  3. Awam ko bewaqoof bana rahe hain. Ironically for the advocates of this change, the mass illiteracy and poverty in Pakistan are going to block any change in near future. This time on again, like umpteenth times before, the voters will be herded to polling stations like sheep by the sardars, khans, waderas, chauhdaries and bhais. Abhi ham ne or sona hai, hamari neend abhi puri nahin hui.

  4. All what the author is saying apart…can the writer give evidence or refer to any news to show when Dr Qadri claimed that he dreamt our Prophet ( pbuh ) in his dream….? till such time, this writer should not be taken seriously…..

  5. Author is trying to hint us that more stupid the our present rules , the worst will be its alternative, sent to us by our foreign gods,

  6. If journalists don't know how to talk, no wonder Pakistan is suffering. A very disgraceful piece of writing filled with bias and hatred.

    I wonder how the editors allow such rubbish in their papers.

  7. Allamah Iqbal described the condition of Pakistani Nation in his poetry. I will cite one verse for the all those who seek to ponder over the situation. Mind you this verse was written 100 years ago;
    Phool bey parwah hain tu garam-e-nawa ho ke na ho,
    Karwan bey hiss hai Awaaz-e-dara ho ke na ho.

    And another sensitive poet said about fifty years ago and was imprisoned and punished unnecessarily.

    Har chara gar ko chara gari sey graiz tha,
    Varna jo hamein dukh thay la dawa na thay. (Faiz)

    Now I leave it to our readers to think and ponder over the situation in the light of present times and 100 years. How far we have gone improving our lot.

  8. Mr. Gauhar, the above writing has spoiled my perception about you as a quality writer. It's really a piece of junk.

  9. The commentators need not grumble about this "rubbish", " piece of junk " etc. It is no worse than his "In the Line of Fire" ghosted by him for Pervez Musharraf. Therein were things that kept me giggling for many seconds, e.g. defining "F.Sc." as "Freshman of Science" etc. Nothing is wrong with churning out inedible grass as long as you get paid for it.

  10. I don't know what sort are nation we are. During our periods of turmoil and sufferings at the hands of our rulers, both military and civilian, we keep yelling about change, change and change. We shout that this rotten political and electoral system must be rehashed, but when someone in the shape of catalyst of change appears on the scene, we leave no stone unturned to defame him. He may be Imran Khan or Dr. Tahir ul Qadri, we are not ready to accept any. We always smell rat in their intentions and try to fail them.

    This article is full of contradictions. I just mention a few of these.
    (1) Had Qadri been launched by America, he would have been a favorite of the media because media is very high on American payroll. The contrary is true. All the media is opposing his agenda.
    (2) If America wanted to prolong the present regime, there were many other options available with them. Why to select a difficult and risky option like Qadri that could lead to chaos?

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