Revolution or a damp squib


No compromise on democracy

The entry of Tahirul Qadri into the political arena like a paratrooper has created quite a stir that has all the trappings of a night raid rather than the revolution he is contemplating to bring in the political landscape of the country. He is a religious scholar and holds a law degree but I wonder if he really knows what a revolution is. A revolution is not organising an assembly of fifty thousand plus of your followers in a country of 180 million. Revolutions denote spontaneous uprising throughout the length and breadth of the country against the prevalent system.

Notwithstanding the repeated boastings by Dr Qadri about the crowd being in millions, the independent sources including the media outlets are unanimous in their estimates — though very generous — that the gathering at any given time was not beyond one hundred thousand. Another feature of a revolution is that it is brought about and triggered by a revolt of the proletariat. As we see both these elements are missing from the Qadri show, which instead of a revolution looks more like a damp squib that has crashed to the earth with a hissing sound before even being airborne. If that is what he calls a revolution, then it can be safely inferred that he and those for whom he is serving as an errand boy do not seem to have studied the French, Bolshevik and the Iranian revolutions.

Ever since his arrival and public rally on 23 December in Lahore, he has adopted a vacillating stance as to what he actually wants to achieve. He is saying so many contradictory things at the same time. In his address to the gathering on Wednesday, while issuing warning to the government to fulfill his demands or face the consequences, he reiterated that he did not want the elections to be postponed or harm the democratic process. It is so glaringly self-contradictory. In a democracy, the change can only be brought by winning the public franchise for it through ballot. His actions are contrary to the recognized democratic norms.

The other very pertinent point is that the changes that he is demanding require constitutional amendments which only the parliament has the prerogative to effect. The government alone cannot do it and as such is not in a position to enter into a dialogue with a person who does not even have a representative status. By his actions he is trying to introduce a culture of mob rule rather than strengthening the democratic polity. He considers the parliament as fake which is an affront to the genius and political acumen of the people of Pakistan.

Nobody can take an issue with Qadri’s right to enlist his protest against the system and desiring for change but there are internationally recognised norms of behaviour in a democratic polity which above everything demand respect for the constitution. He has been given a freehand to register his viewpoint and the government deserves unqualified accolades for showing so much restraint and tolerance against his very hostile and sometimes hitting below the belt tactics and derogatory language that he has been using. He even has vented his anger on the media for not endorsing his claims about presence of millions in his march.

It is, however, very reassuring that all the political forces in the country, including the ruling party have expressed their unflinching resolve in defending the democracy and not to allow the adventurers like Qadri and his mentors to make the nation hostage to their disruptive antics. The way Qadri expressed his jubilation by eulogising the judiciary over its orders for arrest of the accused in the rental power projects case — including the prime minister — and his remark that half the work was done and half would be done tomorrow, did raise many eyebrows as to some kind of nexus or understanding between him and the judiciary.

It remained a hot topic of speculative discussion in the media for about 24 hours. But thank God that the impression has been completely erased by the observations of the CJ during the hearing of a petition on electoral reform filed by the Workers Party. He said, “There is no place for any other system in the country except democracy and for that matter they have to strengthen it and its institutions.” It is a ranting disapproval of the antics adopted by Qadri and an unequivocal support and faith in the democratic dispensation by the judiciary. It is also an implied warning to the forces inimical to democracy that the times have changed and no unconstitutional step by them will be validated.

I am of the view that during the last five years, things have certainly changed for the better. We have a pro-active judiciary and an independent media in the country which is playing its watchdog role exceptionally well, notwithstanding sporadic indiscretions and transgressions. There is an irrefutable unanimity regarding the continuation of the democratic process and reforms in the political system. Qadri must see the writing on the wall and adopt a democratic way to have the system changed. He is better advised to go around the country to convince the public about his agenda and then contest elections to confirm his mandate.

He should understand that no matter how noble the cause may be, one has to adopt legitimate means to realise it. The legitimate means in our situation are the elections. The elections must go on without any disruption and it is the responsibility of the democratic forces to maintain solidarity among themselves to thwart the designs of the night raiders. I think the decision by the religious parties to organise rallies to show their strength designed to counter Qadri’s machinations is a welcome move. The major political parties must also immediately organise rallies in all the cities of the country to show Qadri where he stands in regards to the support of the masses to his unconstitutional moves.

It is also incumbent upon the government to establish its writ. Enough is enough. Qadri has created enough trouble and paralysed life in Islamabad for almost four days now. He and his followers must be told to vacate the city and normalcy restored in the capital. Any slackness on his part will send a very wrong message to the anti-democracy entities to flout the mandate of the majority and blackmail the sitting governments through their unconstitutional and even violent tactics. Democracy is not free for all and no compromises should be made in nurturing it.


  1. Simply excellent. Well done, Sir. But I think no one in this country of 180 million has the time to read your article, let alone comment on it. No wonder the that people like TQ come, play with the emotions of the people, and even the beliefs, and then go back to their abodes without a trace of guilt.
    God bless us.

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