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The system will change you before you can change it

The Prophet (pbuh) lost a tooth in the Battle of Uhud, not Badr as I wrongly stated last week. Such memory lapses happen due to paucity of time: with fast unfolding events one has to wait till the last minute before writing. Mine was a memory lapse but Tahirul Qadri said many things in the heat of rhetoric that he will live to regret. Such language suits run-of-the-mill politicians, not revolutionaries claiming to be anchored in the ideology of the Almighty.

Look at his intemperate language against Sharif Brothers Inc in his press conference after his march, during which he demanded that the president, the federal and provincial executives, and assemblies self-abolish themselves, or else. But when all politicians ganged up against him and Imran Khan refused to join his march, he embraced the sword of ‘Yazid’ and signed his four-point declaration with the prime minister whom he had earlier dismissed as ‘former’. Since then, he has not uttered a word against ‘Yazid’. In fact, many people think that his real purpose was to ensure that ‘Yazid’ won the next elections too.

I had said in my first article that one must separate the message from the messenger. Qadri’s message had already been given by Imran Khan and the MQM and was nothing new. It was good, though limited. Limited because it was good for the well healed, the third player in the equation, comprising Qadri’s spiritual followers, those in his employ and, yes, thousands of ordinary middle class people fed up with the national condition. They wanted to make a statement and they made it forcefully.

The fourth player in the equation was the media. In telecasting Qadri’s procession 24-hours non-stop and still going on in discussion programmes, they gave Qadri the sort of boost that billions of dollars could not buy. Still, he fell flat on his face.

The most important player in any equation is the ‘wretched of the earth’, the downtrodden, the unwashed, the unclean and the hungry, without a decent roof over their heads, the unshod with rags for clothes, people whose children are bred and brought up in the streets of the urban jungle or in the dust raised by the wheels of the vulgar speeding vehicles of feudal robber barons. They exist along with street dogs and vultures looking for scraps in the trashcans of the rich and the mountains of urban waste left daily by municipal trash trucks. And that is where they die unnoticed, just another statistic. They were not in the equation because there was nothing in Qadri’s message for them. They couldn’t care less about legal and constitutional hairsplitting and niceties; whether certain articles in the constitution are assiduously followed or not and the rest of the balderdash of the overfed. They are concerned with sheer survival, with food and jobs, a dignified and secure life, shelter and clothing, healthcare and education and everything that goes to make their God-given fundamental birthrights – Haqooq-ul-Ibad – in this hypocritical Islamic state of ours where there are accidental Muslims everywhere with hardly any Islam anywhere, only rituals and customs and self-appointed ‘warriors of God’ on a killing spree. They are concerned with “self-evident truths” – “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. Nothing less.

In parachuting down from Canada just before elections, Qadri’s timing was right too – ‘cometh the moment cometh the man’ they say. Qadri wasn’t the man – ‘cometh the moment cometh the pretender’. But he did show that collective action does shake up governments and politicians. He showed that Pakistanis are not wimps, unable to protest or launch revolutions. But he failed to show how to stand tall under pressure. Instead, he showed how to bend and become a player in the rapacious status quo.

I can’t understand people who call themselves educated and take Qadri seriously. He reeks of hypocrisy. I have heard him on television telling a Pakistani audience that the blasphemy law was passed due to his efforts and that it applied to both Muslims and non-Muslims. Yet I have also heard him tell a western audience that the blasphemy law did not apply to non-Muslims. This is rank hypocrisy and opportunism.

I have heard him crying and telling his weeping audience that the Prophet (pbuh) came to him in a dream and said that the was leaving Pakistan for good, but on his beseeching he agreed to stay on condition that Qadri be his host, responsible for his domestic travel, food and lodging and his return ticket to Medina. The audience of ignoramuses broke down. This is rank blasphemy and opportunism, exploiting the religious sentiments of people in search of an emotional home to gain a following of the ignorant. How can such a man be taken seriously? He needs a psychiatrist and so do those who admire him.

But give the devil his due: Qadri did cast the first stone. Now it is for someone else to pick up the ball and take it from where Qadri dropped it in the ‘D’ and into the goalpost. Perhaps this is Imran Khan’s chance – his last chance perhaps – but with ‘Makhdoom’ (let’s us just call them ‘doom’) feudal lords to the left of him and to the right of him, not volleying and thundering but whispering and whining in his ear, I don’t hold out much hope.

Though he talks revolution Qadri has joined the status quo little realising that while Islamic politics is revolutionary, western electoral politics is about preserving the status quo. Neither does Imran Khan. You cannot expect to upturn the status quo from within for it is so powerful and seductive that it will change you before you can change it – except for cosmetic changes that do nothing for the ‘wretched of the earth’. Our electoral system is so maleficent that it makes the oppressed elect their oppressors to represent them. Only Lucifer could have thought up such a system. You cannot expect the symptom to cure the disease, the headache to cure the cancer in the brain that causes it. It needs surgery.

Qadri’s mistake was to talk revolution and yet say that he would remain within the constitution. How? The ultimate preservation of our man-eating system lies in the preservation of the constitution that codifies the rapacious status quo: this is what judges and lawyers are charged with, their purpose of existence. Yet Qadri expects his gaggle of lawyers to bring revolution. Lawyers and judges are there to prevent it. Qadri made many unconstitutional demands and got trapped in a web of contradictions. Finally, he was hoist on his own petard. He raised expectations and fell short – far too short – and was found wanting, a poor specimen of a revolutionary leader. A good revolutionary leader changes the course of history, like Jinnah did and before him the greatest revolutionary of them all, the Messenger of God (pbuh). He changed the course of history, and how.

Had Qadri remained a traditional politician and not talked big he would have been judged well. He was a traditional politician before; he remains a traditional politician still. Pakistanis have been fooled yet again by a ‘messiah’ made of clay.

Qadri’s supporters will say that now that the constitutional qualification articles for parliamentarians will be followed strictly things will start improving with better parliamentarians. Hardly: each politician not making the grade will unleash his ‘Mini Me’ on us and there will be many, for they will nominate their sons in their stead – or wives and daughters, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews…

The question arises: what legal or constitutional validity does Qadri’s declaration have, even though the prime minister and his coalition have signed it? How can they sign an agreement with a private party that has no representation in parliament without floating a tender first, as they do when a public sector entity wants to buy goods or services? Let anyone and everyone give their draft declarations and let the best bidder win. As always, the Devil will take the hindmost.

The most heartening thing to come out of Qadri’s march is that people have come a long way in the last five years. Then they thought that elections were the best panacea for their ills: democracy is the best revenge and all that jazz. Sure it is, and how. Now many have realised that the system is anti-people, anti-progress and the best preservative of our satanic status quo. Another five years and they will realise that this alien system has been foisted on us by the constitution, which is the real disease.

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