New parade on the street


Who is right; who is wrong?

What a lot of questions the politics of Tahir ul Qadri throws that beg answers. Difficult questions, of course, which means answers are hard to come by, and more often than not lack finality when they do. The threat to not stop this time, for example, unlike last time, when Zardari’s boys smartly sweet talked the leader of the revolution into a controlled oblivion. Does this mean he is not going to budge till all his demands are met, including the 35 provinces? It’s much hotter than the last parade, remember?

Then there’s some words for the army, that he’ll deal with deal with the forces if they interfere with procession. But wasn’t the army already at (not so) hidden odds with the government on a host of issues? Why would the brass cross him, especially when he has publically sided with their preferences? And why rumour martial law? Surely he realises that wherever his antics might fling the pieces, they are not likely to fall anywhere as extreme as that. And as far as questions go, it is fair enough to wonder where he suddenly springs from, and how does the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) manage the millions needed to mobilise and maintain such masses?

And then, of course, there is Imran Khan, whose parallel parade, though appreciated by Qadri, has also been pronounced a separate, if similar, affair. Kaptaan is still angry about the rigging, which is fair enough, since he did knock on a number of relevant doors before opting for the street. But he also says the main agenda will come at the rally, which would imply he’s expecting thousands to march on the promise that they would agree with him – wholeheartedly – about what is best for Pakistan. Tricky politics, but Khan sb seems confident. But if it is his right to protest, then it is also his responsibility to explain promises not kept from the first tsunami days. We will jam the cities if they don’t declare their worth; we will end corruption in 90 days; we will make food and shelter affordable, and so it went. Yet there’s little the PTI chairman has done in the last year except go out on a limb for the Taliban and refuse to accept his party did not win.

But the bigger surprise comes, as usual, from the ruling party. If Nawaz had not been humbled enough by Ch Nisar’s and Pervez Rasheed’s public appearances, he did himself no favour by letting Rana Sanaullah offer his two pence before the cameras on this one. Granted, nobody expected any government mouthpiece to promote the agitation, but Rana sb’s remarks to this paper regarding Imran Khan, that “he is under the influence of the forces that have patronsied him all along” is perhaps a not-so-smart continuation of the not-so-smart strategy of scoring one over the forces every now and then.

The confusion does not hide the fact, of course, that the system is broken. And it doesn’t help matters when those running it drag personal egos in the domain of policy making. The protest and the fallout is for the government to lose. If people make a show of force, it is not because Khan and Qadri are necessarily right, but that the ruling party is certainly wrong.