by Hamid Abbasi
It will be premature to coin “Pakistan Spring”, but it has all the potential not to be much different. Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan is under siege. Hold on, it isn’t the Indians from across the fence or the war loving Taliban. Rather it is the deprived masses which have taken to the streets to have their presence felt.
The experimentation of imposed democracy in Pakistan has miserably failed to live up to the least expectations of 180 million Pakistanis in the past 5 years.
The gulf between the corridors of power and the masses had grown so wide that they have no faith in the system any more. Rampant corruption, mismanagement, worsening security situation, economical collapse and a vague foreign policy have all contributed to the impatience among masses, which is reflected by the number converging on Islamabad this week.
The man in picture, Tahir ul Qadri is in no way a household name in Pakistan. He is considered to be a moderate cleric with sizable political capacity. He was last felt on Pakistan political spectrum in 2003-4 as a member of parliament before resigning under General Musharaf reign. Since then he was known to be in Canada, working from across the sea on his welfare/ religious education project Minhaj ul Quran. In 2008 election (Post Benazir Bhutto Assassination) he was far from the limelight and never contested.
His dramatic return in December 2012 amazed all when he collected a crowd of millions to his arrival and issued ultimatum to President Zardari regime to implement constitution and democracy in true spirit or the march toward Islamabad will begin. Like masses, the well placed incumbent regime thanks to the books of “crook but democratic modus operandi” hardly moved to his call, only to find a flood of deprived and dejected masses standing on the doors of Pakistani parliament. As I write, it’s been over 72 hours that he left Lahore for the capital, joined by thousands and for the same period Pakistan is on a stand still situation.
The demonstrators, peaceful till date as if tamed kindergarten morning assembly, have virtually besieged the capital with law enforcing agencies separating President and Premier Houses along with the parliament from their reach. To add more to the already crippling set up, the highly popular judiciary has ordered the arrest of incumbent Prime Minister for his alleged role in the multimillion dollar scandal, which is believed to be the precursor for economical collapse across Pakistan, courtesy energy crisis. It is too early to assess what this sit in will achieve and who will ultimately walk out of it.
Pakistan has popular leadership with sizable street strength including two time PM Mr Sharif and celebrity turned politician Imran Khan but Qadri’s rise has taken all political pundits by surprise. Whispers have started circulating regarding players behind the curtain, which usually refers to the armed forces and rigid beurocracy. In past Pakistan has seen transition which in Western democratic paradigm remains immoral and unconstitutional, namely the soft coups. The current military establishment, lead by General Kayani has stayed away from the corridors of power to a larger and agreed extent.
But it is worth mentioning that this neutrality has invited a lot of wrath on them for being silent spectator to the ordeals of the masses. The judiciary in Pakistan under the much popular and acclaimed Chief Justice Iftikhar has been the last line of defense against the democratic tyranny. But on and off, the government through its state machinery has defied its orders, equally irritating the masses and the observers.
Pakistan is all set to step into its 1st natural and peaceful transition of government since its establishment but events reflected above makes it highly unusual. The President himself remains highly unpopular, widely because of his past and also his refrain to wipe it away in present. One won’t expect alarms going on in Washington, London and Riyadh as Qadri is far away from the fundamental religious leadership Pakistan has but it seems that the ordinary Pakistanis are all set to accept any change away from the traditional players of power, in the disguise of democracy.
It is widely believed that the democratic tenure of last 4 years have damaged Pakistan’s position internally and externally to a startling extent. The leadership has failed to address basic issues whereas playing a proactive role in worsening them. On international arena, Pakistan has found itself virtually isolated due to the weak standing of team Zardari among the masses. If one joins the puzzles, it seems that the foreign backers of this democratic setup, agreed with General Musharaf has played a key role as well in the expected roll back of this existing equilibrium. America was the architect of the return of democracy after securing a deal between late Benazir and Musharaf, commonly referred as “NRO”. Later, with Benazir wiped away by Taliban (Yet to determine) her husband Zardari made it to the Presidential Palace.
With very little credibility and popularity, he masterly maneuvered the opposition and the judiciary in the disguise of threat to democracy from internal elements. But his understood submission to the Americans was a prime concern to the public in general along with collapsing economy. The sovereignty of a nuclear state was blown to pieces every day with Americans drones firing missiles inside Pakistani territory. This became a routine affair with wiki leak confirming a mutual understanding between the government in Pakistan and team Obama on drone strikes, behind the curtains. American covert operation leading to OBL capture and killing of 2 Pakistanis by a CIA operative cleared any left misunderstanding.
On Western front Pakistan army is stretched far beyond any ones expectation against the Taliban shielded by Afghanistan and its friends. Every few days apart, the troops are attacked by hundreds of well equipped Taliban right under the nose of ISAF/ NATO and Afghan troops guarding the border. To add fuel to the already ignited flame, the government has stayed far from addressing this issue on domestic and international level.
It is commonly believed, with regret in Pakistan that usually the change in the political landscape of Pakistan in concentrated around 3 A’s, namely America, Arabs and the Army. Let us see if history repeats itself or we will have a new page added to the book of history………………………..