‘Dharnas’ strike at the tenuous democracy
“The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”
Whatever may be the fate of Tahir-ul-Qadri’s ambiguous revolution and Imran Khan’s Azadi March one thing is certain that this would go down in the history as the political drama serial of Pakistan. Many not so objective analysts who appear on TV channels however forget the longest march of Baloch activists from Quetta to Islamabad only to appeal that their kidnapped kith and kin should be recovered. But that was the march on foot and not on bullet proof containers and sexy SUVs. They also forget the over one-month hunger-strike and sit-in in front of Karachi Press Club by a young student against the kidnapping of his party president.
Nevertheless, the positive and the negative impact assessment of PAT’s and PTI’s ‘Dharnas’ is needed. Most analysis are one sided. So let’s take the positive impact first.
One, Qadri cult followers have brought the PML-N government down from its high grounds and broken their arrogance that they can get away with the broad day-light murder of people by the police in the Model Town mayhem. This could have been avoided if their legal right to file the FIR was honoured and Shahbaz Sharif had resigned on moral grounds. Two, Qadri followers’ steadfastness, perseverance and discipline are remarkable and have brought partial victory to them. And three as most of his followers are from the lower middle class it is a sign, that the disposed if organised can fight back for their rights even though they are led by a demagogue cleric. But MQM had proved this point in urban Sindh long ago not withstanding their organisational tactics which has many critics. Four, he gives message of moderate Islam in the times of rising intolerance and extremism.
Negative aspects of PAT’s Dharna are: One, why a Canada-based cleric returned to launch a movement now; Two, why he has dubious links with Musharraf supporters including agencies which have their own agenda to bring the elected government to its knees; Three, selling dreams of an ambiguous revolution and false promises that the country’s economy cannot sustain; Four, it should have been kept as a local protest against the Punjab government if the core issue is getting justice for the Model Town carnage victims.
Now let’s look at the PTI Dharna’s positive impact assessment. One, it would lead to further electoral reform; Two, Nawaz government will have to rely more on the democratic forces and shun the majoritarian arrogance if it survives this onslaught; Three, apolitical youth has been mobilised to demand sanctity of vote; Four, by default he has brought all democratic forces on one platform to ward off any extra-constitutional set up as demanded by him.
List of negative impact assessment is long and dangerous too. One, Imran may think that he is using support of the establishment to bring down the government but in the final analysis the case is otherwise; Two; use of undemocratic means to bring down the government would set wrong precedents if it succeeds; Three, it also sets the precedent that election rigging cases should be decided on the streets and not through the rules prescribed in law, if they have any lacking that should be fixed by the parliament not by the protestors on the streets; Four, he has weakened the tenuous democracy of Pakistan and strengthened the military establishment; and five, his party has been isolated and would come out weak once the Dharna is over; and six, the GHQ would be able to browbeat the prime minister to appoint their spymaster come last week of September.
On the most ticklish issue of a treason case against General Pervez Musharraf the only way to back out is by weakening the prosecution submissions. Already ‘clever’ Zardari has suggested through his spokesperson that in-camera dialogue with the army should be held on the political impasse. Perhaps he wants the army to come clear whether they stand behind the government or support PTI and PAT covertly.
In this well-scripted serial in the end all democratic forces would be losers and the only winner would obviously be the omnipotent script writer, whether Nawaz government packs up or it survives all bruised and tamed when the drop scene is enacted after the long battle. If media reports are right then Nawaz has already surrendered like Zardari on any say on crucial foreign policy and national security issues. In my column in mid-July I had maintained that Imran and Qadri duo is being encouraged to tame the prime minister and that stands validated now. I don’t agree that this duo is just the puppet. They have convergence of interest with the script writers and like all top actors are likely to over-shoot their roles. Unwisely they have taken the drama to such a high-pitch that any coming down the climax would lose their credibility.
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org