Shiffa Yousafzai |
Every day is new in Pakistani politics. There is something happening every moment that keeps you glued to your twitter feeds and television screens. Surprisingly, today, there was nothing that could keep me hooked on, so I decided to go out. While walking down the beautiful Marvi Road towards the majestic Blue area, it reminded me of the dharnas and protests in the year 2013 and again in 2014. Suddenly, like a flash from my memory drive, I could hear the cacophony of sounds, of protesting crowds and shouting police. And I thought of Dr. Tahir ul Qadri; I first wondered to myself: where is he? And then my mind whispered back: Idiot! he is coming back within this week.
While many things are same, just like they were in 2014; some things have changed too. Nawaz Sharif has been disqualified by Supreme Court and references – against him, his family and finance minister – have been sent by the court to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB); trials are expected within six weeks on serious charges of corruption. The culprit was ICIJ, an international consortium of investigative journalists whose story on Panama leaks jolted the world – including Pakistan, where opposition parties like PTI quickly capitalized on allegations of corruption by ruling Sharif family. Nawaz’s fall from grace was the culmination of almost 15 months of nationwide public debate, punctuated by street protests, rallies and jalsas by opposition – mainly Imran Khan’s PTI, but Jammat-e-Islami and Peoples Party too played a part.
Where will Dr. Qadri fit into all this? He was in hibernation for the past several months. The mysterious, albeit colorful, cleric resides in Canada and every time he comes to Pakistan he gives a shout out to his followers to reinvigorate his movement of revolution.
Nawaz Sharif too shot back with his own myriad series of cases against PTI’s Imran Khan – but nothing seems to be working. Perhaps, realizing that they cannot get Imran on corruption and financial improbity, a rebel PTI MNA, Ayesha Gulalai, has been launched with allegations of harassment against PTI’s chairman. It is obvious that Ms. Gulalai is merely a pawn in the hands of Sharif’s party – objective seems to drag Khan through mud, since his disqualification may not be possible; Ms. Gulalai’s accusations are riddled with serious inconsistencies and most have concluded her to be a liar. But today Pakistan’s new prime minister, Nawaz’s handpicked, Shahid Khakkan Abbassi has appointed a parliamentary committee to investigate allegations against Imran Khan; Sharif clan appears determined to squeeze the last drop out of Gulalai’s story.
Where will Dr. Qadri fit into all this? He was in hibernation for the past several months. The mysterious, albeit colorful, cleric resides in Canada and every time he comes to Pakistan he gives a shout out to his followers to reinvigorate his movement of revolution. In 2013, he assembled them, right here, in Blue area, where I stood today, to demand reform of election laws. He warned that elections without serious reforms will be meaningless. He did not achieve anything; his week-long protests in freezing cold of February winds ended in a truce with the PPP government. Qadri declared it a victory, but few believed him. Though over the years, most have come to agree with his admonishments that: elections in Pakistan without reforming the system are meaningless and are not taking Pakistan towards democracy. In fact, many voices fear that instead of democracy Pakistan, under Sharifs, has been moving towards becoming a Middle Eastern style monarchy – ruled by a royal family, now in the fourth decade of power consolidation.
Imran Khan’s PTI protesting election rigging and Qadri’s followers demanding justice joined hands. Together, they assembled outside the parliament.
Qadri came back in summer of 2014. Fearing his return, Nawaz government had gone into a panic mode. In over-reaction they sent Lahore police, on contrived and fabricated excuses, into his model town university, to teach a lesson to his followers. Idea was to beat them, bleed them, drag them on streets, and instill the fear of the power of Sharif government. It backfired; Qadri was still in Canada but his devout followers resisted; police lacking moral authority lost control and fired on crowds killing 14 and injuring almost hundred. So when Qadri was in Islamabad, outside parliament, a few weeks later, his arguments against Sharif dynasty were beefed with demands of justice for those killed and injured in Lahore.
Read more:Disqualification without trial?
The sit-ins of 2014
Imran Khan’s PTI protesting election rigging and Qadri’s followers demanding justice joined hands. Together, they assembled outside the parliament. Qadri and Imran delivering fiery speeches from their containers and their followers dancing on the streets – on national anthems and revolutionary tunes – living in the make shift tents, defecating in the bushes for weeks altogether, in the hope of change. I used to walk there almost daily to make sense of it. Nothing happened in the end; country’s political and corporate elite and international community rallied against Nawaz, under the excuse of saving democracy. A belated, halfhearted push towards the Parliament provided the pretext for a brutal police crackdown. Crowds persisted even after the police crackdown but one morning Qadri called it off; ended it all, by signing an agreement with the government telling his followers that his demands have been agreed upon. Imran was left alone – he persisted with his movement, turning into a country wide protest, by city lock downs; he had successfully demonstrated his ability to lock down Lahore, Karachi, and Faisalabad; but just two days before his call for shut down of whole Pakistan, TTP terrorists struck in my home town of Peshawar – massacring almost 150 innocent school children and teachers in Army Public School. To this day, I like many others, mull on the chain of events why terrorists struck on 16th December; was it purely incidental or they were trying to influence Pakistan’s politics? Today we have reasons to believe that TTP is financed by Afghan Intelligence, NDS and Indian agency, RAW; so were these outsiders trying to control Pakistan’s politics?
So what will Qadri do now? He is a character riddled with endless anomalies and paradoxes. As a party leader, who cannot contest elections for having dual nationality, as a party leader whose party doesn’t have a seat in the National Assembly, as a party leader who resides in Canada, Dr. Tahir ul Qadri has certainly a big dedicated following in Pakistan and a street power more impactful than Imran’s PTI. But what will Qadri do now or can do is a provocative question.
Contents leaked to the media pointed out that Justice Najfi had held several ministers including Shahbaz Sharif responsible for the Model Town incident.
Sharifs are still ruling the roost
True, Nawaz stands disqualified, but his party is firmly in power in both center and the largest province of Punjab. New Prime Minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, is being belittled and ridiculed by his own party. Governor Sindh, Mohammad Zubair, recently described him as a “mere replacement” who will work till Nawaz returns back to his seat. New expanded cabinet is full of those perceived as loyalists to Nawaz’s daughter – sometimes described as “Heir Apparent”. Under the circumstances, media, public, and bureaucracy all are getting the message that Nawaz and his family, are still in power and control everything. Nawaz’s brother, Shahbaz Sharif, is being tipped as new Prime Minister after 2018 elections. And Shahbaz, himself, is named in the Model Town FIR.
In the middle of all this power arrangement, this post-disqualification power structure, Dr. Qadri is coming back, ostensibly to get justice for the martyrs of model town. To this date, he has not allowed any compensation, despite several efforts by Rana Sanaullah. He, a keen student of history, has been waiting for this day. His first demand will be to publish the Report by Justice Baqar Najfi. Though this one-man commission was set up by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to this day the report has not been made public. Contents leaked to the media pointed out that Justice Najfi had held several ministers including Shahbaz Sharif responsible for the Model Town incident.
On 28th July, the day, the Supreme Court disqualified Nawaz Sharif; Dr. Qadri tweeted: “It is hoped now that the families of martyrs of Model Town will get justice as well.” He also believes that had there been a genuine JIT in their case, justice would have been delivered. Will he succeed this time around? It remains to be seen.
Shiffa Yousafzai is a freelance writer; She is an International Alumni Ambassador for Manchester Metropolitan University, UK, where she studied Multimedia Journalism. Earlier she graduated with business and marketing at Air University, Islamabad. She had been vice-president Air University Cultural Society; She is a singer and has performed in cultural events. Shiffa could be followed on twitter @Shiffa_ZY and on facebook @Shiffa Z. Yousafzai. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.