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Civilian vs civilian

The way the word ‘revolution’ is being thrown around in Pakistani politics these days is comical and tragic at the same time. Two ‘revolutions’ Inqilab March (Revolution March) and Azadi March (Freedom March) are being led these days in Islamabad by Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri and chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan respectively.

Pakistani supporters of Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) political party leader, Canadian-based cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri, shout slogans during a protest following clashes with police in Lahore on August 9, 2014. Pic/AFP
Pakistani supporters of Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) political party leader, Canadian-based cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri, shout slogans during a protest following clashes with police in Lahore on August 9, 2014. Pic/AFP

Dr Qadri and his workers staged a sit-in because more than a dozen of his workers were killed during police action in Lahore back in June. The police and government refused to register an FIR until yesterday. The FIR has been registered against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and his brother Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif, amongst others. While Dr Qadri’s demand to register this FIR is legitimate, many are wondering at the drama being played out on the streets of Islamabad.

On the other hand, Imran Khan wants Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif to resign period. He has not only used filthy language for the prime minister and elected parliamentarians but the way he has addressed his opponents during his countless speeches in the past two weeks is unbecoming of a national ‘leader’. While both Qadri and Khan have succeeded in exerting enormous pressure on the government by staging a sit-in in front of Parliament House with thousands of their supporters, many believe they want to wrap up the entire democratic set-up. There is also speculation that violence may ensue if Qadri and Khan’s supporters decide to storm the buildings in the Red Zone.

If we take a look at the cast of usual suspects at both marches, we see the Chaudhry brothers of Q-League fame flanking Dr Qadri and Sheikh Rasheed et al at Khan’s protest. Those who are familiar with these characters know their strings are pulled by the powers that be. As Awami National Party’s (ANP’s) Bushra Gohar puts it, “All the king’s men have joined hands and are working on a prepared script.”

In the best case scenario, the prime minister will survive the recent crisis but he will lose a lot of his authority, which he had been trying to assert vis-à-vis the powerful establishment. In this case, it means that the civilians on the streets were successful in bringing down the civilians in the corridors of power. If the government survives, PM Sharif will not emerge as a winner. He would be considerably weakened, especially on the foreign policy front.

It is believed that Sharif is being ‘cut to size’ for several reasons, especially because of his insistence on trying General Musharraf for treason and moves for regional peace. Most analysts believe it is because of these reasons that the establishment was unhappy with the Sharif government. The prime minister has met the army chief twice in three days.

In the worst case scenario, Qadri and Khan’s mobs can go out of control and create a situation leading to the breakdown of the constitutional machinery, which will provide the military the opportunity to once again emerge as political arbiters. Whether it will act in the mode of General Kakar or General Musharraf is an open question.

The writer is a Pakistani journalist. Reach her at mehmal.s@gmail.com

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