A few moments of Media Galore

By Brig Samson S Sharaf

Every plan that works to perfection must be relentlessly investigated. This one fell apart or still has twists and turns warrants comments.

Like a true Robert Ludlum thriller that keeps the reader glued till the end and thinking after ‘THE END’, this high drama catered for everything from thrill, amusement, suspense, deceit, betrayals and changing plots built around emotions of patriotism, notion of change, excerpts reminding of Jinnah’s vision, tragedy of Karbala, threat and violence. To say that it is finally over would be to undermine the objectives and motives of the script writers and those who threw billions into this spectacle. Dr. Qadri opened a Pandora’s Box and there are more surprises to come as analysts continue conjecturing the true objectives, beneficiaries and fallouts of this unfinished revolution.

As Dr. Tahir Ul Qadri’s Caravan of people debouched, it sent shivers through Islamabad and Lahore. Analysts and theorists went into full drive. Despite cynicism and presence of law enforcement agencies, nothing seemed to shake the resolve of the protestors spawning the roads and open spaces leading to D Chowk. Braving chilly winds and rain, they came from every age and description; old, young, women, girls, infants, the educated, rich and expatriates. On the last day, they endured the overnight drizzle and the crowd swelled as locals carrying party flags joined the sit in. Change was writ large on the faces of the people sitting disciplined before the house of armour and glass.

Tehreek e Minhaj ul Quran through its network and Pakistan Awami Tehreek had been at it for some time. Unnoticed, they had gone house to house in their strong holds to motivate their followers for a movement of change. Motivational themes and rhetoric was put to full effect to create high energy plasma that would engulf the symbols of power. The massive media and advertisement campaign created sympathizers and skeptics. The crowds grew.

His defiance and threatening posture on reaching Saudi Towers and dismissing a constitutionally elected government announced the arrival of an anarchist and set the tone of what was to be expected. Those weary with the system promptly joined the crowds. Others became suspicious of his intentions.

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His emphasis on corruption, rule of law and implementation of the Constitution in letter and spirit kept reminding one of Pervez Musharraf’s unfinished seven point agenda. There were APML banners and the train of old erstwhile allies coming and going.

The major themes and punch lines were picked from the revolutionary social reform agenda of Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf leading to speculations that this was an identical establishment twin with western backing. Contrastinglt, this was enough to keep Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf that considers the conduct of the US imposed WOT as the mother of all evils at a reasonable distance from the fiery Allama. The gravitational pull attracted and empathized with every Pakistani. It will be argued beyond the next elections what PTI lost or gained.

There are also many conspiracy theories speculating the sponsors of the Allama.

The media and analysts recalled his past and projected him an ambitious opportunist riding the wave of western approval of the Sufi Tradition, likely to work as a bulwark against hard-line Islamists and challenge the riding waves of religiously sponsored militancy in Pakistan. Conflicting contrasts of his past from revising the blasphemy laws to his 1000 page fatwa against suicide bombings were linked to his multi faced personality cast as an emerging moderate Islamic Scholar operating from Canada.

Some saw him as a tool being used by Islamabad to slight the influence of PMLN in Punjab and lure Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf to miscalculate, the two parties in Punjab appearing to endear rightist sentiments.

The evergreen politicians of PMLQ and MQM with perennial links to the establishment were quick to send mixed signals. Perhaps both parties saw an opportunity to enact themselves in Punjab at the cost of PMLN and PTI.

In various talk shows, Dr. Qadri showed passion for his motherland and perhaps the most scholarly insight into why Pakistan was a British Dominion from 1947 to 1956. He was emotional when he talked on the fortes and dynamic leadership of the founding father Qaid e Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and tactfully refuted the opinion of Mr Altaf Hussain. His lectures on some clauses of the constitution served well to educate a common man. He showed a deep insight into hpw history and vision for Pakistan; a rare trait in Pakistani politicians. But tragically we have seen such scripts in the past fall prey to expediencies.

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The nerve wrecking tension and emotions fired by high levels of adrenalin affected many skeptics to believers in possibility. As the Dharna reached its high point, many suggested that it was a situation tailor made for Imran Khan seize control and lead the movement to its logical social contract. But that moment despite speculations never came.

Interestingly, before the drama set off, it was opined in these columns on 10 January:

“Elections in Pakistan favorable to US policies in the region are crucial… This now means coalescing and backing a group of apparently liberal, secular, anti right, progressive, tolerant inclusive groups. The most obvious choice is the continuation of the NRO coalition boosted with a few old and new rising political stars” The column continued, “Much will depend how Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz reacts to this scenario? Will it like the NRO, join the band wagon or will it as a reassertion of patriotism hold out an olive branch in the best interests of the country to its political opponents who do not share the American dream?

It appears that the government was initially taken off guard. PMLN went into full drive to impede the long march and sent police reinforcement to Islamabad. Under pressure and misreading the environment, their next faux pas was to go all out in support of the Federal Government through reinforcing Islamabad, a joint opposition and stage counter protests in Lahore. Unlike what was suggested, PMLN chose to board the NRO 2 Band Wagon rather than assert patriotism by holding out an olive branch to its political opponents. This put them deeper into this crack that, President Zardari grabbed the opportune moment to convert this flash flood to a trickle.

As Allama Tahir Ul Qadri’s Dharna took twists and turns, so did the reverberations on his intentions, motives and effects on Pakistani politics. The Orwellian satire was in full public display in the container with people huddling, hugging, smiling and kissing while the sheep obediently peeped through. The futility of the march was writ large on the faces of the government representatives standing behind Qadri’s back. In a dramatic irony of the plot, representatives of PMLQ and MQM rather than be allies of the Allama, chose to be with the winners. In the course of five hours, PMLN card was effectively used by negotiators to subdue and scare Qadri. Least, smiles and not cajoling allowed Zardari to hijack a revolution that never was. As the public spectacle concluded to a whimper, it left the sane musing and questioning; why all this and to what effect?

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But as a minimalist agenda, Dr. Qadri managed to secure a document that is likely to rock the pro election scenes in Pakistan for times to come. I am sure, he has left enough skeletons in the cupboard to live and fight another day possibly setting the tone of events for a pro West Nationalist Pakistan. His words Peace at Home and Peace Abroad were straight out of these columns as were many sentences and phrases in his English speech.

For Imran Khan and his party, the temptation to merge the tsunami into this sea of energy and overturn the corridors of power was irresistible. Many analysts opined that PTI arrival would provide the needed impetus and tip a people’s revolution. The views and opinions of experts and anchors vacillated every moment. Within the stormy party meetings, contrarian comments were heard and counter argued. Imran Khan held resolutely and resisted the forbidden fruit. Like a cricketer of class, he declared that he wished the middle stump uprooted in front of the crowds rather than support a tempting agenda whose objectives appeared shady and flexible. He declared that to achieve Jinnah’s Pakistan the act to experiment with expediencies was in fact a betrayal of the great leader.

The only party that has emerged non committal through its conspicuous absence is Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf. Many critics still opine that Imran Khan missed the boat once again. During his arguments with me, he declared that leaders lead the people and not otherwise. Despite my contrarian assessment, I agree because in the end it proved to be a petering flash flood.

Events in the next four weeks will prove some right and other wrong. The Ides of March are round the Corner.