By Humayun Gauhar

This week terrorism took the lives of more than 117 people in bomb blasts in Quetta and Swat, while nurses in a Nowshera hospital were fired upon and one killed. How many more tears do we have left to shed? Soon our tears will turn to blood.

The relatives of the Quetta dead refused to bury their dead until the army takes the province over from a non-existent government headed by a joker. This is how intervention takes place. Don’t forget what I have been saying for years: it is the corruption, ineptitude, bad intent and sheer malfeasance of elected governments that invites coups. If they delivered only half of what the people expect, coups would never happen.

As if all this were not enough, we now have Tahir ul Qadri’s march to contend with. If the capital comes to a standstill so does the federation. Even if Qadri proves to be the agent of change, Constitution Avenue could prove to be the road to hell.

Hitler made the cardinal error of attacking the Soviet Union in the dead of the Russian winter. The cold ate him up. Qadri is marching to Islamabad in the coldest winter in half a century. Qadri says he won’t leave until his demands are met. If the government doesn’t lose its nerve and let’s them be they might freeze and about turn. But this government has a history of caving in to long marches. Remember the march to Gujranwala to restore the sacked judges? Government lost its nerve when the army refused to shoot innocent civilians whom they are charged to protect. In the end, it might be up to the army to save this government or not. That depends on its real intent.

I have often said: please separate the message from the messenger. If the message is good, accept it. If the messenger is bad, reject him. A bad messenger with a good message will attract the public, but only for a time, for a bad messenger debases a good message. We have heard good messages all our lives. We still stick by them, but the messengers are gone. A day will come when the good message will find a good messenger. Then see how the mare goes. Jinnah was a good messenger with a good message. He liberated his people, founded a new country and changed the course of history. Messengers like him don’t come every day. Have patience.

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But first things first: Mr. Altaf Hussain and Mr. Tahir ul Qadri, please don’t drag the Holy Prophet (pbuh) and Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah into your dirty politics to justify your actions. There are limits, and they have been crossed.

Altaf Hussain had promised a ‘drone attack’ last week. (Why does he use terrorist terminology?). His drone bombed the founder of Pakistan. In his umpteenth telephone harangue dutifully telecast by all television channels, Altaf Hussain said that he would support Qadri’s long march heart and soul. He justified his and Qadri’s dual nationalities by trotting out evidence that Pakistan’s founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah was also a British national and had sworn allegiance to King George V of England when he took oath as governor general of Pakistan. Does he think we are demented? We are not like his dazed robots that sit obediently in front of a speaker listening to his rants and bad singing, applauding on cue. We know our history. Our father’s and grandfathers too were born into slavery during the British Raj. Jinnah freed them, as he did Altaf Hussain’s family.

On August 14, 1947 Pakistan had to perforce become a British dominion because it had no constitution. When we made one we became a republic, fully independent with a citizenship act. India chose the last viceroy as its first governor general. We had British commanders-in-chiefs of our armed forces. Yes, if we had done our homework and prepared a constitution before Partition and adopted it a day later, we would have become a republic immediately and not been quasi independent. What is better: half independence or no independence? Altaf Hussain is no Quaid-e-Azam. He shouldn’t twist history and compare himself or Qadri to the great Jinnah.

Not 24-hours later came the real drone strike, conducted by Asif Zardari and targeting Altaf Hussain. Bull’s eye. The great political barber gave Altaf another haircut. Leaders of the MQM sheepishly announced that they had withdrawn from Qadri’s long march lest they foster terrorism. Has it taken them this long to discover that Pakistan suffers from terrorism? We have been suffering it since 1985, for God’s sake.

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Qadri did even worse. Years ago he claimed that he met the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in a dream. The Prophet (pbuh) was very angry at Pakistan and had decided to leave permanently. Upon Qadri’s wailing and beseeching the Prophet (pbuh) relented on condition that Qadri provided him a return ticket from Medina on PIA and arrange for his board and lodging. Is this blasphemy or what? If any non-Muslim had said such an audacious thing he would have been charged with blasphemy. Does the Prophet (pbuh) need Qadri to give him an airline ticket, food and bedding? Did Qadri ask him what he would like to eat? Does anyone in spirit form need any such thing? The Prophet (pbuh), who can get anything from God, needs Qadri for tickets, food and lodging? Ridiculous, a vile insult to the meanest intelligence. Yet we are told to believe that Qadri is a scholar? Forsooth and double forsooth, for he defiles the concept of scholarship. Scholarship does not exist in pieces of paper called degrees or in words collected in books. Scholarship exists in the mind. Qadri may prove to be an agent of change but he has yet to prove that he is not a charlatan. He needs to apologize. Would God choose such a man as His agent for good change or bad? Is this our next punishment: let loose a person upon us camouflaged as the moderate face of Islam who shows us beautiful gardens but takes us nowhere?

Tahir ul Qadri descended on Pakistan, Canadian passport and all, threatening to upset the applecart of our horrific politicians by marching on Islamabad tomorrow with 400,000 people until and unless the system is changed and his demands met. While it is your constitutional right to march, Mr. Qadri, who the hell are you to demand postponement of elections and reject the next caretaker government? What is the locum of your standing? ‘Reforms before Elections’ is your slogan. The question is: How? How will you change the system? With sword or pen?

To do it with the pen requires a two-thirds majority in parliament. Can Qadri get it? Can anyone? This is not 1997 and the army is not helping Nawaz Sharif.

The sword has been tried many times, but even the good changes they made fell by the wayside because of lack mandate when the sword was sheathed. In any case, generals and their pet ‘technocrats’ just don’t have the intellectual wherewithal to do it. They are limited people, specialists in the particular. All they do is denting and painting.

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There is a third way: both sword and pen wielded by the people. That means revolution as opposed to the sort of anarchy we have amongst the Arabs. The line between revolution and anarchy is very thin, and can hardly be recognized. Suffice it to say that revolution is the product of a coherent ideology. Anarchy has none and is the product of pent up frustration and anger. Remember, anarchy usually precedes revolution. Often it does not, for lack of ideology.

Qadri will collect a crowd because people are fed up, frustrated with corruption, nepotism, poor governance and more poor leadership waiting in the wings. They are spoiling to protest on any pretext. Things have got so bad that, as God says in the Quran, the earth is shrinking for us. Today there is hardly any place for us to hide in our country while no country is willing to accept us.

Qadri’s demands are exactly what people want and what many of us have been saying for years. If the government loses its nerve and does something stupid things will go out of control countrywide. Then you will have terrorism on steroids, combined with criminality and parochial demands, every-man-for-himself. It doesn’t matter whether they try and stop him in Islamabad or outside, it could become a warzone. Welcome ‘Pakistani Spring’. Hello army.

This should not happen. I have been saying that the process should be allowed to evolve naturally to the next stage. Surely that is the preferred way, because the our ‘wretched of the earth’ are very resilient. So are some from the charmed classes: it’s not as barren as you might think. Better to suffer this system more, learn lessons and change naturally than foist unnatural change through sword or mob. Who said learning is easy? Who said change is painless? Those better off than us today suffered great pain in the past before they got what they wanted. Now it’s our turn.