Friday’s headline of this newspaper put is best: ‘That’s all folks’. Quite. Drama and ‘dharna’ over: We excavated a mountain and found a mouse.
My friend Hussain Haroon phoned immediately after the government-Qadri compromise to ask: “Old chap, who do you think blinked?”
“Neither,” I said. “Each closed one eye. Both winked. The government got relief without violence; Qadri got a face-saving exit. The people got nothing.” Runaway inflation is still their lot as are unemployment, insecurity, no gas or electricity, no water, no schools or hospitals, no nothing.
The declaration is a compromise, not a consensus. Compromise is a copout, a sellout. Consensus requires a majority.
Qadri’s sellout reminded me of a Punjabi verse my late Uncle Tajammul would tell us children about Pakistani politics:
“Choran dey pug Sadhuaan la lai, Sadhuaan dey pug chor.
Kalay patthar, kalay rorh, chor ve kainday ‘chor o chor’.”
“The pious exposed the thieves; thieves the pious. Black rocks, black stones, even thieves are shouting ‘thief, thief’.”
The imagery is of children stoning thieves out of their villages and neighbourhoods. When big thieves arrive not just petty thieves shout “thief, thief” but also black stones and rocks asking to be thrown at them.
Qadri entered the gang of those he calls thieves (amongst other choice titles and expletives) and joined the class of beneficiaries of the status quo that he claimed that he had come to change. I feel sorry for his mesmerized followers, sorrier for the simpletons who joined his ‘long march’ that was actually a ‘short fatigue’ and sorrier still for the couch potatoes who romanticized that revolution was upon us. Revolutions are not made from seven-star bunkers; they take years of struggle or jihad that our Prophet (pbuh) waged. He didn’t fight battles from comfortable container-bunkers, lost a tooth in Badr and had a torn tent atop the nearest hillock.
Any ordinary intelligence can articulate the frustrations and aspirations of the people and mobilize some of them. But to implement them is another thing. When you don’t even intend to implement them but only want to get entry into the ‘Beneficiaries and Brigands Club’ then rhetoric has no chance of becoming reality. Qadri is now a member, to be consulted on some silly things, with some meetings to be held in his office. Such symbolism does an oversized ego massage.
For days Tahir ul Qadri called the politicians thieves while for years he kept trumpeting his own piety. On January 17 the ‘thieves’ exposed his piety and showed him up as a charlatan. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police added syrup to this trifle: they want to question Qadri for getting a Canadian passport under false pretenses. Is this what a trustworthy, honest man is made of? Qadri has given a diametrically opposed meaning to the words ‘Sadiq’ and ‘Ameen’ – in his dictionary they mean ‘rascal, charlatan and freebooter’.
Qadri left Lahore to save the country and upturn the status the quo. He arrived in Islamabad screaming revolution. He ended up joining the status quo; his revolution ended in the whimper of a meaningless declaration and a shameless escape. Welcome to the fold of liars and brigands, Mr. Qadri.
But look out: you are now in bed with the savviest, wiliest political operators in Pakistan, to wit one Asif Zardari and Chaudhry Shujat Hussain. Whilst the latter will take you into the emerging fold of the ‘Grand National Alliance’ against Nawaz Sharif’s ‘Grand Opposition Alliance’ to seal your permanent membership of the ‘Beneficiaries and Brigands Club’, Zardari will give you the haircut that you’ve never known before just as he has given many to Nawaz Sharif and Altaf Hussain. Then he will give you a head massage. Then you will become a zombie. Zardari came to an agreement with Nawaz Sharif but declared when he reneged: “Agreements are not in the pages of the Quran; they are not in the Hadees. They are just ‘mufahamat’ – compromise.” That was Nawaz Sharif’s first haircut. He has had many more since. Qadri’s ‘mufahamat’ declaration is his first haircut. How would you like another, Mr. Qadri? An American Navy Seal type crew cut, perhaps? Mr. Zardari is very good at that, though he is better at shaving heads. Like his late great father-in-law, Mr. Zardari’s strength is that he is not burdened by principles. But unlike his father-in-law he is not burdened by a jumbo jet-sized ego either. Thus he is not vindictive. Mr. Bhutto was and took revenge for petty and imagined slights and made enemies where there were none. In the end he outmaneuvered himself and was hanged by his pet general who he thought was his stooge. Zardari makes no such mistakes – except if you have diddled him in business, as many escaped businessmen have discovered. So be careful, Mr. Qadri. No point in keeping your hat on. Bhutto could insinuate his nimble fingers under a bird and take its eggs away one by one, Zardari can give haircuts with hats on, as you have discovered.
Qadri kept proclaiming his piety to the point of distraction. He implicitly claimed the Imamate of Hussain (RA) by likening his march to Hussain’s march on Karbala and likening our rulers to Yazid who slaughtered Hussain and much of the Prophet’s (pbuh) family. After all this invective Qadri invited these same ‘Yazids’ to his designer bunker, all smiles and hugs when he received them, and signed the paperwork for joining their exclusive club. Worse, he signed it with the man whom he had declared ‘ex’ prime minister. Even the president was declared ‘ex’. He prayed to God in gratitude for deliverance when the Supreme Court hastily ordered the prime minister’s arrest.
Would Imam Hussain have signed a declaration with Yazid? Would he have smiled and hugged him? The Charlatan did so without a blush or a blink, just a wink. I didn’t see any Yazid in the bunker, not all were thieves either but I did see one demagogue: one Mr. Qadri with his son and putative heir, like Dr. Evil and Mini Me (not another one, for God’s sake). Dynasticism is alive and well, thank you.
What did Qadri achieve?
- Two women and three children reportedly died of the cold and rain.
- The ‘Pakistani Spring’ turned out to be the ‘Pakistani Winter’. But it certainly exposed our ‘Winter of Discontent’.
- The marchers left behind so much filth that even wild boars that thrive on filth ran away.
- Qadri got uninterrupted media coverage in Pakistan for days and a lot abroad: the coming of the new messiah, the arrival of the deliverer, the moderate face of Islam and all that jazz.
- He got an exit route and entry into the charmed circle of the rapacious that make our people ‘the wretched of the earth’.
- Now he will be consulted – only consulted – in the government’s proposed names for caretaker prime minister: this is not in the constitution but Zardari can certainly consult anyone he wants to.
- A gaggle of lawyers – the usual suspects – will hold meetings in his secretariat of Minhaj ul Quran (by the way, ‘minhaj’ means path) to discuss how to change the election commissioners and ensure compliance of the constitutional criteria for qualification to contest elections. How election commissioners can be removed is in the constitution (it is near impossible) and the qualification and disqualification articles are clear: they only have to be implemented. Now they certainly will be on the opposition’s candidates. As to the government’s candidates, Mr. Zardari will be only too happy to be rid of some.
- People got a chance to vent their pent up anger and frustration and daydream for a while. Steam was let out of the volcano; its eruption was delayed – but only for a while.
The volcano rumbles still, it still spews smoke. And the heart of the earth beats in agitation. It is the ‘Winter of Discontent’. The volcano will erupt when a real leader, not a charlatan, emerges. That will happen after people have suffered more and learned further lessons for their mistakes till their eyes and minds are opened and they can differentiate between a charlatan and a real leader. “I go for a while with every fast current, for I don’t recognize the navigator still.”
People who are scraping the bottom of the barrel and clutching at straws is just so much balderdash. “Qadri showed the world the moderate face of Islam,” they bleat, “the people showed that they are disciplined.” Forsooth, the world is not made of fools. It knows that Qadri was acting according to the ‘Get Nawaz Script’ and that the vast majority of Pakistanis are moderate and disciplined. It is the rulers of these unfortunate people who are extreme in their plunder and immoderate in the language of their politics. Nawaz may be on the back foot, but he is not done. As to Imran Khan missing the bus, it was certainly a bus worth missing.
Don’t feel depressed. This is not the end for every ending contains the seeds of a new beginning. Ghalib said: “The candle burns in all colours till the dawn.” Wait for the dawn.