The Damp Squib

Posted by Admin On Sunday, 20 January 2013 0 comments

by Ghalib Sultan

It wasn’t just the weather that was wet in Islamabad on January, 17th. The revolution promised by Dr Tahir ul Qadri turned out to be a damp squib after all. TV viewers and the protesters gaped in surprise as a visibly relieved but trying to be jubilant Dr Qadri reveled in touchie-feelie bon homie with those whom he had termed corrupt exploiters just hours earlier and whose immediate expulsion was his stated aim. The government coalition’s carefully selected committee had timed their parleys with the rain pelting Dr Qadri’s crowd knowing that something had to give. And it did. The agreement that ended the rally was that the elected assemblies would be dissolved by March 16th, that elections would be held within 90 days of the dissolution of the assemblies, that a caretaker prime minister would be chosen after consultations between Dr Qadri and the government and the matter of the election commission reformulation would be discussed further on the 27th by the coalition committee and Dr Qadri at his headquarters in Lahore. Hardly earthshaking and certainly not a revolution thwarting formulation but to everyone’s relief it worked and the crowd dispersed.
A day earlier person no less than the President had personally telephoned a TV anchor to tell him that force would not be used to disperse the crowd in Islamabad. This message proudly announced by the anchor indicated that the President was in charge and that he knew exactly what was to be done to resolve the situation. Full marks then must be given to the President for a masterly handling of a situation that had been recklessly created and that could have had tragic consequences. This, of course, is not the first time that the President has sprung a surprise. Perceptive analysts may also have noted the distinction that Dr Qadri carefully drew between his reformist effort through the Minhaj ul Quran and the his political parleys through his Pakistan Awami Tehreek.
Time now to take stock of where this leaves us. The PML(N) has united the opposition into what comes naturally to it—a right of center grouping with an ambiguous outlook on radical extremism. The Coalition with a badly tarnished MQM included and with Dr Qadri now hanging by their coat-tails, emerges as a left of center grouping with a stated agenda of opposing militants and terrorists. Imran Khan stands in splendid isolation somewhere in the middle having kept out of the melee surrounding Dr Qadri’s venture. Not to be outdone the TTP carried out a high profile assassination in Karachi announcing that this was the start of their campaign against the MQM. To most it looked as if Karachi was to be turned into a battleground between the Pashtuns and the MQM with the Sind nationalists waiting in the wings just as the Hazara-Pashtun confrontation and Baluch nationalist violence in Baluchistan destroys the environment there.
Another damp squib was the courts “arrest the PM order” that came at the height of Dr Qadris fulminations but is no longer mentioned by him. The dramatic death of the officer investigating the case does muddy the waters. The furor created over the LOC incidents seems to be subsiding too as sanity prevails with the realization that there is no option but to keep improving relations---this issue, however, was anything but a damp squib because valuable lives were lost. The focus returns to the looming elections under an election commissioner who has the respect and confidence of the nation. The speculations about the ‘establishment’ and the ‘deep state’ and the US-UK combine having launched Dr Qadri have also ended and perhaps the realization is dawning on everyone that for once the dynamics of the political situation are playing out without intervention and that barring a catastrophe no one in his right mind would want to intervene.


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