And another long march

As Imran Khan and Tahir-ul Qadri face off with Islamabad, will the past be repeated?

Pakistan has collapsed materially in the face of Taliban terror. Pakistan has collapsed materially in the face of Taliban terror.
Written by Khaled Ahmed | Updated: August 14, 2014 12:06 am

Pakistan is reeling under the good/ bad news of revolutions. I thought the only revolution possible here was that of the Taliban, which has pledged to establish “superior” Islamic order and has the power to bring it about through much slaughter. It has already accomplished part of this goal, which the victims, whose extremism matches that of the killers, would welcome as divinely ordained in the holy books.

I thought “revolution” was different from “change”, but Imran Khan and his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, currently on the warpath, seem to conflate the two. Change, I thought, was democracy, with its inbuilt period of change of government. And revolution was a sanguinary uprooting that comes after a long period of authoritarian oppression. The other “revolutionary” who wants to overthrow the “rotten system” — read democracy — is Tahir-ul Qadri of Pakistan Awami Tehreek, a fabulously rich cleric who lives in Canada but can mobilise global funds of untold quantity. Both are cult leaders backed by supporters willing to “face bullets”.

In Pakistan, most politicians prefer to name their parties “tehreek”, meaning “movement” rather than “party”, because tehreek implies a spontaneous massing of people intent on achieving an objective — which is what a revolution looks like when it starts. The half-hidden intent behind each tehreek is violent change, while also implying the inspiration of a higher “cause”, preferably mixed with religion.

What do the two cult leaders want? Khan says he wants a change of government through a “long march” on Islamabad, where an incumbent prime minister is wobbly — not because he is bad, but because Pakistan has been getting less and less governable over the past decade because of terrorism. The prime minister may have been guilty of unrealistically promis ing the moon but not of doing something deserving constitutional dismissal. All prime ministers will be wobbly for the foreseeable future in Pakistan and, therefore, vulnerable to “revolutionary” attacks from opposition parties posing as “movements”.

I develop a moronic tic when such a moment is reached. An evil glint appears in my eyes as I predict “revolution” will come after the storming of Islamabad through a well-timed move by the Pakistan army. (Revolutions through such interventions have been pathetic hot air so far.) That is what has happened in the past, and it is accepted in Pakistan that the army is the only powerful institution in the state, running external policy and internal order. Hasn’t Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif offended the army by not letting General (retd) Pervez Musharraf duck a trial for treason and leave Pakistan to enjoy his wealth abroad?Khan may once have been the army’s “candidate” for coronation as an anointed ruler of the country through the familiar interruption of a “corrupt” democratic order. But he may not be “anointed” today — he has opposed new army chief General Raheel Sharif’s war …continued »

First Published on: August 14, 2014 12:05 amSingle Page Format
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