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Interview- Ayesha Siddiqa: ‘Qadri march bid to destabilise Nawaz govt’

Mumtaz Qadri, was hanged in Adialia jail of Rawalpindi city, Pakistan.

Written by Nirupama Subramanian |
March 29, 2016 1:51:32 am
pakistan, Mumtaz Qadri, pakistan clashes, Mumtaz Qadri execution, pakistan march, pakistan protest march, police action on protest march, pakistan execution, pak anti execution protest, pakistan news, world news, latest news Pakistani police fire tear gas to stop protesters from marching towards the parliament building in Islamabad, Sunday, March 27, 2016. (Source: AP)

How do you view the pro-Qadri march, and the government’s response?

It is puzzling that a crowd far larger than this had gathered for Mumtaz Qadri’s janaza in Faizabad, but on that the day, there was excellent crowd control. The streets leading to the burial ground are narrower. What happened suddenly that a government that handled 300,000 people on that day was unable to handle 30,000 people on Sunday?

So what are you saying?

My own feeling is that this was an attempt to destabilise the Nawaz Sharif government by the traditional stakeholders in the power game. It seems to me like a gambit to build up pressure on the government ahead of important decisions. I just hope this is not linked to extorting decisions from Nawaz on the change of guard due in the Army GHQ by November this year.

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The crowd was massive, but religious parties still get soundly defeated in elections every time.

[related-post]

Our electoral politics is built around different dynamics. People vote for a party with whom they can negotiate their bijli and pani, atta and dal. Ideologically, they are committed elsewhere. In 2013, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi supporters in Punjab voted for both PML(N) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf. People vote for the party they think is winning.

Can the blasphemy law ever be amended?

It would need nerves of steel, and strong support from the people. That moment may never come. Pakistan has been a hybrid theocracy since 1974, when the Constitution was amended to define a Muslim as the one who believes in the finality of the Prophet. In Pakistan, economic liberalism and religious conservatism go hand in hand with a formal application of sharia in some spaces, and much larger space for informally applying sharia. No one has the power right now, political or otherwise, to change the narrative, to build a different idea, to challenge the conservatism.

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(Ayesha Siddiqa is an independent writer and author of ‘Military Inc: Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy’)

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