ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Tahir-ul Qadri Episode

Resilience in Pakistan's Democracy

Tahir-ul Qadri's sudden emergence on the political stage of Pakistan has been correctly interpreted as one which was intended to derail democracy for many years to come rather than to cleanse the government of corrupt practices. The fact that the Allama has failed is a strong testament to how much Pakistan's democracy has evolved in the last five years and the extent to which Pakistan's establishment has been on the retreat. Inadvertently, the Allama's sponsored intrusion may have actually strengthened democracy, not weakened it.

The general consensus in the media regarding the new challenger to the throne in Islamabad, Tahir-ul Qadri, is that he is the most recent representative of “the establishment”. The view is that Qadri, chosen and substantively supported by the establishment, is on his way to oust democracy and return Pakistan to a form of government which was the norm till 2008. Since Qadri’s huge public gathering in Lahore on 23 December 2012, in which he threatened to march on to Islamabad – a “Long March” to set up a Tahrir Square – unless a number of his demands were met by Parliament, the media in Pakistan as well as many elected representatives have been accusing the Allama of being a plant, a stooge, talking and threatening at the behest of Pakistan’s military as well as on behalf of the Americans.

Pakistan is a land of conspiracies and conspiracy theories. Anyone who emerges quite suddenly on a wave of popular and populist support is usually accused of having the support of the establishment, the military and the “agencies”. Yet, as many who are familiar with Pakistan also know, given the power, influence, resources and the current disposition and desperation of the establishment and agencies, many of these rumours are actually quite true. Imran Khan and the religious right-wing alliance, the Dif’a-e-Pakistan Council, were the most recent examples, but both failed. One would need considerable persuasion to think otherwise regarding Pakistan’s most recent populist figure.

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