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

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The Containers and Those Contained

Inquilab in Pakistan

The political agitations led by Imran Khan and Tahir-ul-Qadri in Pakistan for the past few weeks had been billed as inquilab for a "Naya Pakistan". Even though they did not, and could not have lived up to their promise of revolutionary change, these two movements have unsettled the status quo of the elites and have politicised new sections of the population. This in itself may well have opened up some spaces which were unavailable earlier.

For the past several weeks, a large majority of urban Pakistanis have been glued to their TV screens, watching an extraordinary tamasha unfold in Islamabad. In sight of the national Parliament are two shipping containers – converted into a platform and lodging. Everyday, two men climb up to the roofs and hold forth before an audience of thousands. These two are cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, and a media savvy, fiery orator-cum-Islamic scholar Tahir-ul-Qadri (normally resident in Canada). Surrounded by their respective party leadership they make angry speeches against the incumbent government of Nawaz Sharif and call for him to resign without any further delay. This has gone on for more than a month now and no end seems in sight.

These two arrived here on two main pretexts. Imran and his party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), allege that the 2013 elections, which Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (N) (PML(N)) won, were rigged in the latter’s favour. PTI beseeched the Election Commission, the Supreme Court and the government to investigate claims of rigging in specific constituencies, but upon finding all doors shut on them, resorted to street protest in the form of an “Azadi” march to Parliament. Qadri claims to be motivated by the death of 14 (the number is disputed) of his supporters who were killed in a skirmish with the Punjab police in June 2014 – this incident was to be pivotal in what was to follow.

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