Misgivings about Tahir-ul-Qadri

A brilliantly analytical piece by Dr Mazari. Shap, incisive.

By: Shireen Mazari

TUQDr Tahirul Qadri undoubtedly moved me on December 23, especially with the sea of green and white flags and the passionate resonance of the national anthem. We may be far from where we want to be, or should be, as a nation, but the passion and dream lives on in so many of us. Dr Qadri’s message touched a chord and the instinct was to join up in his caravan for change. After all, this was what had attracted me to the PTI until the “electables” invasion, traditional manoeuvring and takeover. Imran’s commitment to change was not the issue, but the means – of the same “electables” somehow becoming harbingers of this change – did somehow undermine the belief, notwithstanding the passion of the youth!

So when Dr Qadri in his convincing manner offered yet another path to truly change the democratic political equation in Pakistan, it was difficult not to join in. But something held me back, and I can now identify three different levels of reasoning that made me decide to stay away. The first level was related to the assumptions underlying the march, regardless of the numbers! The idea of having a “people’s assembly” which would make decisions for the nation without itself having been selected by the people smacked of an arrogance that was discomfiting! After all, how could this “people’s assembly” represent the whole gamut of the Pakistani nation without having actually been given this mandate? Similarly, respected scholar though he is, Dr Qadri also has not been given a mandate to head such an assembly and make decisions on behalf of the people of Pakistan!

At a second and perhaps most crucial level, I feel that, given the chaos and violence Pakistan is already experiencing, the means of bringing change matter. There is absolutely no doubt that the demands for electoral reforms through proper enforcement of the constitution are the need of the hour for Pakistan to rid itself of the corrupt politicians’ coterie ruling us. But the questions that came to mind are: One, why not use the Supreme Court and challenges through the ECP to ensure enforcement of constitutional provisions with regard to electoral candidates? Here Imran Khan’s example stands out in connection with bogus voters’ lists, as well as his pending appeals against pre-poll rigging.

There is a system that works, if used properly. This usage also allows for strengthening of institutions like the judiciary and the ECP – thereby fortifying the roots of democracy. I feel Imran’s use of petitions to fight electoral corruption not only shows faith in the judiciary, thereby fortifying the institution, but has also borne positive results in the battle for electoral reform – although the war has yet to be won.

Two, how can one man and his followers decide who is clean or pious? At the end of the day, if we believe in democracy then we must fight the battle against corruption and lawbreakers at the ballot box. Yes, rigging is a plague, as are the traditional political norms, especially in the rural areas; but if enough voices stand up against these evils, I believe things will change. We have never given the democratic system, flawed as it may be, a chance to take root. Too many dictatorial interventions in the name of “reform” have already cost this country a smooth evolutionary developmental process. In fact, this is a major reason why the corrupt, inept traditional “electables” succeed time after time in elections – because they are allowed to embrace political martyrdom instead of being exposed for the criminals that they are.

Distasteful as it may be, we have to allow the system to continue and hope people will choose new faces, who will in turn bring reform to the electoral system through parliamentary legislation. We need a system of proportional representation; of unhinging the roots of support for corruption in politics such the misnomer “development funds,” and so on. But these changes need to come through letting the electoral system continue, which may make the task more daunting but it is the only legitimate way. Too many non-democratic interventions have already destroyed the fabric of this nation.

Three, I feel very strongly about the whole issue of dual nationality and had written a letter to the CJ on the issue also. No matter how committed to Pakistan, dual nationality implies dual loyalties, especially in the case of the US naturalisation oath. If one wants to lead a political movement in Pakistan then commitment to this cause requires a renunciation of the foreign nationality. Not everyone agrees on this, but it is a conviction with me.

At a third level, my misgivings are based on what I tend to call “connecting the dots.” The timing of Dr Qadri’s return; information flowing out from British sources that the UK High Commissioner to Pakistan visited Dr Qadri in Canada two or three times about six months ago; the growing belligerency of drones and Indian troops along the LoC, alongside an unprecedented increase in terrorism, especially in Quetta; the sheer money and organisational structure that suddenly became overt – just too many coincidences in terms of timeline. Some said the “establishment” was behind Dr Qadri, but I am not convinced on that count! However, external powers I suspect have a role, although I have no proof – simply an educated assessment of what is happening within Pakistan and in our region.


We know the US seeks a favorable dispensation in Islamabad up to 2014 so that its withdrawal from Afghanistan can be smooth and the post-withdrawal scenario to its liking. A long-term friendly caretaker setup would suit them more than an elected government, especially since they are not sure what will happen in the next elections when there is no NRO and no “guarantors”! We also know how the UK played a lead role in the whole NRO game, so the same linkage can be taken as a given again. Banking on someone they recognise as a “liberal religious leader,” who has even sought to justify drones before December 23, they feel will allow them to bring the Pakistani nation on board. These are dangerous and false assumptions but it will not be the first time such miscalculations have been made.

Too many questions to set the mind at ease over the agenda of Dr Qadri – a man to be respected for his scholarship. But if he is really concerned about the people of Pakistan then a march that would win support from all over the country would be a peace march to Quetta. Now, that would be a march I would join without hesitation. Till then elections and legal challenges to enforce constitutional provisions are the route to achieve change. The means do matter.

This is a cross post from The News.

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  • Naveed Tajammal  On January 14, 2013 at 7:31 am

    Very well said- Shireen Mazari;
    Mr.Qadri,Should have changed his stance,keeping in view the Quetta Affair,and So if a True Nationalist-He’ should have Led a Peace March Onto Quetta.But,that would Not have pleased his ‘Masters’-well tabulated in the Article,above.And to whom in reality,at the Moment in Time,Mr.Qadri owes his Oath of Allegiance,As Mr.Qadri has yet to revoke his Candanian Citizen-ship-No ? And the terms,of the Oath are very clear;
    ” I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen.”
    So,we should be very Clear,For whom the Bell Tolls !

  • Guyyan Mirza  On January 14, 2013 at 8:07 am

    Well written & informative piece. Thoughts that are in every rational thinking Pakistani’s mind about TUQ

  • Syed Atta ur Rehman  On January 14, 2013 at 8:07 am

    so well explained, well discussed and brilliantly put in to black and white

  • SHOMU BHATTACHARYA  On January 14, 2013 at 8:36 am

    What the entire subcontinent needs and not just Pakistan alone–is a change for better–honest and dedicated to the people proper governance-India has a Anna Hazare and Pakistan also now has Dr Qadri-and if this is done through peaceful marches and with that aimto bring about a radical changet then I too will gladly join it–i think our people are fed up and we all need a change for the better.

  • zubair zubair  On January 14, 2013 at 11:57 am

    I agree completely. A brilliant piece. TQ’s sudden rise raises too many questions. However, the danage done y the present Govt is almost beyond “economical” repair as we say in the PAF. We desperately NEED a change before it is too late. Anyone would be better than the present mafia. Zubair

  • M Ashraf Zafar  On January 14, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    Please don’t forget the character of man who is leading. few days back he went to MQM-90 . MQM is arty to every government in one way or the other since 25years.. MQM is also partner of present government who is responsible for looting and mismanagement. Karachi the financial capital of Pakistan is hub of target killing kidnapping and bhatta collection. some one should question Qadri sahib. why he did he not condemn such party.

    secondly itis not necessary that leadership from middle class will be able to lead better. it has been proved once poor gain power and control they go corrupt and want to change their category. from poor to filthy rich elite. i also know vederas or landlords were very gentle and better parliamentarians than lower or middle class politicians- Few years back A.A Zardari was not so rich as today. Chaudheri brothers are son of ordinary police man in 1970S. but now they are industrialist land lords. same is true for other politicians from various parties.
    What is important is that Tahir-Ul-Qadri track record is not so good.. he is slippery character.

  • idrees  On January 14, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    Impressive and valid.

  • Ahsan Abbas  On January 14, 2013 at 3:12 pm

    “But if he is really concerned about the people of Pakistan then a march that would win support from all over the country would be a peace march to Quetta. Now, that would be a march I would join without hesitation”

  • A.M Malik  On January 14, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    Dear Madam
    Your article spells out thoughts that have been purging my mind for the past two days. Yes – who and why Qadri has launched himself now? although what he says is appealing – the timings of all this shed some thing other than what is overt. He did met the HC in Canada, and Mr Rahman Malik also claims that he has been meeting some selected people in Dubai?!
    In my opinion Mr Qadri and the tension at the LOC is a clear indicator that there is a connect- possibly on the lines described by you. But perhaps it is local plan or with the conivance of the outside i.e CIA – the theme could be the extension in the stay of the most hated person in the name of Zardari – who I feel insulted to call him my President.
    Having said that I am not quite sure of ur idea that let the system continue and it may throw some good people. No madam. I do not think so. Not so long as the present feudel class continues as also the industrial feudels or as long as there are no elections within a party with a built in mechanism to weed out the quetionable lots or the lower mentals.
    There is an alternate though. We follow US fellows like a slave .Then why not follow their system of governace while staying within the parlimentary system – the darling of the present looters. The system would be that none of the legislators i.e. MNAs and the senators – by law can become ministers. Instead the chief executive meaning the PM choses professionals to be cleared by a select committee to run the government. The job of the legislatures is to legistate and that is what they should be doing. Madam it will have two prong effects. The feudels will not stand for eelections for lack of any incentives and the chief executive will not be always under pressure to keep his majority. Trust me this will also eliminate corruption in a big way.

  • Shahjehan  On January 15, 2013 at 1:38 am

    there have been occasions when i raised a salute for dr Mazari;particularly for her BELLIGERENT stance on pak nukes,,,but…march to Quetta ………..she deserves a royal salute !

  • Qaisar Nawaz Gandapur  On January 15, 2013 at 2:47 am

    What democracy are we talking about, the clan of the Bhuttos, the gang of the Sharifs? Even the ANP,PTI,MLQ want it all in the family.
    What do people want —– Food — which is getting expensive day by day and is beyound the buying power of the poor. Law and Order — we have the glaring example of KPK, Karachi and the latest happenings in Quetta. Medical Aid — where rats are biting new born and hundred of kids dying in Sind.
    Jobs — none for the poor, if you are willing to dole out a lot of money,only then will you get a job. Why is nobody talking of the 82 billion rupee’s taken away by one man, where is Arsalans case, the Gilanis sons misdeeds.
    What about the payments of taxes by the elected representatives.
    Gas– hardly any, Electricity — we see it off and on.
    The only answer is a care taker government who can manage a positive change.
    Regards, Qaisar N Gandapur

  • kbajwa  On January 15, 2013 at 4:52 am

    A good article.

  • Amir Rana  On January 15, 2013 at 6:05 am

    Sometimes it surprises me how innocent (or ——) we are as a collective being. People simply refuse to acknowledge the broad daylight and as well as sheer darkness of night. We are a land where Sultan Rahi plays the hero’s role in more than 1,000 flicks, jokers get elected into the parliament AND thousands of people become followers of a -erk like Ul -adri.

  • Dr Umair  On January 15, 2013 at 8:03 am

    true and good analysis…

  • Naveed Tajammal  On January 15, 2013 at 8:28 am

    Once Upon a Time,the true leaders ‘Led’ the Men;
    And they remained in the thick of the Battle,Not,that the
    danger of being killed by a stray musket-shot or an Arrow did
    not exist ; They too wore the Chain Armour,Yet here the ‘Irony’
    is that,this chosen leader,brought in by,a former master race
    from whom we achieved independence in 1947,is like the Duke of Plaza-Toro,.So this ‘leader’ if he,can be,’called’ a leader,lives in the comfort of a caravan,not only bullet-
    proof but bomb-proof as well.He drives around in the comfort of a equally
    equipped,like his ‘caravan’ Land-cruiser,and when like a ‘ferret’,shows himself
    he is well ‘cocooned’ in a bullet-proof ‘Glass enclosure.
    Yet,he extolls,and goads, the poor public to do more,and put their,” heads
    on the block,for him.
    How ‘Gullible’ can we be,and what a strange age we live in.

  • Aleem Qureshi  On January 15, 2013 at 8:55 pm

    Zardari, Raja Rental, Asfandyar, Altaf, Nawaz;; Sab he jhootay, sab Khayen aur sab he pakke ‘Nausarbaz.’

  • waqas amin  On June 4, 2013 at 10:28 am

    Is this the pseudo-intellectualism of Pakistani analysts? I was expecting proper analysis not pro-establishment garbage.

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