Pakistan and the world interested in Pakistan is a-buzz with just one thing right now. The Long March to Pakistan’s capital Islamabad, lead by Tehreek Minhaj ul Quran leader Dr Tahir ul Qadri and the consequences it would have on the country.
Tahir ul Qadri led a massive assembly of charged protestors carrying national flags and placards and chanting slogans for bringing about a change in the country to the country’s capital. He and his followers have refused to move from their appointed place in the capital until his demands are met and the ‘corrupt’ government gives in.
"We will stay in Islamabad until this government is finished, all the assemblies are dissolved, all corrupt people are totally ousted, a just constitution is imposed, rule of law is enforced, and true and real democracy is enforced,” says Qadri.
Tahir ul Qadri has made three main demands to the government:
- Reconstitute Election Commission of Pakistan;
- Install impartial and honest caretaker government and;
- Implement Article 62 and 63 of the Constitution which deals with the determination of eligibility of an electoral candidate.
He warned the government to dissolve the assemblies by 11:00 AM, Tuesday, January 15th as he was declaring them null and void. He said if that did not happen, people would start taking decisions of their own. “The ones sitting in the offices out there (pointing towards PM House and Presidency) are former president and prime minister. I will give you (the government) a deadline until tomorrow to dissolve the federal parliament and provincial assemblies. After that, the people's assembly here will take charge," Qadri told the press gathered.
Image From: Twitter
Tahir ul Qadri runs an educational and religious organization with networks all over the world. He only returned to Pakistan last month after more than a decade spent living in Canada, where he’s a naturalized citizen. Qadri claims to have mobilized four million people, but others tell the number to be much smaller than that. However, he has managed to gather a large enough crowd to make a point. When the government didn’t follow his bidding and the deadline passed, Tahir-ul-Qadri, addressed the people and termed his address as the Islamabad Declaration.
There are questions that come to mind.
Who is Tahir ul Qadri?
Who is behind him?
Why and how has he made an entrance in Pakistan just before the elections?
Keeping in that the sensitivity of the time how was he able to amass such a large number of people? Not only that, he has every intention of toppling the current government and claims to want to change the system.
Where did the money he’s spending come from?
The preparations as well as the process of the long March with all the media campaigning, logistics and security arrangements must have cost millions of rupees. Where did that come from and who is funding him, are questions that a lot of people inside the tumultuous country of Pakistan are asking.
For his part, Qadri has done little to put that question to rest, instead claiming that his financial support derives from people fed up with Pakistan’s corrupt political system. Earlier this week a source at "The New York Times" quoted an opposition senator that Qadri had spent some $4 million up to that point.
A coup by any other name smells just as foul #Pakistan— Ali Dayan Hasan (@AliDayan) January 15, 2013
Qadri’s suggestion that the military give input on the composition of the interim government has also raised several concerns primarily that he is seeking to derail elections at the behest of the powerful army. Polls are expected this spring, just two months from now.
Pakistanis have never had the chance to successfully vote out a democratic government. And no one has a right to deny it this time.— Omar Waraich (@OmarWaraich) January 15, 2013
However, Qadri has denied that. He insists that his vague demands for election reform are simply meant to root out corruption in the political system and that he pledged several weeks ago to lead a "million-man march" on Islamabad to press his demands.
At the same time, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has ordered the arrest of the country's prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and a number of other officials over allegations of illegal payments for electricity generating projects when Ashraf was minister for water and power.
And to add more fuel to the fire, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf leader and cricket legend turned politician Imran Khan has demanded for President Asif Ali Zardari to resign immediately. “Free and fair elections cannot take place till Zardari is here. He is the reason for Pakistan’s destruction,” said Imran, adding that the president appointed three prime ministers in his tenure and all three were corrupt.
PTI leader Imran Khan, also gave his 7-point agenda, much along the lines of Tahir-ul-Qadri’s agenda. Other demands included an immediate announcement of date for general elections and a neutral caretaker setup and also demanding the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) take notice of pre-poll rigging and implementation of Supreme Court’s recent order of arresting Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf.“We will come out on the roads if orders are not implemented,” he said.
He also demanded justice for the killings of the Hazara community in Quetta.
CM Baluchistan should be sacked and Governors rule immediately imposed. All state resources should be mobilised to protect the people— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) January 13, 2013
Imran Khan says Tahir-ul-Qadri feels the street is the only avenue to effect change, PTI believes in change through the ballot box.— Newsweek Pakistan (@NewsweekPak) January 15, 2013
What Pakistan is, at the moment, is in a state of upheaval, with events shaping in a way that can drastically alter the current state of things.
What will happen? Only time will tell.