We are not here to argue the rights and wrongs of the Naxalite movement. India for the moment is calm (even though Maoists are active in Central-East India and manage to blow up a train track now and then), under the watchful eye of the Hindu Brotherhood. The agitation against corruption and the rest was led by the Aam Admi Party which then frittered away the love that the voters had bestowed on them. Regardless of win and loss the consensus amongst all communities is firmly on incremental progress (even in Kashmir). The best example is seen in the blood-less partition of Hindu-majority Andhra and Telengana, even though the stakes were just as high as in Hindu-Muslim partitions. If one wants to establish forced analogies, then Telengana is the new Pakistan.
How about the original Pakistan then? We are puzzled by the silence of experts on BP on the upcoming azadi march – perhaps their attentions are engaged elsewhere (Gaza??) or they are not taking this seriously enough.
Noted below is a comprehensive background report. If one wants to establish forced analogies, then Khan-Qadri are the Charu-Kanu of this generation (Qadri has specifically called for a revolution). They too dream of a heaven on earth to be brought to Pakistan (corruption to be erased in 90 days) and yes, they may not be averse to adopting violence to achieve their goals.
As an outsider our observation is that Imran Khan is the leader today with the strongest “brand value.” People (middle-class) truly believe in his promises of creating a welfare state. About Tahirul Qadri we are not sure, even though wise men tell us that he is a “moderate.”
Somehow we see the hidden hand of the Army behind these events. Or perhaps we are just being cynical and this is really something big and new. Lal Salaam, comrades!!!
The battle lines are more or less defined now with the approach of
Aug 14. Unsurprisingly, Tahirul Qadri has joined hands with Imran Khan
for the ‘azadi march’. His fanatically motivated supporters, drawn
mainly from the lower middle classes across the Punjab heartland, may
add spine to Imran Khan’s middle-class youth brigade with no experience
of street agitation.
Besides, Qadri has set a more strident tenor
for D-Day. Now there is no going back on the ‘revolution’, he has
warned his allies. It is certainly the politics of expediency that has
brought together Qadri and Khan on the same platform. But the radical
rhetoric of the Canada-based cleric and his incitement to violence could
turn him into a liability for the PTI and prove to be the undoing of
the ‘azadi march’ even before it has taken off. Nevertheless the new
coalition will shape the emerging political polarisation in the country.
Most other political parties are sitting on the fringes weighing
their options as the confrontation comes to a head. What happens on Aug
14 is most likely to determine their future course of action. But more
importantly, what are the choices for the beleaguered prime minister in
this hour of reckoning?
Will he sail through the storm or be swept away by the tide? Having
already lost the initiative in the battle of narratives, Nawaz Sharif
faces a tough fight ahead to survive in power against strong odds. It is
more than just a political battle; the government’s unresolved tension
with the generals over Musharraf’s treason trial and a host of other
issues will also matter in the endgame.
Having been thrown out of
power halfway through his tenure twice, one expected Sharif to exercise
discretion while tackling the mounting political tension. However, the
dynamics of the present crisis are quite different from the past. Unlike
his previous terms, when the power struggle at the top echelon cost him
his government, Sharif is confronting a street show of force
challenging the very legitimacy of his rule for the first time.
the threat is compounded by the conflict within the power structure.
Sharif’s uninspiring and absent leadership does not help his cause for
mobilising mass support for the impending battle. The concentration of
power within a small family circle has exposed the weak ability of the
government to motivate party cadres to stand up to the challenge
there is no sign the prime minister realises the gravity of the
situation. He still wonders where he has gone wrong. His speech on
Monday at the launching of Vision 2025 had a defensive tone with no
clarity on how he is going to fight the battle. He still seems to be in a
state of denial about the gathering storm. His implicit inference to
the military being the author of the script will surely further sour
already tense civil-military relations at this crucial stage.
Punjab government’s perilous handling of the Qadri issue — first the
killing of 14 Minhajul Quran activists in June and then the recent
blocking of the roads by containers — has cost the administration
dearly. The spectacle of men and women crawling under the containers to
reach their destinations in Lahore could not be more politically
damaging for the Sharif brothers. The container strategy has failed to
work and any move to detain Imran Khan and other leaders ahead of the
Aug 14 sit-in will surely boomerang on the administration, fuelling
uncontrollable violence across Punjab and perhaps giving more dead
bodies for Qadri to exploit.
It would have been more sensible had
the government permitted the PTI’s march in the first place. In that
case, the onus of maintaining peace would squarely be on the opposition.
Now Qadri’s joining the march has changed the matrix and any show of
flexibility by the government would be taken as a sign of weakness. The
space for Sharif regaining the initiative is fast shrinking.
it is not the end of the road for the Sharif government. There are still
a few options left for the troubled prime minister to regain the lost
political space. His biggest political capital is the party’s absolute
majority in the National Assembly that he has yet to put into action. A
major problem for Sharif is his utter disregard for parliament. His rare
appearances in the House and inability to initiate debate on major
policy issues has rendered parliament ineffective and increased his
It took a long time for Sharif to embrace the other
major parties represented in parliament and that too came when the chips
were down. Inviting political leaders to the national security meeting
to discuss the North Waziristan military operation may be a positive
But mixing the discussion on security issues with politics
in the presence of the military brass raises some relevant questions
about the actual purpose of bringing together the civilian and military
leadership. The image of a line of army generals in their battle
fatigues sitting across the table from the political leaders was
presumably meant to send a signal to the public of the military’s
backing for the government.
What was the idea behind the decision
to telecast live the prime minister’s opening remarks concerning the
political crisis in what was supposed to be an in-camera security
briefing? This kind of game is counterproductive. The government is
expected to take a saner approach in such a situation.
be down, but he is not out of the game yet. It is neither a 1993 nor a
1999 situation when he lost the power struggle. But the wrong moves
could land him into the same situation. It is not just the issue of
facing up to the challenge thrown by the Qadri-Imran combine, Sharif
also needs to address other problems concerning governance and the
economy to ensure his survival in power and avert the derailing of a
fledgling democratic process.