Pakistan is witnessing unprecedented upheavals on multiple fronts. The arrival of an enigmatic cleric from Canada, Muhammad Tahir-ul Qadri, has suddenly ignited people’s discontent with poverty, surging violence with terrorists bent on attacking both government establishments and religious minorities, and above all, a corrupt political system which shows no sign of reform.
Surprisingly, Tahir-ul Qadri has managed to rally thousands of protesters to the heart of Islamabad and he has catapulted into political limelight in less than a month. The fiery speaker has gained enough of force to issue ultimatums calling for the dismantling of the corrupt government and allowing for electoral reforms.
Although elections in Pakistan are in the cards, Qadri is bent on throwing the administration out of power and seems determined to dissolve the assembly and introduce electoral reforms under a caretaker government.
Qadri’s mission to dismantle the present government ruled by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) received a shot in the arm yesterday with Pakistan’s Supreme Court issuing an order to arrest Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf over corruption charges related to power projects.
Ashraf, who was the minister of water and power before taking over the reins of prime minister, is accused of receiving kickbacks amounting to billions of rupees in connection to setting up power projects in Pakistan.
If Pervez Ashraf is taken into custody and he fails to get a bail, the political climate in Pakistan will witness unprecedented changes. It will be worth the wait to see if Qadri’s fiery speeches will translate into political action and manage to bring "change" to Pakistan.
Moreover, Qadri’s sudden appearance in the frontline of Pakistan’s political turmoil has fueled speculations that the army is behind Qadri’s campaign. The Pakistani army has a long history of meddling in politics, and it seems that Qadri is enjoying the tacit support of the army in his efforts to topple the government. The Pakistani Army, on the other hand, denies these charges.
There is no doubt that Qadri’s support base has grown exponentially, and for now, he seems to be reckoning force which both the ruling party and the opposition in Pakistan cannot ignore.
Qadri's long march in Islamabad, followed by demonstrations over the last four days, seems to have set a standard for "revolution" in Pakistan, and the enigmatic cleric seems determined to topple the present government and ensure that his demands are met.
For the rest of the world, Qadri’s meteoric rise in Pakistan is curtain-raiser. So far, there have been apprehensions that extremists forces would take over Pakistan’s political system. With the military ruling over the affairs of Pakistan for over six decades and Pakistan trying to succeed in the democratic experiment with the first civilian administration to complete a full term, Qadri’s emergence as a leader has infused fresh uncertainty in Islamabad’s corridors of power.
For now, the emergence of a moderate Qadri giving stern ultimatums and promising winds of change indicates that Pakistan’s politics is heading towards unknown waters, for good or worse. Only time will tell what comes next.
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