Politics Interrupted

Feb 2013

English | اردو

The unity of parliamentary parties against Tahir ul-Qadri’s disruption was a fine moment in our march towards democracy, but one must remember that it will not get any finer than this.

As Hazara Shias waited patiently with the unburied bodies of their murdered kin, in one of the most heart-rending protests possible against sectarian terror outfits, Islamabad finally took full cognizance of their plight. With counter-productive impotence typical of the post-colonial Pakistani state, the federal government issued orders to pack up the Balochistan provincial assembly. Nawab Aslam Raisani’s government was suspended rather unceremoniously, a move widely supported by the mainstream media and protesters all over urban Pakistan. The government established governor’s rule in Balochistan, and para- military units from the Frontier Corps were instructed to step up their efforts to “protect” citizens.

The outpouring of solidarity across urban Pakistan with the tormented Hazara people was heartening and, in some ways, unprecedented. Within hours, though, it fell victim to the Ziyad Faisalimperatives that bind the elected government. Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf neglected the very mention of the Sunni extremist butchers of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), Sipah-e-Sahaba (SSP), and others. For the foreseeable future, the living godfather of anti-Shia violence, Malik Ishaq, will continue to spread his brand of terrifying venom. And, the institution responsible for Balochistan’s descent into horrifying violence, the military, will not be held accountable for its central role, even though these sectarian groups are products of that military as part of its romance with Islamist non-state actors.

Incapable of confronting such fundamental questions, the elected federal government could only respond by blaming the situation on the civilian provincial government, an administration whose ineptitude is matched by its irrelevance. The administration was, in other words, yet another civilian scapegoat for a khaki sin.

Simultaneous to the Hazara protests, Dr. Tahir ul-Qadri descended upon the capital with his “long march,” adopting an ever more confrontational tone towards the federal government. Supporters of constitutional democracy and mainstream political parties dismissed the cleric’s actions as a mere circus. Be that as it may, the spectacle revealed much about the contours of a rapidly-changing polity.

It is increasingly clear that Tahir ul-Qadri timed his sit-in outside Parliament in Islamabad to coincide with the Supreme Court’s long-expected judgment against the prime minister in a corruption case. Qadri, thus, joins a long line of un-elected, anti-democratic forces that rise time and again to shake the Pakistani body politic. This suggests, of course, that the security establishment has not given up on its efforts to intervene behind the scenes to influence the transfer of power from one civilian government to another. Read on >>

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One Response to Politics Interrupted

  1. […] rule. Malik Siraj Akbar and Sajjad Hussain Changezi discuss the  aftermath. Ziyad Faisal considers the politics of another protest: the Tahir ul-Qadri march on […]

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