By Saeed Qureshi;
By opting to compromise on certain fundamental contentious issues, the political belligerents have averted a huge human catastrophe. I am referring to the Islamabad accord between Dr. Tahirul Qadri and his party Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT) on one hand and the PPP’s coalition government on the other. One would not expect a total accommodation of Maulana Qadri’s demands, as this could have never be done even by most docile and pliable government.
If both the parties have overcome the principal irritants and leveled off the rough ends, then it is indeed a monumental accomplishment. Such sparkling development should be welcomed by sober and moderate onlookers and even the stakeholders and well wishers of Pakistan. It was a real people’s struggle for genuine reforms.
The most laudable and striking hallmark of the historic sit-in was that it was orderly and peaceful and sustained for five days with great deal of poise and responsible attitude by the protesters. Amazingly the participants of the unique rally were the people most of whom were alien to the posh environs of the capital of Pakistan.
Most of them hailed from the rural or semi-urban landscape of Pakistan. There were also a sizable number from the cities. Admirably, they all did not resort to provocative conduct or outburst of violence that has remained the usual tone and patterns of such rallies, processions and public meetings in Pakistan.
The Islamabad sit-in of the PAT and the others affiliate groups and individuals have set a pioneering brilliant precedent of the peaceful yet rigorous outlet of their pent-up anger and deep disapproval about a discredited and a pernicious status-quo gnawing at the vitals of Pakistan. It has established beyond any shadow of doubt that peaceful demonstrations and sober protests were more poignant and effective than the riotous and violent ones.
There is a great deal of resemblance between the about a month long mammoth protest of Egyptian people at the historic Tehrir Square ultimately throwing a stubborn and despised dictator Hosni Mubarak into the dustbin of infamy and lasting condemnation. In comparison the Egyptian protest was a mega one and that of Pakistan is minor. But their thrust is the same: to change a decadent system wholly or piecemeal.
While the stakes in Egypt were sky high, In Islamabad it had much limited agenda. It was not to change the praetorian but the mode of holding elections. The Egyptian sit-in at Tehrir Square was joined by all shades of political and public opinion. The Islamabad’s assemblage was staged solely by mostly students, peasants, laboring sections and lower middle classes. Its primary aim was to reform the electoral system, tailored to reelect the representatives from the privileged, aristocratic, elite feudal and wealthy classes.
Both the sides have demonstrated a high level of discretion and prudence and even tolerance in reaching the consensus and to hammer out a harmonious end of a stand-off that could have turned ugly and entail untold sufferings. Many among the protesters had come with their whole families including the children and infants and with meager quantity of ration. With a prolonged stay they would have ultimately starved or get sick. They would have called off the mission that could be disarrayed and fraught with frightening hazards.
It is a feather in the cap of the PPP coalition government and a well-deserved laurel for exercising utmost patience and not resort to coercive techniques employed in such chaotic and challenging situations. Now, one would watch with fingers crossed if the government earnestly implements, in letter and spirit, of what has been agreed upon between the two sides after lengthy parleys.
Almost all the political parties not only kept away from the Dr. Qadri’s led procession and rallies but scathingly criticized it for being held with sinister motives at the behest of some forces, at a time when fresh elections were around the corner. The politicians rejected Qadri’s movement and termed it a creepy plot by him to sabotage and short-circuit the democracy to pave way for the undemocratic forces to take over.
Those apprehensions and speculations have proven to be wrong. On the contrary the popular huge protests for comprehensive reform in the electoral system and its acceptance by the government would spur the healthy democratic culture and traditions in Pakistan. It has established, for the first time in the checkered history of Pakistan that the people, to whom the power belongs, were capable of affecting a healthy reform and meaningful transformation in the errant and faulty system.
It has further proven that a dysfunctional and flawed system can be brought back on track with unity, cohesion, resolution and indeed through a peaceful struggle by the people. Dr. Qadri achieved a landmark objective singlehandedly that has remained elusive thus far and that unfortunately was decried and boycotted by the super-duper politicians en-bloc. Who knows that these high sounding politicians wanted to save the stinking status quo or were jealous of an unexpected intruder who mobilized the people in a short span of time for a great national cause?