The Azadi marches of Imran Khan and Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri have reached their destinations without any outward incident, but as in the past, their tsunami has again turned into an ebbing tide. So the big question is can they still achieve what they set out for, because under the present scenario, there is no way that they can force Nawaz Sharif and his parliament to resign.
Instead the PM has declared that democracy will be defended at all costs. While Imran has called for civil disobedience, by not paying utility bills and taxes, which the government claims is illegal and amounts to treason.
However, it is doubtful if the industrialists, business community and the traders will support the idea of civil disobedience and refuse to pay their bills, as they do not want to be seen as defaulters. At the same time, the Stock Exchange has already suffered a loss of more than 3 ‘arab’ Rupees, while foreign investment has also taken a deep dive.
So the gloves may be off, but can we expect a knockout punch within the next few days?
According to the foreign press, Imran has overplayed his hand in Pakistan’s power game, a view which is shared by many citizens. ‘Cricket hero Imran Khan rode a wave of discontent to finally break through as a serious player in Pakistani politics in last year's election. Now he is aiming even higher, leading thousands on a march to the capital in a bid to unseat the Prime Minister’.
But in taking his campaign to force Nawaz Sharif out on to the streets of Islamabad, Khan may have overplayed his hand. This weekend his crowd of followers was already thinning out and without overt support from the military, his protests are unlikely to be a game-changer.
Thousands showed up for his rally on Saturday, but Samina Ahmed, South Asia director of the Brussels-based International Crisis Group think tank, has stated: ‘The path he's chosen is one of protest. But now the question is, does he have a strategy to go beyond the protest?’
While Ayaz Amir, in his article, ‘When hype meets reality: the great climb-down.’, (http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-9-267896-When-hype-meets-reality-the-great-climb-down), harshly writes, ‘The genius with the gift for the tall statement, Imran Khan, has had to back down, the civil disobedience call a clumsy camouflage for this open retreat’.
‘His long march is over, his present dreams shattered, although being who he is it won’t be long before he assembles another set of dreams. But whether anyone will take him seriously when he next rants of change and a ‘naya’ Pakistan is a different matter. When you tilt at windmills there is a price to pay’.
Nawaz Sharif is being accused by Imran Khan of rigging last year's election, which marked the first democratic transition in Pakistan's turbulent history, and last week he vowed to occupy Islamabad until the Prime Minister resigns.
The government has warned that his protest and another led by fiery cleric, Dr. Tahir ul-Qadri, could destabilize the nuclear-armed nation of 180 million, which has seen a succession of military coups and is struggling to stifle a Taliban insurgency.
The charismatic Khan, an Oxford graduate, Khan captained his country to its only cricket World Cup victory in 1992, built a cancer hospital and aided victims of a flood disaster in 2010. The voters have flocked to Khan's banner of reform despite his image as a conservative maverick. He denounced the corruption and tax evasion of mainstream political parties and blasted Washington for its deadly drone strikes in militant-infested borderlands.
Now that the marches are over, the real showdown between the government and the two opposition parties will begin, but already the crowds are becoming less every day and the longer this drama continues, the less effective it will become and both Imran Khan and Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri will be put in an embarrassing position. Imran Khan has already led his team of supporters and enter the RED ZONE, despite the containers and the threat of clashes between the LEA and the protestors looms.
While Dr. TQ, not to be out done, has also led his Inqilabi March into the Red Zone and has warned the LEA that if they want to shoot, then they would have to shoot him first. He has also asked the government to resign on 19th August, otherwise face the consequences, which demand was rejected by the government.
So the Awam has finally broken their ‘Silence of the Lambs’, but the numbers demanding CHANGE are not enough. To their credit, both Imran Khan and Tahir-ul-Qadri have given their best under very difficult conditions, but unfortunately, they have not received the support that they need for CHANGE and if Imran and Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri fail in their mission, then the fault will not be in them, but in ourselves, that we are a nation of hypocrites, who demand CHANGE, but refuse to make the sacrifice that is needed to bring that CHANGE.
And now that the end game is in sight, will this be the Waterloo for our opposition leaders and to the victor, the fate and destiny of a 180 million Pakistanis?
At the moment, both the government and the two opposition leaders seem to have run out of steam and there is an undeclared stalemate, but when the battle is won, will the opposition leaders be able to introduce the changes on the basis of which they have won the support of their followers, who have faced severe hardships with their families, with the hope that their leaders will change their wretched destiny, by introducing a just social order, justice for all and an end to corruption?
Or will the Men in Khaki, who are waiting patiently in the wings, lose their patience and march into Islamabad and take over the reins of the country?
At the moment, this possibility seems remote, but one never knows in this land of the Pak and the Pure and one stupid move by the government or the opposition could trigger the army jawans and the tanks to rumble through the quiet streets of Islamabad.
PS: I am off to Italy next week, to attend the wedding of my cousin’s son, Tariq, the original ‘Dhoki Ram’ in Florence, so my next ST article will be on ‘A wedding in Florence’ and my travels. Till then, stay safe and hope that the current crisis will be soon over.
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org