LAHORE - Dr Tahirul Qadri has been outwitted by the leaders he wants to oust through revolution.
The government handled him on his return in a way that the Pakistan Awami Tehrik leaders were not expecting. And at the end of the day Dr Qadri reached back his Model Town residence in the company of the Punjab governor, a trusted man of the Sharifs whom they had persuaded to surrender his British nationality to qualify for the office he was offered after the last year’s general elections.
That the governor accepted various demands of the PAT chief and agreed to travel by the latter’s car was just a face-saver. Had the Sharifs not allowed the governor to meet Dr Qadri at the airport, the PAT leader would have faced more embarrassment and run out of options at a time when he was told the engines of the plane would be switched off in a few minutes after which it would not be possible for anyone to stay inside any more.. Dr Qadri was scheduled to land at the Islamabad airport and all preparations had been made by the party workers to receive him there. Thousands of his supporters had reached the venue despite all hurdles and restrictions.
He was to reach Lahore by GT Road at the head of a procession. The PML-Q Chaudhrys had made arrangements to receive him at Gujrat, where he was to address a gathering and have overnight stay.
But the PAT did not give a serious thought to the possibility of his plane being diverted to Lahore. The news reports that to avert another Model Town-like tragedy, the prime minister had decided to give the PAT a free hand to receive their leader had misled the party and they had focused on the welcome in Islamabad.
Dr Qadri received another setback when his demand that the military leadership should hold talks with him was not responded. The silence from the military side forced the PAT chief to soften his stand. The role of the Sindh governor in this regard was very positive. He contacted the prime minister and other relevant authorities and also talked to Dr Qadri. Security arrangements were made according to the demand of the PAT chief – and thus another crisis-like situation was averted.
The way Dr Qadri has been escorted back home may have far-reaching consequences for the future politics of the country. It may disappoint the PAT and all the parties supporting the ‘revolutionary leader’. Although they will find many explanations to portray the debacle as a grand victory and how it would help them in the future, the fact of the matter is that the change of system without an unstoppable public movement would not be possible.
True that nobody was expecting the change of government or system on Monday, but it’s also a fact that nobody was expecting the way the whole thing came to an end. Now their workers would feel demoralized – and barring some unforeseen development - it would not be easy for the leadership to mobilize them for revolution.
Dr Qadri had tried to have the 2013 elections postponed on the ground that the Election Commission of Pakistan was not properly constituted. The Supreme Court heard his arguments but rejected the petition on the ground that being a dual national the PAT leader had no locus standi. This dealt a blow to Dr Qadri‘s cause and helped the PML-N.
The disappointing performance of the PPP, the PML-N connections with the establishment and its leadership’s expertise in manipulations helped the party win the polls. Now the rulers have successfully converted the democratic system into a family rule, turning deaf ears to criticism for their doing so. And they are so powerful that they have put former COAS Gen Musharraf on trial on high treason charge, ignoring assertions that the move has strained civil and military relations.
Monday’s Supreme Court order to suspend the Sindh High Court verdict to remove Gen Musharraf’s name from the Exit Control List would further raise the morale of the ruling party leaders and they would find it easier carry forward their agenda.
The Model Town deaths are now the only issue that can keep the rulers under pressure. And if they succeeded in getting themselves cleared, the country would experience in future an unprecedented civilian dictatorship.  The PAT, the PML-Q, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, the Awami Muslim League, the All Pakistan Muslim League and other like-minded parties should now sit to review the situation and devise a strategy that helps democracy, not paves way for dictatorship – military or civil. The mere rhetoric of revolution without show of strength would not impress anyone.