From the 1920s to post 2010, the Indian subcontinent has seen ups, downs and well, quite contrasting times. Take for example the earliest film of the great cinema of the subcontinent. We started with the golden eras of Prithvi Raj, Dillip Kumar, Raj Kapur, Madam Nur Jahan, Santosh Kumar, Sabiha Khanum, Deeba Begum, Mohammad Ali & Zeba, Shamim Ara, Sangeeta, Waheed Murad and so on. And look at what we have now.

This soil once had people like Bhaggat Singh, Subhash Chandra Bose, Sir Dr. Mohammad Iqbal, Sir Zafarullah Khan, Sir Mohammad Shafi, Liaqat Ali Khan, Lady Jahan Ara Shahnawaz, Lady Shaista Ikramullah and Mohammad Ali Jinnah. Look around and see the political lot especially from the predominant right wing.

The Indian subcontinent was used to the All Parties Conferences like the one convened in 1928 on the Simon Commission Report. Attended by the All India Muslim League, the Indian National Congress and Central Sikh League among others, the APC boasted delegates like Master Tara Singh, Mangal Singh, Baba Kharak Singh, Moti Lal Nehru, Dr. M. A. Ansar, Syed Ali Imam, Shoaib Qureshi and Mohammad Ali Jinnah. Although rejected by AIML later, the Nehru Report was the major output of the APC with meaningful substantive parleys on specific proposals.

After decades of decadence, we have reached a point where APCs now happen to perpetuate the conundrum and to undermine the incumbents. The main participants are usually the political parties that either have no mass appeal, or are too impatient to get power.

Start counting, head by head, the participants of a recent APC, and look at the five points they ‘agreed upon.’ You will soon realize that you already knew that they agree on those five points.

The five points that came out of this hastily convened APC were: the June 17th tragedy was condemnable, the baseless FIRs registered against Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT) workers should be taken back, the Chief Minister Punjab should take responsibility and step down, administrative and police officials responsible for the violence perpetrated on PAT workers should be dismissed, and a judicial commission under the Supreme Court should be constituted for an impartial inquiry.

One wonders, what on earth was the need to hold such a conference when all participating parties were already in clear support of all of this? These ‘points’ had been highlighted – with a wide-ranging political consensus – in print and electronic media for the last two weeks.

Meanwhile, during a crowded presser held by the Chaudhries of Gujrat, the main brokers of Qadri phenomenon unleashed last month, Mr. Qadri bewildered his hosts by leaving the presser midway. It happened just a couple of days before the APC. The Chaudhries had already released strategic whispers amongst ‘like-minded media,’ about a possible ‘Grand Alliance’ with Qadri’s help. When a reporter asked Qadri during the presser about the alliance, he preferred to isolate the Chaudhries by plainly refusing to have discussed anything about such a possibility. Stunned, the Chaudhries continued with the press conference while still dropping hints about the possibility of an alliance.

When Qadri announced he would land here, no June 17 tragedy had happened. The sole opposition slogan of electoral reforms had also been addressed by that time by announcing the establishment of a Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms. The Namoos-e-ISI had also been secured optimally through suspending Geo. Qadri’s People’s Revolution turned Green Revolution had little oomph. No one told him this unfortunately. Not even the mighty Khan who did Geo a favor by turning the gun from Geo Vs ISI, to Geo Vs Imran Khan.

Do you wonder what Qadri would have asked for had there not been a June 17th incident? If Shahbaz Sharif was not in the know of what the police decided to do on June 17, he better put his head down and start thinking who his police was working for that day. Don’t think too hard though. Whenever you think hard, something along the lines of 1991, 1993, 1996 or 1999 happens. Avoid thinking hard sir!

But seriously, Qadri and the charismatic Gujratis were talking about what alliance? An alliance for what? In the past, such alliances have either been sponsored to manipulate the election of a party to power, or to topple the government. PNA and IJI will still be fresh in the minds of people my age or older. The rest will not be able to even relate with the kind of paranoia we have fallen victim to since the 1970’s. An elected Prime Minister ended up on the gallows, another was usurped of her mandate to govern twice and yet another one made his way to the corridors through the power of such mal- alliances. No more.

Some of the wise from amongst the intelligentsia say, the reason Qadri’s rhetoric lost its shrill was because the hand was lifted from his back. Others say a familiar hand was never on his side. He was just being tested. Like the great Khan, this Barelvi antidote to the fiery ‘assets’ (such antidotes are necessary to keep just in case the assets need a ‘treatment’ some time!) could also not deliver the results in the manner desired.

There are yet others among the whispering elites of the Capital, who keep saying things about Qadri’s friends in the American establishment. We are actually fortunate to have friends like them who always support able and ‘honest’ dictators but play hard with oh-so-incompetent ‘corrupt’ civilian politicians.

When the benign, honest, competent dictators come, they are wow-so-democratic because they keep the non-politician ‘expert’ class in the folds of policy-making. Oh and, they keep all those who have to be, in the know of important happenings. When the elected politician baddies come, they display dictatorial attitudes by not keeping the powers in the loop.

Thus, we need PNAs, IJI, MMA and now this Grand Alliance, which is getting punctured by its own internal power struggles. Someone on these beautiful Avenues of Islamabad now needs to think rather innovatively to fix these stupid democrats. They will keep coming back otherwise, and one day there won’t be any Chaudhries, or Qadris or Khans.

The writer is an Islamabad based defender of human rights and works  on democratic governance.

marvi@marvisirmed.com

@marvisirmed