On the night of December 31, the world welcomed the New Year with joy and spectacular fireworks, but we, in the land of the Pak and the Pure, as per tradition, celebrated the coming of the New Year, with the usual Doom and Gloom scenario, thanks to General Zia.

All major hotels and restaurants were ordered to close down by sunset, the roads leading to the sea front were sealed off with ugly containers and citizens were warned that celebrating New Year’s Eve would be at their own risk and cost. To ward off any terrorist activities and unruly behavior by our frustrated youth, the Sindh government imposed a ban on pillion-riding for three days.

While the skies around the world lit up with the colors of the rainbow, the streets of our cities were painted with the blood of innocent citizens. According to media reports, the outgoing 2012 was the worst in recent years and saw the brutal killings of over 62,000 innocent men, women and children by extortion gangs and militancy, which targeted attacks on citizens on political, ethnic and sectarian grounds, including Karachi’s Bohri community.

Extortion gangs roamed the streets of Karachi freely, killing those who did not pay and even on the last day of 2012, despite the ban on pillion riding, over ten innocent citizens lost their lives. In spite of all these killings, our LEA agencies failed to catch, prosecute or punish a single killer. Even the killers of the late Mohtarma have not been apprehended as yet.

And while all this bloodletting was taking place, our leaders and those in government refused to face reality and like ostriches, buried their heads in the sand, insisting that ‘Sub Theek Hai’ and it was just a conspiracy to derail democracy.

Sadly, in the last four and a half years, instead of improving the system of governance in the country, the government, failed to curb terrorist attacks, target and honor killings, etc., and the Rule of Law was replaced by the Law of the Jungle and Might is Right.

On the economic front, the prophets of Doom and Gloom claim that the worst is still to come. In his article on the subject, Dr Ashfaque Khan has written that 2012 has been disastrous and the most turbulent year in Pakistan’s economic history, but the worst is still to come.

However, 2012 ended with surprise. On Sunday December 23, the charismatic Dr Tahirul Qadri, a religious scholar-cum-politician and Chief of Tehreek-e-Minhaj-ul-Quran, put up an impressive show in Lahore’s Minar-e-Pakistan.

His two-hour long speech at the Minar has taken the country by storm and within a short time, there is not a single TV anchor worth his salt, who can ignore his stirring style and what he has to say.   

Where and who has written the doctor’s script is not yet clear, but his Oscar winning performance has openly challenged the credibility of our present leaders and parliamentarians and our electoral system.

He has warned that he and his supporters will storm the Capital and not disperse until Electoral Reforms that he has demanded to correct the system, are introduced, something that many citizens have also been demanding.

His harsh criticism of our corrupt political system has put our politicians to shame, setting alarm bells ringing in the corridors of power. The government and the opposition have united and jointly announced that they will resist any effort by an imported individual to delay, derail or interfere with the election or the present corrupt system of governance. Even the MQM seems to be having second thoughts.

In the last few days, due to inconsistency and contradictions in his statements, the ‘Get Dr TQ’ campaign has intensified, questioning his credibility and his ‘Save Riyasat, not Siyasat’ motives.

Some are of the opinion that Dr TQ has been brought in from the cold by the Powers That Be, to derail or delay the election, while others think that it goes beyond that and that the real purpose will be exposed after 14th January. 

They challenge his claim that he represents the 180 million Awam of Pakistan and is acting on their behalf. They ask where was the good Doctor during the many crises that this country and its Awan have been facing for over a decade? They also question the Maulana’s ability to mobilize a massive turnout and sustain it for more then a few days.

Then there are serious security risks involved when dealing with such large crowds and a possibility of a terrorist attack, which could result in a serious law and order problem.  And if such a situation did arise, then would the army play the role of a silent spectator, which it has been doing up to now, or will it play its historic role and intervene to prevent the long march, as in the past, in order to avert a clash and a breakdown of security in the federal capital?

During the last long march to restore the judiciary, Gen. Kayani had intervened and stopped Nawaz Sharif’s long march and persuaded the then PM Gilani to restore the judges on March 16, 2009.

Where lies the truth, only time will tell, but to his credit, the good Doctor has repeatedly stated that he has no political or hidden agenda and that he is simply trying to improve and clean up the system of governance in Pakistan.

So, once again, the New Year has started on an ominous note and the next few months will be tough going for the country, full of dangerous twists and turns and hidden land mines.

Will Dr TQ’s “Lashkar Kashi”, together with the support of the MQM, with its ‘Run with the hare and hunt with the hound’ policy, succeed in establishing an Egypt type Tahrir Square demonstration in Islamabad and like Anna Hazare of India, force the government to introduce the necessary Electoral Reforms?

And if so, then perhaps January 13, 2013 could be Pakistan’s year for change and ‘Out with the old, in with the new’ could become a reality.

At the moment, the chips are stacked against such a possibility, but let us hope for the best and wait and see what happens after January 14 deadline given by the Maulana and what the New Year has in store for us.

–(Email: trust@helplinetrust.org).