Last week President Zardari added fuel to the fire by assigning Rehman Malik to talk to Tahirul Qadri regarding his so-called long march, as advised by Altaf Hussain from London. This has raised serious questions about the president’s role in the dangerous drama unleashed upon the nation by the shifty cleric. It also brings into focus his unconstitutional conduct as president and how it has thwarted the democratic process. At this crucial juncture, should he be allowed to facilitate chaos and hence extend his tenure? What should be done to defeat this move choreographed by the resourceful and ruthless tacticians of the empire and their puppets?

The apprehensions of those distrustful of President Zardari and the troika of dual-nationals out to decide our fate, messrs Tahirul Qadri, Altaf Hussain and Rehman Malik, are not just conspiracy theories. We have seen puppets of the empire launched in one country after another to hijack peaceful popular movements for change in order to install rulers that maintain the imperialist status quo while chanting popular mantras about revolution. The blatant funding and arming of militants, extremists and separatists is used to introduce violence and eliminate the option of dialogue and discussion. The idea is to disrupt the natural evolution of societies and political systems and set into motion dynamics that would eat it all up without a burp. The present drama has empire written on it in bold letters.

General elections held under an independent election commission and a neutral caretaker setup are expected to reflect the anti-American sentiments of 80 percent Pakistanis and bring in a government that could pose problems for the empire’s agenda for the region. The empire can’t allow that of course. What good is the empire if it can’t stop poor countries from deciding about their destiny? It’s difficult to believe that Tahirul Qadri is so naïve, but regardless of whether he understands the larger picture or not, he is obviously a tool in the hands of those who wish to continue controlling the world and lead it to death and destruction. He’s found partners in status quo parties like the MQM and PML-Q, that are not happy with the way things are going and a president who will lose all his levers of power with the installation of the caretaker setup.

With the passage of constitutional amendments by the sitting parliament, the office of the president is now ceremonial, just as it should be in a parliamentary democracy. This hasn’t stopped President Zardari from controlling the PPP-led government in every possible way, whether it is deciding about policy or executive actions, discussing important national matters with foreign dignitaries or negotiating with coalition partners. He justifies this unconstitutional conduct by pointing to his co-chairmanship of the PPP, which in itself is unconstitutional. So while it is nothing new that the president is dictating the government’s response to the present crisis, the consequences of this meddling could turn out to be far more damaging than all the things he has messed up earlier.

Every major party in the parliament except the two coalition partners who, after years of sharing power, have developed a soft corner for Tahirul Qadri’s pseudo-revolutionary antics, is clear about the way forward; the holding of elections without delay and the installation of the caretaker setup in line with the constitutional provisions. The PPP might be handicapped because of Zardari’s secret schemes, but the party has enough of democratic sense left in it, despite five years of Zardari’s undemocratic stranglehold, to understand the challenge and the response of many party leaders to the emerging crisis reflects that. Being in government, and having been a constant advocate of change through elections, the party and its government should be in the forefront of countering this nefarious drama. If its co-chairman would let it, that is.

Rather than the president seeking assurances from the MQM and PML-Q about not leaving the government (PML-N has assured the government of its support for completing what is left of its term), and choosing Rehman Malik to talk to Tahirul Qadri, the prime minister should constitute a team of constitutional experts drawn from major parties in the parliament to discuss electoral reforms not only with Tahirul Qadri but also PML-Q and MQM as well as parties outside the parliament. An open discussion on the subject can still make it possible for the government to introduce reforms that promote democratic ideals and create consensus among the political parties. More importantly, it will puncture the pretext being cleverly employed by Tahirul Qadri and his supporters in the parliament to delay elections. After exposing the supporters of Tahirul Qadri and with the support of the bulk of parliamentarians, the governments in Islamabad and the provinces should then get down to the business of stopping the march of the mob.

Supporters of Tahirul Qadri have tried to mislead the popular opinion by drawing parallels between the long march that restored the independent judiciary and what they hope to do on January 14. It doesn’t seem to matter that the movement for the restoration of judiciary had been striving for constitutional supremacy for more than 15 months before it took the decision to march on the capital for the final push. The leaders of the movement that was palpable across the streets of Pakistan, had first made efforts to engage with the government and convince it to undo the unconstitutional act of a general in uniform, and they announced the historic long march only after it became obvious that the Zardari dispensation was not willing to budge on the issue. The present ultimatum has come out of the blue and it is aimed against the democratic advances made by the parliament and political forces outside it.

Zardari and Rehman Malik went all the way to block the long march upholding the supremacy of the constitution; toppling the Punjab government, detaining lawyers and political workers, blocking highways and using police to teargas and beat up the participants. Isn’t it a bit odd that they are talking about allowing a non-political horde to march on the capital, complete with its unconstitutional agenda and leaders who have sworn their allegiance to the Queen of England?

 The writer is a freelance columnist. Email: hazirjalees@hotmail.com