All stakeholders in the continuation of the democratic process must have heaved a sigh of relief at the drop scene of the Qadri show, which ostensibly was a planned attempt by Pakistan’s enemies to derail the system and plunge it into a situation of never-ending turmoil. Fortunately, the plan did not succeed due to the political sagacity of the PPP-led government and the solidarity shown by the opposition in sustaining the system.

While attempts to unmask the forces behind the plan will continue for some time, its contours are not difficult to understand. Its architects, probably, worked on the premise that the majority of the masses had lost faith in democracy and were waiting for some messiah for their deliverance. Also, that political parties had become irrelevant in the given circumstances and the situation was ripe for throwing the first stone and unfurling the deluge that will generate chaos of unmanageable proportions and provide enough justification for traditional saviours to act and wrap up the system.

But they were wrong. Undoubtedly, the people have gone through hard times during the last five years due to a host of inherited challenges, the cumulative effect of the wrong economic policies of the dictatorial regimes and the international economic scenario that impacted the government’s ability to tide over these problems. However, there is no denying the fact that a number of landmark initiatives were put in place, which will benefit Pakistan in the long run. Above all, the country is poised to witness a smooth transition of power through ballot for the first time.

Moreover, the people have not lost faith in democracy and they believe that the only way forward is to allow the system to work and rectify its inadequacies through an evolutionary process like other democracies in the world. The political parties too were and are very much relevant to the situation, and they are well aware that democracy needs to be defended at all costs to realise the cherished dreams of the nation.

Thus, these factors prevented Dr Qadri from building up the frenzy that he expected to garner through his long march. The people who participated in the rally mostly were his followers. Contrary to the repeated claims of Dr Qadri that they were millions, several independent sources believed that their number was not more than 100,000 and not enough to bring a revolution. The government called his bluff by staying unprovoked, despite the derogatory language that he used about the political leaders and the threats that he hurled using his oratory skills.

As time passed, his desperation over the government’s lack of response became more and more pronounced and he realised that the plan had fallen apart and that is was difficult to keep his followers in the freezing cold  for a long time. The burgeoning criticism and disapproval of using women and children as pawns on the chessboard also had its toll on him. He yearned for a face-saving exit, which was finally provided by the government on the fifth day.

Democracy is all about flexibility and accommodation, and the government proved its democratic credentials by letting the march go ahead unhindered and then tolerated the presence of around 100,000 people in the capital, which almost paralysed life in the capital. Had a dictator been around, we would have witnessed another episode like the Lal Masjid.

Now a few words about the agreement between Dr Qadri and the government. Dr Qadri wanted immediate dissolution of the assemblies, which has not been conceded and it has been left to the government’s discretion to dissolve Parliament any time before March 16. He wanted the reconstitution of the Election Commission immediately, which has not been accepted and consigned to further deliberations. The agreement underscores the need for scrutiny of the aspiring candidates for 30 days, instead of three days in accordance with Article 62 and 63 about their eligibility criteria. Interestingly, the scrutiny of the candidates and implementation of these Articles is the responsibility of the Election Commission and not the government.

Furthermore, the provision for suggesting two names for the caretaker PM, in consensus with the Pakistan Awami Tehrik, does not make him a stakeholder. Article 224(1A) of the constitution prescribes that a caretaker PM will be appointed by the President in consultation with the PM and the leader of the opposition. Article 224(A) added through the 20th Amendment provides that in case of disagreement between the PM and the opposition leader, the matter will be referred to a Parliamentary Committee with equal members from the ruling and opposition parties, with the government and the opposition providing two names each for the PM’s appointment. In case the Committee fails to arrive at a consensus within three days, the matter will be referred to the Election Commission to be decided within two days.

Against this backdrop, there is not much that Dr Tahirul Qadri  achieved through the sit-in and the negotiation process, except a face-saving exit.

The writer is a freelance columnist. Email: