A vital irony is lost on Dr. Tahir ul Qadri of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), as he refuses to accept any orders of what he deems an illegitimate government, stating he will only bow to the wishes of the armed forces (presumably Pakistan’s legitimate leaders), if they asked him to cease activities. From what the nation understands, as he touts his track record in favour of democracy and moderation, how he chooses to behave presently is not to be constrained by either principle. What does he want really, as he asks for the voice of truth to prevail? What exactly is his version of the “democratic revolution?” One would presume that a revolution of the democratic process would entail a fundamental makeover of the electoral process. But last year, after signing a declaration with the PPP government in favour of more political transparency, Dr. Qadri called it a day and headed back to the great Toronto winter. This time, he won’t be fooled so easy. This time, he’s willing to take the non-democratic shortcut to true democracy and he doesn’t look like he’s looking for small fish concessions like electoral reform. It would appear Dr. Qadri now has bigger sharks to fry. Where is he getting the moral and physical support from now which he didn’t have then? How is it so different from the long march held in early 2013?

And the PML(N) government, in all of this, is categorically mutilating itself. By imposing section 144 in Rawalpindi, by beefing up visible police presence in anticipation of Qadri’s arrival, making panicked moves to hinder his movement and rallies, by attempting to bully his supporters, they are only setting up the perfect stage for Qadri’s homecoming as a feared leader. The timing and anticipation transform the occasion into the fascinating political drama it is not. Call Qadri’s moves the politics of agitation, but they are still better executed than the clumsy tactics of the politicians he has so visibly agitated. Perhaps Sharif needs to take a page out of Zardari’s book and do what he did the last time Qadri screamed for a million man march: nothing. At this time, as the government implores the country to stand united behind the operation and the leadership, they must behave like a democratically elected government and show off some of the calm and coolness they’ve been preaching to the country. These are chaotic times as the country engages in war, and any hurried moves could lead to greater turmoil and loss of innocent life. All parties, especially the party in power, must proceed with caution and critical responsibility.