With appeals to voters cleverly woven into his fiery speeches, Tahirul Qadri is back in Pakistan with a particular kind of vengeance: political. As he addressed a large crowd in Punjab’s Bhakkar district on Sunday, it was clear that Qadri’s tune had changed. Apart from his usual statements inciting destruction, tearing down of the system and violent revolution, his speech now included specific demands for PAT votes in the district by-polls to be held on Saturday. This was the preparation ground, he said, for the bigger battle yet to come. It is clear to see that Qadri, without a hint of discretion and with irony that is lost on nobody, will now play into the system. The jargon for revolution does not work, he has realised, without the legal legitimacy that only votes can grant. Because corrupt and inefficient though they may be, the current PML-N rulers remain a government brought in through an election and that gives them one special privilege: the benefit of the doubt. Qadri now understands the game a little better. He is wiser, and assuming he comes back to the fore supported by stronger forces, so are they. There are some rules to attain validity in politics that will always remain unbreakable. Take 2.

In an interview with BBC Urdu just before he took off for Bhakkar, Qadri took on the role of political critic to foreign policy level and used Sartaj Aziz’s recent statement regarding the indiscriminate killing of militants as proof that the government was incapable of ruling, and was in fact, treacherous at a time of war. His consistent use of ideology is well supported by his mastery over the rhetoric of revolution, but falls short of sensible debate. After criticising the system for months, he has decided to join in the fun. After constantly refusing to budge from his place, he left the sit-in venue without a care in the world pronouncing himself victor. This looks like the rise before the fall of Qadri. His methodologies are flawed, and so are his motivations. When he demands justice for the victims of the Model Town tragedy, the country must stand with him. Countless people do, whether or not they support him. However, when a once respected religious scholar gets greedy for the political game he’s been lambasting, people aren’t going to remain fooled. Qadri’s strongest support base is religious, not political. Though he could mobilise many of his devotees to vote for his party, once he transforms into Qadri the politician, he might lose even the little legitimacy he has so far collected. Politics is a difficult show to perform, Maulana Sahib. You best be wary.