On Sunday (December 23), the charismatic, finger waving, arms flailing 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. But what was unusual about this huge julsa was that there were no party flags, but only the green and white flags of Pakistan.

The size of the well-organised, disciplined rally, which must have cost millions of rupees, was similar to IK’s rally in the same place last year and was attended by citizens from all walks of life and has been described as Pakistan’s  version of Egypt’s Tahrir Square demonstrations.

However, we have seen that organising large Julsas these days is the easy part, but to sustain it for several months, like the Tahrir Square demonstrations, is another story. 

Tahir-ul-Qadri, hitherto, a little known religious scholar in Pakistan, had the blessings of MQM, who are experts in organizing such events and his two-hour passionate and compelling address to the citizens of Pakistan was very appealing.

His followers describe Dr TQ, the founding leader of Minhaj-ul-Qur’an International (MQI), an organisation with branches and centres in more than 90 countries around the globe, as a ‘Scholar, an intellectual leader and a living model of profound classical knowledge, intellectual enlightenment, practical wisdom, pure spirituality, love, harmony and humanism’.

No doubt, Dr TQ is a highly qualified religious scholar, with a brilliant background and a man of impressive achievements, with a large following, but his late and sudden appearance and open challenge to those in government, has raised many questions and sent tremors in the corridors of power.

In his first TV interview with Najam Sethi, and subsequent interviews in the print and electronic media, Dr. TQ has tried to remove some of the cob webs of miss information that have been spun around his visit and past and recent statements.

Qadri emphasised that he has no political ambitions and his objective to return to Pakistan and dabble in our murky politics, was not to delay or postpone the election, but to ensure that, as per our constitution, corrupt and dishonest parliamentarians are not allowed to contest the election.

He declared under oath that he was not here on behest of any Hidden Hand and was not a part of any secret agenda of any agency or country and that he would be the first to speak out if the army tried to take over the country.

He also stated that the funds available to him were solely from his organisations and supporters.

He admitted that he holds dual nationality, Pakistani and Canadian and has been residing in Canada for the last six years. Therefore, as per the Constitution of Pakistan, he is not eligible to hold public office nor contest the election.

He stated that his mission is to demand the enforcement of Article 62 f of the constitution, in letter and in spirit, which states that those standing for election should be honest – sagacious – ameen etc.

Unfortunately, at present, very few parliamentarians meet these criteria, but if it was enforced, then it would ensure that the corrupt, dishonest and incompetent persons would be prevented from participating in the coming election.

He wants a caretaker government, which is strong, competent and neutral and is not picked by the present rulers and does not follow their agenda. He demands that all stakeholders, including the judiciary, should be represented in the caretaker government.

Dr TQ claims that he respects the Constitution and yet he has given an unconstitutional ultimatum to the government and threatened that if the government fails to introduce electoral reforms, then he will assemble his 4 million “Lashkar Kashi” and lead a peaceful protest march to Islamabad on 14 January 2013. And surprisingly, MQM leader has asked his party workers to support and join the Lashkar.

The anti Dr TQ campaign is already in motion and his detractors question his sudden appearance and entry into the political arena, especially when the elections are just a few months away.

They ask, why does Dr TQ not post the source of  his funds on his web site and  accuse him of trying to delay the elections, while others question his credibility, his stand on the controversial Blasphemy Laws, his cult like followers and some of his ‘Religious Revelations’.

Will his detractors and the Hidden Hands allow the Dr TQ to see the Light of Dawn and introduce the important changes that have been demanded by him in our system of governance and the electoral process?

Or will he too be a victim of a conspiracy that have succeeded in stopping the much needed changes in our system of governance, only the next few months will reveal. 

It has been suggested that some other like minded political parties should come on board to save this sinking Titanic and join Dr. TQ’s ‘Lashkar Kashi’ and force the government to introduce electoral reforms before the election. Something that Anna Hazare had launched in India against corruption and forced the Indian government to introduce the necessary anticorruption laws.

It is a fact that the present electoral and political system is corrupt and without electoral reforms, the elections would be an exercise in futility and we will end up with the same old corrupt, dishonest and incompetent parliamentarians.  

As such, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) should also draw up a list of DOs and Don’ts for the election and ensure that they are enforced with a zero tolerance policy before and during the election.

ECP must ensure that those who hold dual nationalities, do not have NTM numbers, have not declared their assets and are tax evaders, are not allowed to participate in the coming election.

It must ensure that voters are provided adequate security at the polling stations to ensure fair voting and are allowed to vote according to their wishes and not harassed or influenced by the waderas and the rich and the powerful sitting in our Assemblies and Senate.

Shouting slogans and carrying of sticks and firearms near polling booths must be banned and any worker of a political party that violates this ban must be immediately taken into custody and action taken against that political party/candidate. 

Let us hope that the good Dr. does not have a hidden agenda and a flash in the pan, the government introduces the necessary Electoral Reforms and ECP fulfills its Constitutional obligations and ensures that the elections are transparent, fair and free.

(Email: trust@helplinetrust.org).