Political class rejects Dr. Qadri’s demand on interim government

Pakistan’s democratic forces heaved a collective sigh of relief on Wednesday evening when politicians – cutting across party lines – held their ground against what is widely perceived as another assault on democracy in the garb of Pakistani-Canadian cleric-politician Tahir-ul Qadri.

And, the credit was being equally apportioned to all political parties — big and small, in and outside Parliament — for not falling prey to the usual divide-and-rule politics of forces traditionally associated with rocking the cradle. With Dr. Qadri pitching for an interim government decided by “all stakeholders” including the judiciary and military, the fear was that some political parties would fall for the bait of a seat at the high table and derail the democratic project in the process.

Opposition meet

As Dr. Qadri held sway in the capital for the third day running, word was eagerly awaited from Raiwind where former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had convened a meeting of all opposition parties.

Once Mr. Sharif batted clearly for democracy, others fell in line. Even cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf succeeded in countering considerable pressure from within to join the Qadri bandwagon.

They rejected Dr. Qadri’s demand for giving the military and judiciary a say in the formation of the interim government to oversee the elections due before May-end. As for involving other stakeholders, representatives of both the government and the opposition pointed out that though the 20 Amendment restricts the consultations to the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, both had decided to broadbase the consultative mechanism.

The spectre of the 1990s when the establishment played on the insecurities of the two main political parties — the Pakistan Peoples Party and Pakistan Muslim League (PML) of the Sharifs — to destablise each other receded and democratic forces could be seen congratulating each other to the extent of wanting to dedicate January 16 to democracy and call it Democracy Day.

Now with the opposition on course, the PPP-led ruling coalition has to bolt its own stables as two of its partners — the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and PML (Q) — have been openly hobnobbing with Dr. Qadri. The MQM is, in fact, providing logistic support to the thousands picketing outside Parliament House.

As for Dr. Qadri, there was no word from him after the political class spoke. He is scheduled to speak later in the night but during his three-and-a-half-hour-long speech this morning, the preacher used his bullet-proof pulpit to rant against the political class while heaping praise on the military and the judiciary.

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