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Long march dents Imran Khan’s PTI By Ansar Mahmood Bhatti

Dr. Tahrul Qadri’s long march ostensibly was biggest show of power in the history of Pakistan’s politics. A man whom nobody knew 20 days ago but suddenly he surfaced on the horizon and overshadowed every body else. While Dr Qadri’s long march and the Islamabad Declaration may not have any far reaching effects on future Pakistan’s politics, the Minhajul Quran chief was successfully able to showcase his philosophy and agenda not only to the people of Pakistan but the whole world as well.

Dr. Tahrul Qadri deserves full marks for keeping his followers engaged for three days and that too in the extremely cold weather. His show proved that he had huge followings both within and without the country. While it still remains a mystery as to who was behind him and who helped him both in cash and kind, one thing is for sure, Dr. Qadri’s long march and then sit-in created problems for all political parties. A man who was no body abruptly became an iconic figure is a clear manifestation of Allama’s skills as an orator and a nimble negotiator.

In any case, Dr. Qadri emerged as the sole winner in the whole episode and every body else finished as a potential loser. Among the losers, Imran Khan’s PTI happens to be the party that fared quite poorly during the whole drama. People were expecting Imran Khan to join the sit-in along with Dr. Qadri for PTI’s agenda was more or less same vis a via TMQ’s agenda however Imran Khan, as his critics now say, failed to rise to the occasion. Even Dr. Tahirul Qadri was quite hopeful that Khan will extend his support and together with him he will be able to put more pressure on the government for acceptance of his demands aimed at chiefly reformation of the election commission. Imran Khan’s decision not to become part of the sit-in came as a surprise for Dr. Qadri and his supporters. Imran Khan’s predicament now is that he is surrounded by big-wig who would never like to go against the status quo because in that case their own position in their respective constituencies will become weak. And perhaps it was because of huge pressure from such elements that Imran Khan had to keep away from the sit-in.

Regardless of the outcome of the long march, one thing now has become certain that elections will take place on time, maybe in the first week of May. Even the diplomatic community, which was double minded about holding of the elections, now seems convinced that elections will take place on time. And interestingly the diplomatic community is quite impressed with the performance of Dr. Tahirul Qadri and believes he could have performed even better, had any mainstream political party or even Imran Khan  supported him.

Summing  up, the long march was a very good PR exercise for Dr. Qadri and his Minhajul Quran. While one may not disagree with what Dr. Qadri had been talking about during the sit-in, it still remains a big quandary whether he will be able to get his demands implemented. There is a consensus that the declaration singed on 17 January 2012 is nothing but a piece of paper. I think he will have to launch another long march — this time for the implementation of the ISLAMABAD DECLARATION.

In case he plans another long march, he should do it in summer because winter season is perhaps not a good time for such kind of sit-in.  Apart from PTI’s unwillingness to join the long march, inclement weather was another big reason that led Dr. Qadri to sign the agreement rather in a haste.

All said and done,  like many others, I am also not convinced that the long march decision was Qadri’s own initiative. There were certainly some forces, both internal and external, behind it and maybe at a later stage we are able know about those hidden hands. But as it goes, all is well that ends well. No matter who was behind him, the net result is the message stands conveyed and doubts about holding of elections removed.

The writer is Editor, Diplomatic News Agency (DNA) and Centreline journal.

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