Revolution is in the air?

Tahirul Qadri addresses his supporters in Lahore.

Tahirul Qadri addresses his supporters in Lahore.

By : Muhammad Waqas

Tahirul Qadri, the chief of Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT) is back with calls for a revolution in Pakistan. His return has already seen plenty of drama with the police engaging in violent clashes with PAT’s supporters, and later the government frantically diverting his flight from Islamabad to Lahore.

The government’s response to his arrival showed signs of immaturity, haste and weakness. Qadri has denied having any political ambitions or being on a mission to overthrow the Sharif government. Dismissing any plans to form a grand political alliance against the government, he claims that his agenda is to “bring change in the current system.”

The PAT leader is not new to creating ripples in Pakistan’s political scene as he has already led three large rallies that demanded electoral reforms and increased political transparency in the country. His meeting with mainstream political parties to discuss the killing of his party workers in a clash with police is expected to exert further pressure on the ruling government.

Qadri has stressed that the only way to save Pakistan is through a revolution. To his followers, only a grass-rooted revolution can help the country overcome its troubles and guarantee the rights of all countrymen. The PAT chief has also likened his mission to that of Arab Spring, which will result in the downfall of political and social elite, and empower masses. However, revolutionary changes are often bloody and may lead to power tussle among groups that may further spiral a society downwards.

In the aftermath of Arab Spring, a struggle against political and socioeconomic oppression in several Middle East countries, many revolutionaries remain disgruntled and feel that the movement has failed to truly improve the lives of a common man. Egypt’s difficult democratic transition and widespread civil unrest in Libya and Syria provide recent examples of how revolutions may not live up to expectations.

While it is no secret that the socioeconomic gulf in Pakistan has widened in recent years, Pakistan is certainly not ready for a mass revolution. The call of Qadri for revolution is likely to go unheeded as the countrymen fully back a military operation in North Waziristan and identify terrorism as the top most threat to Pakistan’s existence.

After the collapse of peace talks with militants, the government is also determined to weed out their safe havens from the country’s northwestern borders. Sharif has already expressed the government’s desire to take the democratic process forward and hailed the electoral system as the only way to bring a change in the country. Although Qadri has refuted claims of launching a political revolution, some political experts already smell a rat in view of his meetings with political parties. The need of hour is not a mass revolution, but to engage in a consultative dialogue that helps Pakistan counter challenges of sluggish economic growth, energy crisis and poor security situation. Like most developing countries, Pakistan’s electoral system reflects several imperfections but this should not impede the democratic process and cause civil anarchy.

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