July Issue 2014
Editor’s Note: July 2014
While the Pakistan Army is engaged in a fight to the finish against terrorists holed up in North Waziristan, the country’s assorted leaders are holding their own road shows.
There’s the rabble-rouser from Toronto, Maulana Tahir-ul-Qadri, who has returned to rock the boat once again, by promising a “green revolution.” Never mind that the ‘revolutionary’ travelled first class with his entourage, demanded that the army take care of his security at the airport on his arrival and refused to disembark from the international airliner till he spoke to a senior army official. He had to settle for the Punjab Governor, instead.
Meanwhile Punjab’s head honcho suddenly felt so unsettled by the sight of the three-year-old barricades at Minhaj-ul-Quran, the maulana’s headquarters in Lahore — incidentally, they are a common sight outside most VIP homes in Lahore — that he unleashed the might of the Punjab Police and Gullu Butt on the maulana’s supporters a day prior to his arrival, and ended up making a hero of him.
Meanwhile, brother Nawaz Sharif flew off to some more foreign shores in search of investors (for more motorways, power projects and steel mills in the Punjab?), while daughter Mar-yam distributed more loans and laptops to the province’s youth (exactly, who is footing the bill?).
The IDPs from North Waziristan, families of 8-10 people, were promised a piddling allowance of Rs. 20,000 by the centre, which was raised to Rs. 40,000 following strong protests and cries of shame. Why, only a few weeks earlier, two more brand new bullet-proof BMWs were added to the Prime Minister’s security fleet at a whopping cost of Rs. 224 million.
Meanwhile, billionaire politician Asif Zardari left it to his best friend, Bahria billionaire Malik Riaz, to cough up the needful for the IDPs, while his chief minister got rapped on the knuckles for initially refusing to allow any IDPs in Sindh, and subsequently had to backtrack.
But the man who took the cake, bakery et al was PTI’s Captain. Tired of playing the Prime Minister-in-Waiting, Imran Khan threatened to go on a long march from August 14, if his four demands were not met. He will simply not let go of his foremost demand to investigate rigging charges in at least four constituencies from which the PML-N won. His party was among those who attended Maulana Qadri’s All Parties Conference that drew all the like-minded — mostly those who want Nawaz Sharif out of the PM’s house.
Islamabad is rife with rumours of a change of government — backed by the men-in-uniform. Could the conspiracy theorists be right, this time round? Will democracy be dismantled, yet again, by the democrats themselves, acting in cahoots with self-professed messiahs?
Come August 14 and we will know.
Rehana Hakim is one of the core team of journalists that helped start Newsline. She has been the editor-in-chief since 1996.