For the past 12 hours on television I have been seeing injured people being carried out of the Red Zone, their blood painting the Constitution Avenue red. The sights reminded me of a historic speech.
In 1944 during the Second World War, the great Indian nationalist, Subhas Chandra Bose, motivated troops of the Indian National Army in Burma with the promise, “Give me blood, and I shall give your freedom.”
The INA was ready to shed blood. But just because a loyalist is willing to give his life does not mean the leader should take it as he pleases.
Bose’s army was pinned against the British Raj, who controlled India but were not Indians. They imposed their laws, their government, their trade, their way of life; and had taken away sovereignty, independence and self-determination from the Indians.
The Indians could not win back the control of the sub-continent through campaigning and elections. They had to fight for it. Bose asked for blood as neither did he see any peaceful option nor did the British present one. And in 1947, when India and Pakistan finally won their independence, it was done at the back of a broken and weakened British Empire who had suffered greatly during the Second World War.
Tahirul Qadri also made a promise to motivate his troops during the past two weeks. He assured them that his would be the first chest to receive a bullet if the government authorities launch a crack down on his inqilab. In the same breath, he sought the assurance of his troops to stand by him and prepare for sacrifice. His party distributed ‘kafans’ to the young, the old, the women and the men.
The question then becomes: was it necessary for Qadri to shed the blood of his loyalists? Qadri, unlike Bose, is not fighting a foreign government. He very much embraced this system of government in all its colours. He contested elections in 1990 and in 1997 in coalition with PPP under a civilian caretaker setup. He then accepted elections under a dictator in 2002 and won a seat as a MNA with which he took an oath on the floor of the parliament to protect the Constitution.
However, last night he ordered his thousands of followers to abrogate that Constitution when he directed them to march towards the Prime Minister’s House.
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He runs a formally registered political party for which doors are open to contest in any election. He purposefully boycotted the 2008 and 2013 elections and chose to stay outside the system and even the country. This was a bitter man who despite his self-proclaimed huge following, has failed to turn that following into electoral success. He did not even attempt to win the popular mandate for his 'hundreds of thousands of followers', and instead always used them as a ready-to-deploy workforce for dharnas.
Tahirul Qadri has dismissed the legal way to win the rights of his people and instead opted for the path of violence, as per convenience. His fight is not so much of a freedom fighter but that of a traitor and an opportunist; and his mode of action similar to that of Maulana Abdul Aziz of Lal Masjid.
Aziz did not believe in the Constitution or the government formed under it. Qadri doesn’t either.
Aziz did not bother to turn his demands into legislative reforms through the Parliament. Qadri didn’t either.
Aziz’s followers — both men and women — were armed with guns and batons. Qadri’s followers are also armed with batons if not more fatal weapons.
Aziz wanted to physically take over the capital. Qadri tried to make the same move last night.
The only difference between Aziz and Qadri is the nature of the system they wanted to impose — the operative word here being ‘impose’.
A liberal view on minorities or women does not merit support if being applied in an extremist fashion. Those who condemned Aziz should also condemn Qadri.
With his last statement from inside his bullet-proof container — that his workers will not back down despite the shelling and firing by police forces — he has proved that for him and his personal brand of inqilab, he is willing to dispose those at his disposal.
Unfortunately, this mistake has also been committed by a man who appears to believe in democracy.
This man insisted that he would even convince Qadri to find democratic solutions to his issues. But last night, he opted to join Qadri's madness.
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Imran Khan, to his credit, did not take permanent cover inside his container; there were periodic appearances on top of the container without any bullet-proof windows amidst shell firing.
But his was supposed to be a different march. He had the grounds of having approached various institutions in the past 14 months, for justice against electoral rigging by PML-N. His party includes not one but various senior politicians who have served in the Parliament, and have also taken the oath to protect the Constitution.
To make things even more baffling, Imran Khan has always appeared to be a pacifist. He condemned drone attacks and army operations. He had been pleading governments for a peaceful solution for the troubled northern areas of Pakistan for over 12 years, and is firm on his stance to even negotiate with the most barbaric of terrorist groups.
Imran should have taken out a leaf from his own book. He should have stayed back, a view which — if news reports are to be believed — is also shared by Javed Hashmi. He shouldn't have merged his march with that of PAT. In doing so, he, to a great extent, left his followers at the mercy of Qadri’s ambitions. Imran will have to share the responsibility of the blood spilt in Islamabad.
But Qadri and Imran are not alone. Their failure to defend their people is as much a result of the government’s failure to handle the crisis tactfully.
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Nawaz Sharif, after allegations of rigging, having lied on the floor of the Parliament under oath and having allowed the police to use force on the protestors, has fallen short of any expectation one may have had from the responsible office of the Prime Minister of Pakistan.
Before the protestors are identified as PAT or PTI workers, they are citizens of Pakistan and Nawaz Sharif is their Prime Minister. He took the oath to serve and protect them in the following words:
"That, in all circumstances, I will do right to all manner of people, according to law, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will."
Nawaz Sharif’s callous comments about the empty seats during the protests, spoke volumes about his concern for “all manner of people.” An honourable, self-respecting and sincere servant of the people would have walked towards the march before it marched towards his house.
Nawaz should, at least, have spoken to democratic forces like PTI in person. There should have been a genuine attempt on his part to defuse political tension and acknowledge the sentiments of the protestors. The protestors deserved that much. Instead, he chose to express himself to Speaker of the National Assembly, a house he barely visited before.
What resulted is worse than the Model Town massacre. His government in Punjab was already guilty of brute force against the citizens of Lahore, but now they meted out the same treatment to those who protested that brutality in Islamabad.
Nawaz Sharif is a man who, it appears, does not learn his lessons. He feels safe knowing he has a certain vote bank. He is a man who can comfortably turn a blind eye to those who don’t support him, even if he is equally responsible for their safety. He is a man who is perhaps fit to lead PML-N but not Pakistan, for he is responsible for the blood spilt in Islamabad.
The unwanted burden of this mess is also shared by a fourth party and the supposed fourth pillar of the State — Media. Both groups, journalists who were biased towards the government and those biased towards this revolution, forgot their job was to report facts, and instead indulged in advocacy. Where one instigated more violence by urging people to step out and more political parties to jump into the mess, the other tried to hide the bloodshed and in doing so, has prolonged it.
Those who are not present at the march are fighting with each other on social media as to who bled more and who is more at fault. There are political workers fighting everywhere but there are hardly any Pakistanis condemning this tragedy in its entirety.
The protestors bled. Police officials bled. Pakistan bled. All of them have families and loved ones and all of them suffered from oppression and recklessness of those who are responsible for the chaos.
Today, inqilab is a fancy word to brand your politics, and the blood of your troops is cheap enough to adorn the same with it.
I do not pray for anyone’s success. I just pray for peace.