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Politics and state

December 21, 2012

TWO slogans in Pakistan’s two largest cities — both emphasising the leader. In Lahore the stage is being prepared for the return of Allama Dr Tahirul Qadri. In Karachi, wall chalkings of the MQM’s earlier slogan, ‘Manzil nahin rehnuma chahiye’ (leader not destination) have cropped up once again. The catchphrase for Dr Qadri’s Dec 23 rally is ‘Siyasat nahin, riyasat bachao’. Literally, this means ‘save the state, not politics’ but a clearer translation would be ‘discredit old politics to create room for your own’. This is so typical of born-again tehriks. Politics and the Pakistan Awami Tehrik have somehow not combined well, even though Dr Qadri has a large following and despite his past attempts. Dr Qadri rose to prominence during Gen Zia’s rule as a law teacher and religious scholar. Later, he chose to grace Gen Musharraf’s 2002 National Assembly. It is unfortunate the state could not be saved then and there, leaving it precariously in the hands of who else but the politicians.

Having decided politics was something not worth saving, Dr Qadri is happy over the backing he has got from the MQM — when no one quite knows how PAT is going to go about its campaign. When Dr Qadri thanked the MQM chief for his support recently, he said it was the fight against feudalism that had brought PAT and the MQM closer. It is ironic then that the wall chalkings in Karachi do not reflect this. Unless the objective is to convey that the leader is a destination unto himself, the slogan might come across as somewhat feudal in modern times. In earlier times, when the MQM was subjected to severe persecution by the state, the frustration was understandable, but now that it has entered mainstream politics as a democratic force in its own right it must aim for higher standards.