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View from Washington: D-Chowk is no Tahrir Square, at least not yet

Published Jan 15, 2013 12:45pm


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Dr Qadri’s march has not yet caught the attention of the American public. -Photo by AP

In Washington, Tahirul Qadri’s D-chowk is not seen as comparable to Cairo’s Tahrir Square. It is not yet seen as an event that could bring about a major political change in Pakistan, as the Tahrir Square did in Egypt.

The uprising in Cairo had the entire American nation in its grips. For weeks, it was front page news in all major newspapers in the United States and also dominated all big television channels.

The popularity of the demand for a change forced the Obama administration to use its influence to persuade former Egyptian president Hosni Mobarak to step down. The US administration also had a role in preventing the powerful Egyptian military from using force against the protesters.

Also for weeks, the developments in Cairo remained a key subject in daily news briefings at the White House, State Department and Pentagon.

Compared to this, Dr Qadri’s march has not yet caught the attention of the American public. Some newspapers did report the event but carried only news agency copies on their inside pages. The electronic media also showed little interest.

Spokespersons at the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon offered no comments and even journalists did not raise the issue at regular news briefings.

There was no emergency meeting of the president’s security cabinet, as was held during the Egyptian uprising, and there’s no indication that Washington plans to send an official to Islamabad to learn more about the Qadri march.

The general feeling at Washington’s think tanks, and in diplomatic circles, is that President Asif Ali Zardari will survive this crisis as well, as he did other similar crises in the recent past.

Experts on Pakistan affairs at Washington’s think tanks say that even if Mr Zardari is forced to step down, there will be no military takeover. Instead, the military will prefer to bring an interim government of technocrats and back it from behind the scene.

Washington will react angrily if there’s a military takeover and may impose strict economic sanctions, which the Pakistani military would want to avoid at all cost. They realise that any sanction at this stage will have disastrous consequences for the Pakistani economy.

But the US reaction to a civilian change will likely be mild, particularly now when the present government has almost completed its tenure.

Diplomatic observers in Washington say that the Obama administration will make no effort to push or protect Mr Zardari. Like most Pakistanis, the Americans also see Mr Zardari as a corrupt and unpopular leader and will not like to be identified with him. But they will also not like to be seen as working against an elected government.

While the US administration is treading cautiously, Pakistanis living in America are not. The long march dominates all conversations at community gatherings, with some welcoming it as a move that may end a corrupt government while others opposing it as a development that will increase the influence of religion in politics.

“Another cleric, seeking a piece of the political pie, this is definitely not a welcome development,” said Mohsen Bashir Awan of Falls Church, Virginia, when asked to comment. “People need food, clothes, homes, jobs and electricity, not another fake change.”

“Even an MPA needs 60,000 voters to get elected and Mr Qadri wants to topple the government with 50,000 people,” said Agha Raza Ali of Brookfields, Virginia. “Pakistan has established political parties, they will not allow a new entrant to steamroll them.”

Zahid Ali of Germantown, Maryland, believes “this will pass. Nobody, least of all the army, wants to topple Mr Zardari so close to the election. This will be a big political concession to him.”

But Abdur Rauf, also of Brookfields, Virginia, said “those who have come from across Punjab for this dharna, will not leave like this. This is the end of the Zardari government.”

Shahid Husain of Washington suggested that Dr Qadri was brought because “Imran Khan failed to play his role. Mr Zardari and Nawaz Sharif played him well. So a dark horse was brought in.”

Some commentators suggested that the protest will lead to the formation of a supra-judicial body to supervise the government and the Chief Justice will head this body after retirement.

Others suggested that now was the time for Bilawal Zardari to become active and challenge Dr Qadri, although they also acknowledged that he was too young to do so.

Najma Siddiqi, another Pakistani living in Washington, said she learned from “a senior person in Pakistan about 12 months ago that things will get better. The process will not be disrupted, but 'we will get good people'.”


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Comments (45) Closed

Ali Jan 15, 2013 02:47pm
Don't ask questions from those who cannot see sitting outside. I am in Houston. & I am telling you we need to remove all corrupt politicians from the country NO MATTER which political party they belong to period.
Amjd Wyne Jan 15, 2013 01:36pm
It is not the event that gets the attention of American people or the media in the US. It is the relevence of the event to American politics and its interests. Less interest may be a good news for Pakistan - not bad. Pakistan needs time and space.
Madan Tiwary Jan 15, 2013 01:47pm
What a joke. An MPA needs 60000 votes to get elected and this champion of self style revolution wants to topple Government with 50000 confused people.
Shahid Jan 15, 2013 02:17pm
This foriegn national (Tahir) is protecting the vested interest of Iftikhar Chaudry
Faqi Jan 16, 2013 08:46am
He cannot contest elections. He is a dual-national.
mughees ur rehman Jan 15, 2013 03:36pm
I don t think so that the coverage from american channels is the good measure to compare it with Time square. Maybe it is not the same as time square, but the american media also have other interests on which there coverage depend.
karim Jan 15, 2013 02:05pm
Pakistan Army loves to dabble in politics and business. Defending the country is a lower priority and that's why you see terrorists on a rampage across the land.
Venkata Appa Rao Jan 15, 2013 04:15pm
The whole thing is very confusing,
Sami Jan 15, 2013 05:28pm
Though Dr. Qadari religious belives are not same as mine but we should be looking and favoring who could bring a change. Change can not be overnight since Paksitan has many problems but at-least start and what looks like a good start with no violence. Though he may be a Muillah or Cleric but he is talkaing about Pakistan and I favor whover put Pakistan and Pakistani peoplle first.
J.Sandhu Jan 15, 2013 05:51pm
dont give up.......fight for your rights, if you can bring a good government in, then all your neighnours will be with you.
AK Jan 15, 2013 06:10pm
I am with TQ.
S.A. Hyder, Ph.D. Jan 16, 2013 07:13pm
Compare Qadri's Topi with Karzai's Topi! Both are fake. But still fool the crowd. One is fooling the Pakistani crowd, while the other is fooling almost the whole world.
Bangash Jan 15, 2013 06:45pm
I am exhausted by the constant political crisis in Pakistan. Why can't the people learn from other nations that political stability and democracy are a must for progress. All over the world countries are investing in democracy, infrastructure and human resources and in Pakistan the military and mullah are busy with their dirty political games.
Bitter Truth Jan 16, 2013 05:38pm
Pakistanis are very lazy by nature. Perhaps Egyptians were not. Pakistanis do not want change yet. They are happy to bring their lords, be it Nawaz or Zardari. Those who are dreaming that Imran will come, keep on dreaming. Imran had a chance and he just lost it. The biggest dilemma of pakistanis is that they know the elections are fraud and fake. Every time an election has happened, the next day the person in the opposition has called it a sham. Even the last one, got more than 40% fakes votes. But pakistanis are not so technical. No, they dont want to waste time in those fine details. Thanks to the literacy rate. And the ones who happen to some reach the western shores, might have got degrees, but they still are slaves to their 'pendu' mind set. Sorry Liaqat Ali Khan, sorry Ayuub Khan, Sorry Musharraf, sorry Tahir ul Qadri and Imran Khan - Pakistanis dont want you. They are happy to be slaves of Nawaz, Chaudharys, Bhuttos, Zardaris, Palejos, Khars, Wuderas, Sardars and any one showing feudal mind set. Thanks to Army, where the sons of these feudals hold senior position and will never allow any revolution that will clean up this mess. Thanks to the media, whose owners have close ties with the top political parties. Solution : Leave Pakistan and enjoy life in US, Canada, UK, Australia and the west.
AzadDunya Jan 15, 2013 06:51pm
Now what ?
Kris Jan 15, 2013 07:00pm
How did Dr. Qadri get permission to do what he is doing being a foreign national? He seems to be another religious fanatic and his demand for government to resign by 11 AM was very unrealistic. How do people follow such fools. Similarly Imran Khan will not be able to mobilize large crowds to topple the established parties. Imran has to realize lot of things and make plenty of changes to win hearts of everyone. Presently he is playing both sides and doesn't seem to have his own agenda. Is he in favor of Pakistan being run under Sharia Laws? To me looks like that as he seem to be trying his best to woo such agenda by not talking against radicals even hen little innocent girls are attacked. Wake up Imran we are in 20th century and radical Islamist have no place to breed. Long marches and useless talks are way out. Stand up and be counted as a leader who will work for masses and remove illiteracy and poverty. Shame no leader has spoken how they will do this
Hanif Jan 15, 2013 07:53pm
it's just started, it will take some time for US newspaper to catchup. Don't worry, News will be all over the world.
Sidster Jan 15, 2013 08:10pm
This is not a crisis. This an opportunity to for the government to clean house from there dark forces. People are feed up with all the corruption that this Government brought with them in Government. People of Pakistan, just do not kill anyone in this protest rally.
alakhtal Jan 16, 2013 12:40pm
I took Qadri seriously when I noticed Indian headlines terrorized. Qadri cloned D-Chowk outta Tahrir Square. Here
BEA Jan 15, 2013 08:12pm
Another one who wants to get himself in the middle of the mess that Pakistan is in,who is this man he needs to go back to Canada where he came from, he is only in Pakistan to cause problems to a country where there is no shortage of problems. what a mess. someone needs to stand upa nd take charge of this country because the Gov will not help Pakistan.
Mandeep Jan 15, 2013 08:51pm
Instead of creating furore, Mr Qadri should announce the launch of his own party and make public its manifesto. Elections are round the corner in any case, why is he trying to shake the earth with need for resignations and causing instablity ?
khanm Jan 16, 2013 12:02pm
In order to make any political change or any march a successful require 3 factors. 1) Blessing of our mentors 2 Blessing of Arm forces 3) Blessing of Agencies 4) Blessing of people doesn
BEA Jan 16, 2013 05:05pm
How did he get permission to hold such a march in the first place, why is he in Pakistan in the first place someone needs to look at this man and what hes about more closely, the people who turned up at the march are fed up with all the killings of innocent people no gas no Elec no food no clean water no nothing then some charlaton turns up making the promise that he will sort it all out people are innocent they will follow whoever gives them hope even if its false hope they will only realize that afterwards, how can he announce this march in Pakistan when he does not even live in Pakistan send him back to Canada where he came from.the mans a fake and he will exploit the innocent people who believe in what ever he is saying.
rana Jan 15, 2013 11:49pm
Qadri says he does not want the arab type of revolution as he knows it will be detrimental to the stability of pakistan and which for his masters NATO is bad news.
BEA Jan 16, 2013 04:58pm
well said
Imdad Jan 16, 2013 02:24am
When Rulers start snatching the basic rights People on the name of democracy, and a man made Constitution of Pakistan is considered holier than Quran, ..... what else you can expect We had warnings from Allah in the form of Earth quakes, Floods and Dangy fever.. God never changed the state of a nation unless they thought of changing themselves.
abc Jan 17, 2013 11:17am
Egypt and Pakistan cannot be compared together in world context. Egypt has always been a cultural super power of the entire world and they always had a booming economy. They are the economic and cultural super power of Africa. The arab world looks up to Egypt for inspirations and its role model. Hence any major changes or turmoil happens in egypt, it will subsequently affects the entire world, either directly or indirectly. Most contries have high hopes and stakes attached to Egypt. So, even if this D-Chowk revolution manages to change or topple the goverment, it is not going to affect anyone. It is not the first time in Pakistan, that a ruling elected goverment had been toppled and going by its history, it will not be the last incedent either. Everything for every other countries remains the same. Hence, not a front page news item. lets be realistic in our comparisons.
KAM Jan 16, 2013 03:41am
Democracy is surely being invested and now you have same gender marriages.
mjjm Jan 16, 2013 03:42am
in the first place why is Qadri in Canada ???? if he is so much for Pakistan then he should be in Pakistan with his family, this is a question all Pakistani should ask Qadri
mustafa Jan 16, 2013 03:46am
This is complete failure of govt of PPP to protect their life and properties. They cannot provide even the basic needs of life. They are senseless ministers and queta is an example no minister have time to visit those victim families and console them. They can capture killer from dubai for big people but for common people there is no justice and protection. Their main aim of life to enjoy and pass luxury life at the cost of poor pakistani. They have looted pakistan and deposit money in swiss banks.
mjjm Jan 16, 2013 04:00am
corruption in Pakistan is at root level ? no matter which Government comes in power this problem will stay for ever .......
KAM Jan 16, 2013 04:00am
Mr. Qadri is a religious spokesman and he is out cashing his fame. He has problems with his own sect and now he found a way to position himself all the way to top among people, taking advantage of the situation and people of Pakistan. A decade ago he was just another molvi collecting charities and after going to Canada as investor with large house in a posh area of Lahore with 35 million rupees bullet proof Land Cruiser and much more. If he was to give his financial accountability he will fail surely. Mr. Qadri is an opportunist as we have learned from past most Pakistanis work the same way and at the end, stranded to their wrong choices and before you know the cycle starts again.
khanm Jan 16, 2013 01:25pm
Houston we are in trouble.......
Abdulla Jan 16, 2013 04:37am
Kuch bhi bolo bhai qadri ki topi bahut mast hai.Acchi topi pehnayee pakistan ke public ko.
Jaseem Jan 16, 2013 04:38am
Knowing Qadri's background is important: 1. Tahir-ul-Qadri is better known for his role in the creation of the infamous
Salman Jan 16, 2013 04:44am
Pakistan needs a change in status quo. We need freedom from corruption, and this can only happen if corruption is elimiated from the top. This cannot happen in the presence of the existing government, that had failed to deliver. Dr. Tahir-ul Qadari's demands are just and fair. Still Amry should referain from getting involved and only act in supporting role, if needed. That will be the the best course for PK. I hope the present PK govt understand this delicate situation and act fairly.
Jamshed Khan Jan 16, 2013 03:03pm
Dawn has disallowed comments on Qadri speech news elsewhere. My only question is why is he delivering his speeches in English while he is addressing a mostly non-English speaking, Pakistani crowd?
Syed Jan 16, 2013 06:02am
oh you wait, that is coming, he is waiting to get into parliment house first, not only that, you will see a delay in elections as well cause when he says "elections can only happen AFTER the reforms he wants", and reforms cannot be put in place in one day. you can bet your bottom dollar not only elections will be delayed but we will fall into a frying pan.... out of fire.
Mohammad Jan 16, 2013 06:09am
Hey Indian stay away from our politics. You guys just want us to be in caos and does not to progress.
khanm Jan 16, 2013 06:29am
D-Chowk is no Tahrir Square, at least not yet and it would never be. Egyptians are one nation and Pakistanis are divided and disarrayed. No leader is charismatic enough to lead the nation.
Richard Jan 16, 2013 07:13am
That is Islam, you can solve problem by converting en mass
Richard Jan 16, 2013 07:14am
Why not like him come to Pakistan with a rally
Vishal Jan 16, 2013 07:42am
Save democracy in Pak don't support the military.
Mustafa Razavi Jan 16, 2013 07:56am
Not all the neighbors, just the well wishing ones, first and fore most,
Scorpionguy Jan 16, 2013 08:19am
I think it is a right time for all thsoe forces who wants to bring change in Pakistan should support Dr Qadri's agenda physically. If other political forces who wants to sustain dis corrupt political system or status quo in the country can be united, then y Mr. Imran Khan not join hands with Dr. Qadri. I think its begining for revolution in the country b/c youngsters/middle class wants to participate in the decison making process but due to dis corrupt system we are unable to play our role in the country. I hope inshahallah with the passage ot time, more people join dis change movement and one-day, people will win this movement agaisnt all corrpt political forces who are interested to hold elections without making reforms in electoral process. Pakistan Zindabad