Islamabad - Despite having no representation in parliament, Dr Tahirul Qadri was the talk of town among parliamentarians during Thursday’s proceedings.
He was a distant candidate for becoming a potent political force of Lahore when his former mentors, the Sharifs of Raiwind, were away in Jeddah enjoying lavish hospitality.
But relentless and targeted oriented movers and shakers of the Musharraf regime had something else, more practical, in mind.
They did not think of him as a useful political ‘tool’. Tsunami Khan was also brushed aside, rather politically humiliated, through a single seat. But unlike Qadri, Khan kept his cool and retained his only seat until the very end of the year 2007 that also saw beginning of the end for the top general of that time.
Instead of a moderate Allama like Qadri the military regime opted for a collaboration with the then Muttahida Majlis e Amal (MMA) led by a more tactful Maulana Fazlur Rehman, a potent political force of those days that enjoyed the required numeric strength to deliver the goods.
MMA was useful for the military regime of those days on many fronts. Qadri was not. So he bowed out, went thousands of miles away planning to stage a ‘heroic’ come back.
As planned, many years down the road, Qadri managed to stage a dazzling return. He was all over the television beams, spent millions (Rs 190 million, according to some estimate) on ad campaigns and amassed a mammoth gathering in Lahore to present himself as an alternative to Imran Khan’s Tsunami.
Busy elsewhere in electioneering, Khan was taken aback, but managed to embrace the situation with some grace -- surprisingly silent these days as he sees Qadri taking away all the limelight -- may be for a short period.
But there seems no stopping of Qadri’s endless quest for power as he announced to impose his formula of ‘people’s parliament’ just ahead of elections. Though many would brush him aside as a political midget, he seems New Year’s reality to reckon with as his deadline to march on capital coming.
And when a political personality like Mian Nawaz Sharif finally lashes out at Qadri, let there be no miscalculation that the Allama has finally become a ‘threat’ for major political stake holders of the current democratic dispensation.
The upper house of parliament met after a short winter break. These days of thick fog that engulf plains of Punjab, from Lahore to the garrison city of Rawalpindi, also bring commotion to the otherwise quite capital.
Knowing well the implications of religiously motivated mob psyche, senators just tried to assess the situation by looking beyond January 14 long march and emitted concerns.
Many of them are apparently convinced that the ‘military establishment’ may not be actively backing Qadri but would try to use the situation to its advantage.
Though Saeed Ghani is a fresh PPP senator, no one takes this ‘Zardari’s lieutenant’ lightly when he seeks a clarification from the top judge of the country, or judiciary’s take on being part of the consultative process for the formation of the caretaker government as wished by Qadri.
In the same breath, Ghani is not satisfied with the ISPR clarification on the same issue. He smells rat and seeks assurances which may not come readily. Sitting on the front benches, the otherwise calm and calculated Raja Zafarul Haq is equally concerned. Raja and his party, the PML-N, know that something is cooking up.
His party senator Mushahidullah Khan did not mince words while bashing Qadri in the upper house. He even called Qadri led moment a ‘drama’. His senior colleague senator Hasil Bazenjoexpressed more concerned. “Can anyone with a capacity to amass thousands strong mob be allowed to dictate his terms to derail the current democratic dispensation,” the senator questions emphatically from country’s establishment .
He then went on to question wisdom of the mainstream parties the MQM and PML-Q to support Qadri’s mob.
As Bazenjo thundered, Senator Muashahid Hussain Syed, Secretary General of the PML-Q, could not hold himself.
He down played the last meeting of Chaudhrys of Gujrat with Qadri, in which he was also present,as if it was some sort of a courtesy call. Mushahid tried to convey the message, across his treasury colleagues, that nothing was serious about it.
However, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain has other ideas as he wants to support Qadri’s quest for ‘revolutionary’ electoral reforms while enjoying the PPP coalition bandwagon. His cousin, Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, is also not ready to leave the Deputy Premiership.
MQM is definitely looking for a big bargain. They will continue to up the anteuntil they call for ‘show’ as it is a make or break for them. But Altaf Bhai has the capacity and talent to return from the brink.