LAHORE – Pakistan Awami Tehrik Chairman Dr Tahirul Qadri says the government’s negotiating team which was supposed to inform him by January 31 about the schedule of future talks did not contact him for further consultations even a week after the deadline ‘possibly’ because their talks with the opposition are still inconclusive.
Talking to TheNation here on Tuesday, Dr Qadri said the failure of the government to go by its commitment did not upset him and that the agreement between the two sides was intact. “We have not suspended our future planning. We are continuing our struggle,” said a relaxed and confident PAT chief, implying that his party’s activities are not linked to the outcome of talks with the government.
In the light of an agreement between the two sides the ruling coalition is bound to select the caretaker prime minister in ‘complete consensus’ with Dr Qadri. It had also promised to inform the PAT chairman by January 31 when the next meeting on the subject would be held.
“I have not contacted them. As a matter of principle, they were supposed to approach me (and give a schedule). They should have let me know even if some things had not materialized.”
Dr Qadri said: “I hope they will not deviate from their commitment. I will be positive (in my approach towards them) till they back out.”
He made it clear that his position would remain unaffected even if the other side backed out and failed to honour its commitment.
The government and Dr Qadri have divergent views on the reconstitution of the Election Commission of Pakistan. The government insists that the election body cannot be reconstituted without a constitutional amendment. However, the PAT chief believes that free and fair elections are not possible unless all four members nominated by the provincial governments are replaced in accordance with the procedure provided in the Constitution.
He is scheduled to file a petition in this regard with the Supreme Court today. Asked what if the apex court rejected the petition, the PAT chairman said he would accept the verdict whole-heartedly.
He recalled that the PML-N had attacked the Supreme Court (when it was hearing a petition against its leadership) and another party was making a mockery of the court orders by refusing to implement them, an obvious reference to the PPP.
The PAT’s reaction would be totally different even if the court order was against its submissions, said Dr Qadri.
“We’ll honour the verdict in letter and spirit.”
The PAT has not so far decided if it would take part in the elections, scheduled to be held during the next few months. All relevant organisations of the party have mandated Dr Qadri to take an appropriate decision on the subject at an appropriate time.
While this crucial decision is yet to be announced, Dr Qadri has announced a second phase of his struggle to create what he calls constitutional, political and democratic awareness among the people about their rights and eligibility and ineligibility of the election candidates. He claims that he would create a situation like the one created by the late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1970.
Between February 15 and March 10, the PAT would hold marches and rallies in all important cities of the country. He believes that the scenes of Dec 23 public meeting at Minar-i-Pakistan and long march to Islamabad would be re-enacted in every city. “Those spreading rumours that our journey to revolution has come to an end live in fool’s paradise. The objective of such elements is only to create confusion.”
Such elements, he alleged, had the skill to use money to engineer mandate. He said the primary objective of the second phase of the struggle was to ensure on time free and fair elections after due reforms – to save the country, not to disintegrate it.
When suggested that by involving itself in long marches at this juncture the PAT would not be left with enough time for the electoral activities, Dr Qadri said this phase would be over before the dissolution of the assemblies.
In his assessment, one month would be sufficient for his party to prepare for the polls. “In case we contested the elections, we’ll topple many strong and towering candidates of other parties.”
Asked how many electables the PAT had in its fold at present, Dr Qadri said: “I’ll not like to make any comment at this stage.” But how would you respond to the critics who think that the PAT doesn’t have elactable candidates at all, he was asked. In response, Dr Qadri said he would revive the 1970-like situation in which even a lamppost awarded the PAT ticket would trounce his opponents.
He said what actually matters is people’s support, not the so-called electables. “We are approaching the masses, not the people who stand the chance to get elected.”
He recalled that when ZAB had created a particular situation, even Saigols and Pagaras were defeated by their ordinary rivals. “Our scheme is completely different from that of other parties.”
When pointed out that the PAT appeared to be isolated as no other political or politico-religious party likes to join hands with it, Dr Qadri said it was a totally wrong impression. “We are not isolated. We think that political society and civil society are two different entities,” he said, clearly indicating that the PAT is trying to take the civil society along.
He said since the PAT was opposed to the agenda of other political parties, it was understandable that they would not like to stand beside it. “But their decision to distance themselves from us will make our future journey easier.”
The PAT, Dr Qadri said, pinned no hopes on the religious parties. However, if a true religious party which is sincere to the religion approached the PAT, “we’ll not refuse to cooperate”.
He made it clear that the PAT struggle was not dependent on any other party.
In response to a question, the PAT chairman said efforts had already been started to rig the polls. The MNAs and MPAs were trying to get returning officers and polling staff of their choice appointed through their hand-picked members of the Election Commission of Pakistan. He said with the dissolution of the assemblies, the appointment of people proposed by the sitting legislators would be formalised by the relevant authorities.
Already, he recalled the PPP and the PML-N had decided to award tickets for the next elections to most of the sitting members. This, he said, meant that for these parties none among the remaining 180 million people was capable enough to contest the elections.
Dr Qadri had serious objection to the funds being provided to the legislators to enable them to buy votes.
About any contacts between the PAT and the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf, Dr Qadri said both sides have held an informal meeting, but there was no formal meeting between them.