ISLAMABAD: Political persuasion and administrative steps on the heels of last-resort plane diversion was the best that the under-pressure PML-N federal and provincial governments could come up with to finally wind up the much-trumpeted Islamabad-Lahore GT Road political show of Dr Tahirul Qadri, and avoid any major fireworks.
The nine-hour-long sit-in of sorts in a foreign airline plane at the Lahore airport, followed by negotiations and then sojourn along with Punjab governor, however, gave Qadri at least something to cheer, for the time being. He lost nothing big, gained nothing substantial. With security scare and June 17 bloody event of Lahore still fresh in minds, both sides knew fully well their limits, bearing strictly in mind to stay away from a full-blown political contest in the backdrop of operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan.
Dr Qadri’s appeal to garrison all day long on Monday proved a D-Day, as he had to be content with a smoke screen in the shape of Punjab governor as representative of the state rather than the government, more of a political pawn of his arch adversaries, the Sharifs. Ironically, the tactful Sharifs, on this day, seemed to have run out of credible political faces in stock, but Governor Sarwar, to do the difficult job.
Earlier on Monday, apart from some controlled skirmishes in the twin-cities, both the federal and Punjab governments seemed over-cautious, especially in the backdrop of unfortunate events of Lahore, which had turned Qadri’s otherwise marginalised show into a keenly observed political happening all over the country. Sans presence on the GT Road, the hours long coverage on media, however, provided Dr Qadri an easy access across the country – enough space to live to fight another day.
The situation at hand will give enough time and space to Qadri and associates to plan and re-group for a post-monsoon political offensive against the PML-N government – maybe a long march towards capital Islamabad – provided the schedule does not collide with army’s sensitivities in North Waziristan. Till then, this new Sharif hater club will have to plug in an important missing link, and win over PTI’s Imran Khan through a loosely bonded or tightly knit political alliance that can prove a major morale booster for them.
Short of it, the whole plan might not click. But till now, conspiracy theories apart, Imran does not seem convinced an alliance with Qadri and Chaudhrys of PML-Q will prove a sane political move. Some of Khan’s close aides may think of Qadri as an “anarchist of sorts” intending to shake the very system in which PTI is a major stakeholder. But the big question for the weeks to come remains: can the PML-N being the biggest stakeholder in the present system offer something to Imran (election reforms and recount on four national constituencies of his choice) to convince him to give up agitational politics? Or be left alone to be lured into the new, Imran- or Dr Qadri-led alliance, in foreseeable future? In either case, it will be a full-scale test of political skills of both the Sharifs.
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