Conspiracy Theory? Efficacy of Islamabad Long March

The American Notebook:

By Asif Jamal


Worshippers take part in Friday prayers inside the mosque at the Mississauga Muslim Community Centre in Mississauga, Ontario January 18, 2013. Sufi cleric and leader of the Minhaj-ul-Quran religious organization, Muhammad Tahirul Qadri, has held several lectures at the Community Centre, located just west Toronto, Ontario.   Qadri recently returned to Pakistan after living in Canada for several years to lead a call for reforms that has made him an instant hit among Pakistanis disillusioned with the state. Photo taken January 18, 2013.        

REUTERS/Mark Blinch

Gone are the days in Pakistan when after keeping a track of series of events and developments, and connecting the dots, one could really predict the next course of action but things are being changed and such is no longer the case.  Similarly, the emergence of Tahirul Qadri as a power and making a strong mark this quick in the political scene in Pakistan was anyone’s not even a guess!

There has been much talks in every circle about the sudden rise of Tahirul Qadri, who has become a source of encouragement to the nation that there is someone who could take a fearless stand for the betterment of the country for the people and have the ability to deliver.   While this rise has pushed the politicians to regroup, rethink and redesign their political strategies.

Long march can be seen in both perspectives, as a success and one step towards the revolution -  when a large number of people participated in it and they didn’t disperse despite the severity of weather and other factors and maintained a complete calm, so there were no damages to the property or loss of any lives.  This has been, by far, a never seen before kind of peaceful demonstration that showed at least one thing to those pointing fingers across the globe that Pakistanis in general are a peaceful nation.  He sets the record and in fact did everything to deter the uniform to take control of the power when, really, Islamabad was available to take over if the procession would have turned violent.

However, the failure was in the sense that the government gave a lollypop to end the procession which, for not having much room to further continue the sit-in, Mr Qadri had to accept it.  There have been some speculations that it was a carrot and a stick policy that the government played as the current term is ending soon and fresh elections have already been scheduled in March.  So, the declaration was not a brainer but more of a confirmation of the upcoming elections.  A few obvious mistakes that Mr. Qadri made were when he demanded the election commission to be removed, exaggerated number of participants and comparing this march to Hazrat Imam Hussain’s against Yazid.  Nonetheless, he made his point and now he is the center figure in the political sphere and has become even more respectful when he announced him and his family not to contest in the upcoming elections.

Parallel to this, Tahirul Qadri has always been perceived as someone very literate, possessing a vast knowledge on Islam, having innumerable followers all over the world.  He is a reputable scholar but then again, seeing him taking the center stage, the following questions come to mind that what does he really want?  What is his interest?  He was in Canada since a while, but how exactly he planned for such a fool-proof long march that has mobilized the nation and jolted the government.  His plan came to the nation as sudden news that he would be arriving in Pakistan on December 23 and would launch a long march on January 14 while he could have really continued his Minhajul Quraan organization and continues to writing books and focus on his lectures?  This doesn’t seem like an abrupt decision rather an intense plan, carefully designed with all consequences well perceived.

Beside the point, pertaining to the above, I have spoken with two outstanding individuals.  Let’s see how they think on the subject:

In response to the above questions, Mr Kamal Zafar, a New York based community activist, says:  “It doesn’t seem that Mr Qadri has any personal interest.  Like many other conscientious citizen, he has had it enough and decided to fight against the corrupt political system of Pakistan.  He doesn’t believe in the capabilities of the current government.  He is extremely concerned about the next elections and wants that to be free and fair.”

“Indeed, he could have just focused on whatever he was doing prior to this but this not how the great leaders think so the leadership comes with responsibility.  In my opinion, Dr Tahirul Qadri’s long march will continue to inspire debate in local and international politics for next few months. By holding historical long march and making sit-ins, Tahirul Qadri along with his lovers achieved what opposition leaders failed to do. He was infuriated after being fed up of the wrong policies and bad governance. Thousands of participants did not stop in spite of having threats of terrorism, rainy and chilly weather and other odds like lack of facilities,” he added.

He further said: “He raised his voice for the rights of people, fought for it till the end and finally somewhat achieved some areas of his demands.  From the beginning politicians offered various speculative theories to explain the motivations of this drama being unfolded.  One of the most favored theories was if was set up by the establishment and the Americans to delay elections and derail democracy. But at the end all the conspiracy theories died as the government and leaders of major parties, sat alongside him in his container to draw out the Declaration. One question I ask all Pakistanis is, did the long march strengthen their struggle for political change or it’s still a status quo?” Mr Zafar concluded.

Mr Hafeez Choudhary, a real estate developer by profession from NY and the creator of Vision for Pakistan, says:  “He is indeed a great scholar, but he wants to make his space in the Pakistan’s mainstream politics which he did through his long march.  He appeared as a force and has gained a political status and if he activates his candidates in the elections, he may be able to swipe the results that means, he could create an alliance and with any political party and still head it but I don’t think he would be able to work with Imran Khan but if him and Imran were together in the long march, the results would have much different today.”

“Though he mentioned that him and his family would not take part in the elections but looks like he wants to be the king maker,  he has shown his power to the nation and government, he will remain power and even if he is not sitting as an elected member in the parliament,” he added. “The only thing I thought that make sense in his declaration was the part where he emphasized the eligibility criterion of those interested candidates contesting in elections,” Mr Choudhary concluded.

If the purpose was to provoke the thoughts in the power stream and create a wave of awareness among the masses, then the long march was effective.  Tahirul Qadri’s arrival is not a conspiracy he made his way in and proved himself, that means, he earned the nation’s trust.  He is a good scholar and is able to understand politics and perhaps, can make a difference.  Let’s see how future unfolds itself.

Before concluding here, I just thought to reiterate a little about the history that Long March, which was a historic journey of about 6,000 miles, in which Communist army forces fled their bases in south China. Surrounded by the Nationalist army of Chiang Kai-shek, some 80,000 soldiers of the Red Army escaped and headed north. Only 8,000 to 9,000 survived the trek, which ended in the establishment of a new Communist base in Yan’an. Ever since, the Long March became the central event in Chinese revolutionary mythology. It became a metaphor for the revolution itself, and was a source of inspiration.

– The author is a New York based analyst, a senior executive at ARY. To connect, please email at


0 replies