Qadri Sahib, you cannot ‘rent’ your supporters!

Published: September 9, 2014
Email

A Pakistani supporter of cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri walks near the Benazir Bhutto International Airport as others gather outside it in Islamabad on June 23, 2014. PHOTO: AFP

A Pakistani supporter of cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri walks near the Benazir Bhutto International Airport as others gather outside it in Islamabad on June 23, 2014. PHOTO: AFP The BBC report arrives just as we were *this* close to being impressed by the tenacity of Dr Tahirul Qadri’s supporters; their perseverance, and the discipline it requires stay out on the streets this long. PHOTO: MALIK SHAFIQ/EXPRESS

Battered by the monsoon and baked by the sun, many Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) revolutionaries seem to be yearning to return home. Alas, they did not or probably could not read the fine print of the contract they signed with their political party.

According to a BBC Urdu report, there is growing discontentment among a large number of protest participants who are, allegedly, not being allowed to go home. These include participants who were injured in the clashes with the police, and are ostensibly unfit to sit-in any longer.

A young resident from Bahawalpur informed BBC that he’d been promised a sum of Rs6,000 to attend the Inqilab march for three days, but ended up staying for 21 days against his will.

“The party leaders told us they had their people posted on all bus stands and if they saw any of us trying to catch a bus, they would send us to the ‘next world’ and tell our families we were killed by the police,” he said.

He claims that as many as 300 people from Bahawalpur and adjoining areas have been paid to participate in the political event. Women bringing children below the age of 10 to the protest site were reportedly offered even more money.

The BBC report arrives just as we were *this* close to being impressed by the tenacity of Dr Tahirul Qadri’s supporters; by their perseverance and the discipline it requires stay out on the streets this long.

Let’s face it; this has been no mean feat. With the weather threatening to drown them on the weekend and roast them on Monday afternoon, with no available latrines for the most part, amid the risk of new clashes breaking out with the police for which one must be ever-ready for fight or flight; one has likely seen nicer days.

It appears now that they’re not as ‘tenacious’ as they were because they are terrified of what might happen to them if they leave.

PAT deputy secretary of information has, of course, rubbished the allegations; tacitly adding another name to the expanding list of people and organisations purportedly conspiring against the Inqilab march. He claimed that as many as 800 protesters were allowed to go home in time for their school exams.

‘Allowed’, as in we’re meant to take this as an indicator of the party’s generosity? One would expect these free citizens to be able to go home for their exams, or sisters’ weddings or out of plain boredom, without awaiting PAT’s approval of their departure.

It’s cringe-worthy to take advantage of one’s poverty to further a political agenda. It’s downright repulsive to turn what’s probably a well-intentioned rally, into a prison camp.

The accusations made by these petrified demonstrators cannot be ignored, especially when viewed alongside Dr Qadri’s history of controversial speeches. He’s the man who once claimed that his revolution will not spare anyone who doesn’t support it. At one point, he suggested killing those who turn back from their ranks, although he dismissed the comment later as ‘metaphorical’.

How far up the PAT hierarchy the scandal stretches, is still hard to say. If it doesn’t reach the top, the highest echelon must take notice of the fact that adding rented revolutionaries to a political movement merely increases the risk of an implosion.

Of the many points illustrated by BBC’s exposé, one is absolutely essential to bear in mind: Numbers don’t bring revolutions; convictions do.

Faraz Talat

Faraz Talat

A medical doctor and bubble-wrap enthusiast from Rawalpindi, who writes mostly about science and social politics (and bubble-wrap). He tweets @FarazTalat (twitter.com/FarazTalat)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.