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A certain season of uncertainty in Pakistan

Canadian-Pakistani cleric Tahirul Qadri intends to create his version of Egypt’s Tahrir square in Islamabad.
Last modified: 17 Jan 2013 14:32

Just a few hundred meters away from the parliament, the presidency and the supreme court is the square in shape of the letter "D".

This is where Canadian-Pakistani cleric Tahirul Qadri, intends to create his version of Egypt’s Tahrir square.

In a related but not directly linked development, the Supreme Court has given orders to arrest the prime minister on a corruption case pending since March.

The ruling has given new impetus to Qadri’s followers but the chief justice has made it clear that elections will be held on time and no unconstitutional force will be supported.

The prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf is among 16 people who have been implicated in kickbacks involving rental power plants while he was the minister for water and power.

But nothing in Pakistan is simple, the supreme court’s decision has to go through the National Accountability Bureau or NAB.

On Thursday, the court was angry at the NAB chairman for not carrying out its orders and issued a contempt of court notice against him.

The supreme court said it had based the decision on documents provided by the government and was surprised at the argument of the NAB prosecutor who wanted time to further investigate the case. The court has told NAB to hand over all case records.

For the last two years winters in Islamabad have seen a spike in political temperature.

In 2011-12 around the same time it was Imran Khan on the wave of change and rooting out corruption. This year it’s Qadri.

Tahirul Qadri returned to Pakistan after getting his Canadian citizenship, which he says is permissible under Pakistani law.

He has previously been elected under Genaral Pervez Musharraf’s government and has also been part of the former military dictator Ziaul Haq’s martial law regime.

But he says he has come back to Pakistan as an agent of change. He hasn’t been able to achieve much but inadvertently brought together all political parties on the agenda of saving democracy.

Even a coalition partner of the government, the MQM, took back its decision to take part in Qadri’s rally.

Political leaders in Pakistan have questioned his millions of dollars which are being spent on arranging rallies and massive publicity campaigns in all forms of media.

Tahirul Qadri’s Minhajul Quran international insists that funds have been collected by its network of followers in 90 countries.

But Qadri is using popular slogans and public frustration as the basis for his demand of “cleansing the political system”.

In the last five years the PPP-led coalition has been criticized for bad governance and a huge increase in corruption and inflation.

At an all parties conference convened under Nawaz Sharif’s PMLN, political parties agreed to not support Qadri but demanded that the government announce the schedule for elections and setup a caretaker governmentt.

The assemblies complete their tenure on March 16 and elections have been promised within two months after a caretaker government takes charge. But Qadri has been making strong statements for the last four days.

The government says it's patience is running thin and the minister for information says Qadri’s demands are vague.

Qamar Zaman Kaira said if Qadri doesn’t calm down, political parties can also bring their crowds to the streets.

A showdown that a fragile democracy like Pakistan - after a decade of a military dictatorship - can ill afford