A Pakistani man has declared a revolution in the South Asian country, telling the nation's assembly to dissolve. The man, Allama Tahir ul Qadri, leads Minhaj-ul-Quran, a non-profit organization which he founded in 1981. Qadri said that the country's current administration was corrupt, and incompetent, its mandate was no longer valid, and it needed to dissolve before the country's coming general election.
The 61 year old former professor made the statements to a crowd of thousands in Islamabad. Tahir ul Qadri had promised a million man march from his home town of Lahore to the country's capital, though observers say the actual turnout was less than had been hoped. Likely estimates of the number taking part ranged between five and thirty thousand.
Tahir ul Qadri asked Pakistan's assembly to dissolve itself by 11 AM on Tuesday (1 A.M. EST), saying that the protesters would wait at their current position until then, awaiting others to join them. After that time, the protesters will march on the country's general assembly, according to the statement.
The march comes at a time when Pakistan is experiencing fierce internal strife. A double suicide bombing claimed the lives of more than 100 Shia Pakistanis in Quetta the provincial capital of Balochistan, on last Thursday, January 10. At the same time a string of violent attacks in Karachi, including the attack which killed 20 year old Shahzeb Khan, have raised tensions in that city.
Political problems in the region are also causing problems in Pakistan. An India senior army official has claimed that an attack on January 8th, on the de facto Kashmir border between the countries, was organized by Pakistan, and was thoroughly premeditated. Two Indian soldiers died in that incident.
The movement mirrors the march organized by former cricketer Imran Khan, last Summer. That event failed to attract the necessary support to make it a powerful spectacle. Despite that failure, the government critic is confident in his prediction for electoral success for his party, Tehreek-e-Insaf, or " Movement For Justice."
Many Pakistanis are questioning the real motives behind the movement, wondering where Mr. Tahir ul Qadri procured his funding, and if there is more to the story than he is letting on. A multi-million dollar television campaign designed to encourage people to join the march was launched by the leader. He has maintained that his funding comes from ordinary Pakistanis.
Conspiracy theorists have come up with several possible motives behind the march. the most popular are that it is backed by the United States, or Pakistan's military. Involvement of the US government seems unlikely, given the Obama administrations operations in recent years, and its need to keep Pakistan stable for regional strategy.
The military of Pakistan is, however, an unknown quantity in cases like these. The institutions behavior in recent years has made it clear that it is not a monolithic body, but instead it is made up of several factions, with different goals and levels of influence. Whether or not the march is being funded by some hidden interest group is impossible to discern at this point, though that certainly does not mean it is impossible.
Another aspect of the movement which is difficult to discern, are its plans if it succeeds, and its motives right now. The official statements present corruption as the major motive, and the appointment of a caretaker government before elections as the goal. Neither seems particularly well established, leaving them questionable.
Accusations of corruption against the country's current President may be well founded. Mr. Asif Ali Zardari was being investigated for corruption before he was elected in 2008. Leading up to the election the politician was granted a series of amnesties that detractors claim were based in more corruption. The country's Supreme Court has been desperately trying to have the cases reopened since then.
Pakistan is undergoing a period of instability, unlike any it has seen for years. The country is in charge of a small nuclear arsenal which could wreak havoc, if a revolution were to result from this march. Similar fears were espoused in the wake of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in 2007.
The government of Pakistan has responded to the march, the Information Minister made a statement that asserted the removal of a government by such means was unconstitutional. Tahir ul Qadri has been given permission to stage a sit in in front of the assembly by a special meeting of officials of Pakistan's Interior Ministry.
The situation in Pakistan is tense, and it appears that it will come to a head tomorrow. The country's government will be under siege, if Qadri has his way, and it may fall to his machinations. Mr. Qadri has invited the current government, and the President, to step down and join his revolution.
The movement in Pakistan are similar to those that took place during the Arab Spring in 2011. Those conflicts began with protests much like this one in the capitals of their countries. Some like Libya escalated into armed violence, and others, like Syria, continue in civil war. Regular Pakistanis will certainly hope that their country does not dissolve into chaos as a result of this protest.
The march has entered Pakistan, though it will be some hours before the protesters make their way down to the Parliament buildings. Pakistan's government is behind closed doors in an Interior Ministry meeting to decide how to deal with the crisis. According to reports the numbers involved the protests are becoming larger and larger.
The Pakistani government will not resign by the deadline given by Tahir ul Qadri, that is a certainty. It will be up to the protesters to stay in front of the houses of parliament for days in order to prompt any real reaction from the government. The Arab Spring conflicts tracked months, or in Syria's case years.
Nothing is certain going forward. This wave of protest could collapse tomorrow, or it could continue for weeks. The biggest question mark lies over what would happen if the country's government does resign. What type of caretaker government will be installed, and when will new elections take place?
Pakistan is on the verge of crisis. Instability in the nation will cause huge effects across the world, the country's nuclear arsenal standing as one of the most profound worries. The country's future is not known, but right now, at least some of the influence over it lies in the hands of Mr. Qadri.