The timing could not have been better. After announcing that he had set 11am as a deadline for the government to accept his demands, Maulana Tahirul Qadri was at a loss about how to proceed by mid-afternoon as the deadline had passed and the govenment had not responded.
“The rally was at a low ebb and there were rumours of winding up when news came that the Supreme Court had ordered the arrest of the prime minister and this had an electrifying effect on both Qadri and those attending the rally,” said journalist Kamran Khan.
The bigger question that many are asking is why the Supreme Court chose this day of all days to announce the arrest of the PM. “Was it bad timing or very good timing?” asks analyst Najam Sethi who says that many in Pakistan are wondering whether the two were timed together.
Supporters of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party have no doubt that this is the case. “There is no doubt that the army and the judiciary have ganged up against the democratic forces of the country,” comments politican Sharjeel Memon, who says he has seen this happen in the past as well. “The mode changes but the grab for power is always the same.”
A closer look at the situation suggests that pressure is being put on President Zardari to allow the military and the judiciary to play a greater role in the coming elections. Possibly, say some, the whole exercise is being conducted to change the status quo in the country, bringing back the military in the decision making equation. “It is a last grab by an institution that is used to calling the shots in the elections,” comments Ahmer Mastijhan, a political analyst in Karachi.
Others argue that neither the army nor the judiciary benefit from bringing down the government. “Qadri is playing tricks. There is no connection between the two developments,” says Mujibur Rehman Shami, a local journalist.