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Pakistan and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week
The Government Takes a Beating But Could Come Out Ahead
JAHANZEB ASLAM is deputy editor of Newsweek Pakistan.See more by this author
It arrived three weeks later than the Mayans predicted, but for Pakistan, the last week has seemed like the apocalypse. On January 10, following the country's worst-ever sectarian attack, which killed 92 Shias in Baluchistan, protestors nation wide organized sit-ins to demand a greater security presence in the province and a dissolution of the provincial government, which had dragged its feet on curbing violence despite the deaths of some 100 Shia in 2012. Several days later, on the 14th, Islamabad met both of those demands but refused to take action against the extremist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi group, which claimed responsibility for the attack.
The following day started with an early-morning scuffle between protesters and the police in Islamabad, leaving eight injured. Just as things seemed to calm down, thousands began to gather for an afternoon rally in which the country's latest self-appointed savior -- the Canadian-Pakistani cleric Muhammed Tahir ul-Qadri -- promised to unveil his manifesto. Capitalizing on the still-tense situation, Qadri descended on the capital with a convoy of thousands. Police were on alert, and a bulletproof box awaited the speaker.
In his oration, Qadri demanded the dissolution of the entire Pakistani parliament and all its provincial assemblies, the announcement of a new caretaker government, and the introduction of electoral reforms, including the creation of an independent election commission that would ensure free and fair elections. In a terrifying display of his strength, Qadri ordered his followers to push aside barriers surrounding D-Chowk, the square in front of the parliament, and set up camp in what he designated "Pakistan's Tahrir Square." As Pakistanis held their breath for his next move, the Supreme Court struck.