Pol­i­tics in Flux

There may be some ve­rac­ity in the peo­ple’s support for Im­ran Khan and Tahirul Qadri. It was their mo­dus operandi which was ques­tion­able.

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By S. M. Hali

Only four­teen months after the first smooth tran­si­tion of gov­ern­ment through demo­cratic means, which took place with great fan­fare, pol­i­tics has taken a nasty turn. Is­lam­abad was in a state of lock­down for weeks with Al­lama Tahirul Qadri lead­ing his dis­ci­ples, in­clud­ing women and chil­dren, to his In­quilab (revo­lu­tion), while Im­ran Khan led his band of merry men to Azadi. Their de­mand of seek­ing a change in regime tested the pa­tience of the gov­ern­ment as well as the na­tion. Un­til the red lines were crossed, force was not used. For the cur­rent dis­pen­sa­tion rul­ing Is­lam­abad, it was only a headache as long as Qadri, the tel­e­van­ge­list from Canada, breathed fire and brim­stone from his makeshift pul­pit atop his lux­ury con­tainer as his rel­a­tively dis­ci­plined fol­low­ers lis­tened wide-eyed or shed a tear or two when emo­tions welled over. Sim­i­larly, Im­ran Khan’s youth­ful fol­low­ers who would swell in num­bers come dusk - sway­ing to mu­sic, danc­ing to pop songs, and melt­ing away when the day broke - also did not present a ma­jor threat ini­tially. The in­clement weather, too, did lit­tle to dampen the rhetoric. While the two main pro­tag­o­nists, Qadri and

Khan would seek shel­ter in the safe refuge of their re­spec­tive tem­po­rary abodes, the fol­low­ers and dis­ci­ples com­plained lit­tle de­spite the rain, mud, filth, garbage and stench. It was only when the pro­tes­tors started inch­ing closer to the Par­lia­ment House and the prime min­is­ter’s res­i­dence, de­fy­ing the ubiq­ui­tous walls of con­tain­ers erected by the gov­ern­men­tal se­cu­rity forces, the sit­ting gov­ern­ment started tak­ing them as more than an in­con­ve­nience. After all the promised “mil­lion march” was way short in num­bers even in sum to­tal of the two groups of marchers. Qadri’s pre­vi­ous sit-in dur­ing Zar­dari’s rule had fiz­zled out after a few days only two years ear­lier. Im­ran Khan’s ear­lier ad­ven­ture in lead­ing a march to­wards the cap­i­tal had lasted just a few hours. The dif­fer­ences be­tween the agen­das and ap­proaches of Khan and Qadri would per­haps con­tinue to de­ter a united stand. The op­po­si­tion par­ties, who would love to see the back of Mian Nawaz Sharif, in­di­cated that they would rather “support democ­racy” than go for any ex­tra­parlia­men­tary means of change be­cause for them Im­ran Khan, with his rhetoric of “weed­ing out cor­rup­tion” and “bring­ing back the stolen mil­lions,” was the greater threat. The army, which had ap­peared neu­tral ini­tially and de­spite the con­spir­acy the­o­ries that it was col­lud­ing with the pro­test­ers not to “de­rail democ­racy” but to weaken the gov­ern­ment so that the GHQ and the ISI could dic­tate the coun­try’s Afghan and In­dian poli­cies, was fi­nally called in for support by the gov­ern­ment. It had, in fact, been sum­moned in “aid of civil power” by in­vok­ing Ar­ti­cle 245 of the 1973 Con­sti­tu­tion of Pak­istan to pro­tect Is­lam­abad and “to pre-empt any pos­si­ble blow­back of Op­er­a­tion Zarb-e-Azb”. It was to be used for “rapid re­sponse, pa­trolling and check­ing for a pe­riod of 90 days.” The sig­nals, how­ever, got mixed some­where in the mid­dle – whether the role of the army was to “fa­cil­i­tate” only as claimed by the gov­ern­ment or serve as a “me­di­a­tor” as an­nounced by both Qadri and Im­ran Khan with much glee? It is said that truth is the first ca­su­alty in the fog of war. In the cur­rent mi­lieu, which ul­ti­mately be­came a the­atre of war, per­cep­tions were be­ing clouded and judg­ment was passed blindly, de­pend­ing on which camp one was sup­port­ing.The be­lea­guered prime min­is­ter made a state­ment on the floor of the house that his gov­ern­ment had not asked the army to “me­di­ate.” But later a Tweet from the army spokesper­son be­lied the claim. A plain­tiff filed a law­suit claim­ing that the gov­ern­ment had lost its ca­pac­ity to rule be­cause it was no longer sadiq (truth­ful), an es­sen­tial re­quire­ment un­der the con­sti­tu­tion to be­come a mem­ber of the par­lia­ment. The con­sti­tu­tion, a fig leaf to hide un­der, was al­ready be­ing flouted by both sides. The gov­ern­ment filed counter law­suits against the duo lead­ing the protest ral­lies for “ter­ror­ism” when they van­dal­ized the bound­aries of the Par­lia­ment, the PM House and made a force­ful en­try into the premises of PTV, only to be evicted by force by the state’s law-en­force­ment agen­cies. The gov­ern­ment’s re­sort to the con­sti­tu­tion ap­peared to be a mere smoke­screen since the ob­jec­tive was to thwart the pro­test­ers from storm­ing the ci­tadel of Is­lam­abad; after all the mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion had com­menced on June 15, 2014 and in­vok­ing Ar­ti­cle 245

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