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Dharna Crisis: Mystery surrounds government actions

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News Analysis |

Islamabad- As of now Islamabad Police and FC contingents have pushed back and the protesters of “Tehrik-e-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah” (TLYR) have reoccupied the earlier position around the Faizabad interchange – from where police action dislodged them early in the day. 

Apparently, the poorly executed Dharna eviction plan has failed. Sources inside the Islamabad administration and police have confirmed with GVS that Army’s Brigade-111, has been called by the District administration. This fiasco, was expected from the indeterminate way the Interior Minister, Ahsan Iqbal, was going around his speech in a very non-commital, and diplomatic manner; pundits and analysts of all sorts are commenting on social media. 

When the hesitant interior minister finally decided to move against them, only under the excuse of Islamabad High Court, they yielded ground and then rallied around Faizabad interchange in strength forcing security forces to run for their lives. In four hours the tables have turned, and the state has been completely removed from the Dharna site and surrounding areas, commentators argue. 

The Prime Minister remains to be missing from action. He went to attend the opening of an LNG terminal in Karachi and PML-N tried to form an alliance with PPP while the disaster in Faizabad.

Islamabad may be in utter jeopardy, if the protesters decide to move into it. Apparently, there is nothing stopping them from doing so. The Interior Minister and his earlier brave authoritative talk have evaporated into thin air.

This situation, as it stands at the moment, raises serious questions on the way PMLN government handled this potentially explosive situation. The issue surfaced after an amendment, that affected the law regarding the finality of Prophet of Islam, made in the Election Bill 2017, in third week of August, surfaced in early October. The government first claimed this was a clerical error but soon it became obvious that far reaching changes were done in law, when article 7B and 7C of the “Conduct of Election Order, 2002” were quietly dropped from the new Election Act 20017.

Under growing pressure, Govt. reintroduced the article but kept on insisting that no one was responsible or all political parties were responsible since bill was discussed in the committee – where all political parties were present. Other political parties (PPP, PTI, JI, and others) insist that they were not aware and they were never taken in confidence.

Media had no idea either, and it is reasonable to conclude that PMLN govt. made these changes quietly, under some sort of political imperative. What was that political imperative, is the question on many minds today. Were they trying to please western governments selling themselves as a liberal sectoral party under pressure from religious lobbies or they were trying to reengineer country’s politics through chaos on streets as many politicians and political analysts now suspect?

This is how the protests began. TLYR members flooded into the capital demanding the change of the law and the removal of Zahid Hamid from office – but only after threatening to do so for more than two weeks. What is surprising is that PMLN governments in Punjab and Center never really tried stopping these protesters from marching on to Islamabad – despite the fact that when potentially peaceful protesters of PTI and PAT had tried attempting that in Oct/Nov 2016, (demanding resignation of PM on Panama corruption scandal) they were arrested, ruthlessly beaten and stopped in their tracks. In fact the PTI crowds coming from KP, along with CM KP, were severely thrashed for whole night at Burhan interchange. So why the PMLN governments in Punjab and Center never stopped these potentially dangerous and radical protesters of TLYR from entering Islamabad is a mystery that disturbs many in administration and political circles.

The government changed the law, in the first week of October and finally again on Nov 16 by resinserting the article 7-B and 7-C through Section 48-A of the amend Election Act 2017, but did not ask law minister, Zahid Hamid to resign or even to go on leave. Ironically, Finance Minister, Ishaq Dar, who stands indicted for corruption and whose non-bailable arrest warrants have been issued by a court in Islamabad has been granted a three month sick leave by PM Khakkan Abbassi. But in case of Zahid Hamid and Anousha Rehman, PMLN govt was not even prepared to send them on leave for few weeks to avoid the head on clash. The government has still not revealed who was at fault for changing the law in the first place, which has further exacerbated the issue. Apparently, ex-PM, Nawaz Sharif is dictating all actions or non-actions by the under-seige govt. in Islamabad. So what does he want is the next question? 

Read more: Faizabad still in lockdown despite IHC’s order

There are other things too that don’t quite add up. The protestors announced that they would be making their way to the capital 15 days before the sit-in began. Why did the government let them enter Islamabad?

These and many other things don’t quite add up. The protestors announced that they would be making their way to the capital 15 days before the sit-in began. Why did the government let them enter Islamabad? When the government does not want people to enter the capital, it blocks the motorway and GT road which has been done multiple times to prevent PTI and PAT from gathering more supporters in the city for their respective protests.

However, this was not done to stop the sit-in protestors. Could the Punjab Government have facilitated them all the way unlike the earlier marches of PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf) and PAT (Paksitan Awami Tehreek)?

Could this all be an elaborate move to distract the public’s attention from the Supreme Court and Islamabad High Court proceedings the Sharif family has to face? Some argue that the final initiation of Hudaibya Paper Mills case has forced the CM Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif, to jon Nawaz Sharif’s band wagon, and Punjab administration has facilitated or ignored the protesters marching on to Islamabad. The specter of GT Road and Motorway blocked by protesters, today, at several points, is also something that has never been allowed before in recent history of the country. Could this be Sharif family’s way to force the army to get involved in a political situation on streets? a situation army has always desired to avoid? 

Read more: Faizabad Dharna: A view of both sides

If the last assumption is true, it could be even more troublesome as military action would vilify the military and bring the COAS’s faith into question. This would seriously damage the integrity of one of the last remaining institution in the country – the only institution that guarantees stability.  

Could this all be an elaborate move to distract the public’s attention from the Supreme Court and Islamabad High Court proceedings the Sharif family has to face?

If the police and administration really wanted to prevent the Dharna or make the protestors disperse, they could have blocked the supply of food, water, electricity and reinforcements. The protestors on the other hand were getting a food supply every single day from traders from Rawalpindi and Faisalabad who tend to be PML-N supporters. 

The fact that it took so long for action to take place also raises questions. The government said that it needed a court order to take action but when they wanted to take action at Model Town in Lahore, they did so without any authorization.

Read more: Rawalpindi-Islamabad residents helpless as police fail to dislodge protesters from Faizabad…

PPP leader, Qamar Zaman Kaira, has commented on TV programs on Nov 24, that he suspects that Nawaz Sharif is benefiting from the crisis. And Senior TV Anchor Dr. Moeed Pirzada seems to agree: 

 

The Prime Minister remains to be missing from action. He went to attend the opening of an LNG terminal in Karachi and PML-N tried to form an alliance with PPP while the disaster in Faizabad was taking place.

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