LAHORE - Badly miscalculated and mishandled issue of clearing Islamabad’s main area of the Tehreek Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (SAW) sit-in apparently is the outcome of poor planning and obstinacy which is likely to entail a difficult time for the PML-N government and the Sharifs.
Political observers view the countrywide clashes between the security operatives and the Tehreek workers generating further complications instead of sorting out the problem created by the latter’s 20-day-long protest in Islamabad in terms of hurdles in the public movement in the capital city. Almost all the political parties opposed the government decision of taking action against the protesters although the government was largely motivated to take this extreme course after the court-given deadline for clearing the path. Although the government did which it believed was inevitable, the situation turned altogether different from the interior minister’s claim of retrieving the occupied area of Islamabad from the protesters within two to three hours with minimum damage.
The protest spread from Islamabad to other cities, including Lahore and Karachi, and with loss of five people’s lives. It remained unabated till late night at various places. Hundreds of protestors and the security personnel have been injured while the protesters in hundreds arrested in action in addition to leaving huge material losses. In aid of the police and the FC, Rangers were called in to control the violent demos in the protest-inflicted cities, but the situation remained uncontrolled. All private TV channels were got off the hook, social media service was blocked and road links stood didconnected. The situation was similar to that witnessed during the military regime of Musharraf when Lal Masjid operation was launched in the heart of the federal capital. Although the measures were preventive, they were strongly resented by the media, politicians and the cross section of the society.
The dharna activists again appered at Faizabad in the evening with the same spirit and vigour, showing the government has failed to achieve the target and problem still persists posing threats in the coming days. The government has called in the army to ward off further damages.
Seeing through the situation getting very grave earlier in the afternoon, Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, through a telephone talk, suggested Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to solve the dharna problem peacefully as it was in the best interest of the country and cohesion. The observers read the army chief’s message as avoiding bloodshed and dealing with the situation through peaceful means of talks as violence was not affordable to the country which was already combating terror through operation Ruddul Fasaad. However, by that time protests had spread to three provinces and AJK, leaving a question how to tackle the problem when it was no more limited to one city.
Observers say the government from the beginning got a wrong idea of the issue and its sensitivity. It considered the Islamabad protesters were not more than 2,000, so they would be easily dispersed within hours. But it failed to understand that the protestors were sitting with the religious spirit to protect respect of the Holy Prophet (SAW) without any political motives and this fact was also admitted by the Punjab interior and law minister. Their demand was resignation of Federal Law Minister Zahid Hamid whom they accused of bringing the controversial amendment in the Constitution or release of Senator Raja Zafarul Haq’s report on the inquiry a committee under his him had conducted to fathom the truth and identify the persons responsible for it. But on both counts, the government attitude remained inflexible. In the televised words of Sajjada Nasheen Golra Sharif who earlier had served as a bridge between the two sides to strike a negotiated settlement, the Tehreek had reduced its demand to only laying off Zahid Hamid as law minister; In the meantime, Raja Zafarul Haq report would be released. According to him, the government was conveyed the offer, but no response from was received.
Now the situation is that many religio-political parties are silent taking time to make up their mind despite the fact they all have consensus on the finality of the prophethood of the holy prophet (SAW). Bhut they may not like that a religious organization which is also novice in the field of politics could take the lead. As to the fury of the Tehreek’s activists, they attacked and set on fire a section of the house of former interior minister Ch Nisar Ali Khan in Rawalpindi and Zahid Hamid’s haveli in Pasrur, besides hitting N leader from Sheikhpura Mian Javed Latif. Reports suggest the PML-N leadership has asked its legislators to stay safe at home and avoid public interaction.
Signs of split have also emerged in the PML-N as many have begun to demand resignation of Zahid Hamid while MPA Nizamuddin from Punjab has tendered resignation from the membership in solidarity with the Tehreek. Another MNA Sheikh Akram from Jhang has also announced to follow the MPA suit if Zahid did not step down.
A notable point about the whole matter is that this split is based on their Islamic faith which is above political affiliation. In PML-N many legislators are those who have their voters religiously affiliated with the Tehreek sect. If the situation aggravates, they would not protect their vote bank while remaining in the ruling side.
Reports say the government is now willing to remove the law minister, but for Tehreek Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (SAW), the time to accept this demand is over and now they want the whole PML-N government to quit. Given what has happened so far, the Tehreek has put the government in a tight corner and now how it handles the situation, rationally or emotionally, will be answered not too late, as the fate of not only the government but also that of the PML-N and the Sharifs who are in the docks in NAB references mostly depends on it.