Ever since Tahir Ul Qadri landed on the political landscape of the country and conjured an alliance with Imran Khan’s PTI to launch their Azadi and Revolution marches, the media and intelligentsia have been persistently alluding to both the PTI and PAT, acting as proxies for the praetorian powers to weaken or destabilize the PML(N) government for some promised favours.

The media reported a clandestine meeting between the two gentlemen in London in the first week of June to discuss the plan and the modalities. Reportedly, two anchor persons of private TV channels were also part of the deliberations. It was also reported that the former ISI chief had a meeting with Imran Khan at the residence of Shafqat Mahmood in Lahore. General ( Retd) Aslam Baig in an article published two weeks ago also talked about the hidden agenda with regards to the Azadi and Revolution marches and connivance between the two.The Wall Street Journal too came up with a story saying that both Imran and Qadri had launched their movements at the behest of the Army who, taking advantage of the weakened position of the government had almost clinched a deal to take its hands off the issues pertaining to relations with the US, Afghanistan and India.

The revelations made by Javed Hashmi have further strengthened this impression and added the judiciary to the list of suspected mentors of the duo. In an interview with Geo TV he also said former IB Chief Brigadier Ijaz Shah maintained constant contact with Imran Khan and had even drafted some of his speeches. Though the judiciary and the army have vehemently denied the contents of the revelations, the haze still persists.

Nevertheless, in the prevailing situation I tend to take the denials by the judiciary and Army at face value. Surely, the army is an apolitical institution but the Generals and ISI are not. They have a proven history of installing and dismantling governments through conjuring up alliances and orchestrating agitations against elected governments. Maybe the present army leadership is not involved but the possibility of some elements within the security establishment remain a credible possibility. In the present circumstances, a judicial commission should be constituted to explore who was behind the present political turmoil, so that suspicions about the Army’s involvement are cleared and the culprits brought to book to forestall future attempts in this regard. 

I do not think that the press release issued after the Corp Commanders meeting advising the government to resolve the present crisis through political means and not to use force against the agitators was desirable. Constitutionally speaking, the Corp Commanders are not supposed to advise the government on political issues and how to handle them. Rather, they are obligated to follow the instructions of the government with regards to their constitutional obligations. Is it not a matter of great concern that the Corp Commanders are asking the government not to use force against those who are challenging the writ of the state and attacking state institutions? The advice can also be construed as an encouragement to the agitators to keep challenging the writ of the state with impunity. Granted, this advice stems from their genuine concern about the deteriorating situation; even then, they are not supposed to express it publicly.

The statements of Imran and Qadri and their actions are an open rebellion against the state. Thanks to the TV channels, the people were able to watch the enactment of the worst kind of violence against state symbols and the state functionaries by the supporters of PAT and PTI, who looked quite skilled and trained in the art. Nowhere in the world is this kind of insurgency or rebellion against the state tolerated. The interior minister, while addressing the joint sitting of the parliament disclosed that the protestors had between one thousand to two thousand trained terrorists in their ranks drawn from a militant outfit. 

The government had called the Army to ensure security of the Red Zone under Article 245 and as such, the troops should have made sure that the protestors stayed away from state symbols. The fact that violent PAT and PTI mobs did attack and ransack PTV headquarters and gatecrashed the lawns of the parliament house (where they are still encamped), raises questions over the commitment of the establishment to protect state symbols.

Intellectual circles and members of the intelligentsia believe that the government has also shown a lack of will to handle the hooligans the way they deserved to be dealt with. They believe that the commanders, instead of merely paying lip service to supporting democracy and ensuring the security of the state, have to prove it through deeds by ordering troops to remove the protestors from the Red Zone. The country cannot afford the continuation of this farce for an indefinite period. The failure to protect symbols of state sovereignty provide yet another opportunity to those powers who have been continuously expressing skepticism about the safety of our nuclear assets, to ratchet up their propaganda, besides inflicting unfathomable economic losses.

One redeeming factor in the current crisis, however, is that the democratic forces represented in the parliament, the lawyer and journalist community, the judiciary as well as civil society, have overwhelmingly rejected any unconstitutional step to remove the government and vowed to defend the Constitution and democracy. Probably, this unprecedented unity amongst all the stakeholders has forced the mentors of the present crisis to revisit their script and forestalled the success of the plot against democracy. The decision of the government to give yet another chance to the negotiated resolution of the crisis is a welcome step. However, it needs to take all necessary steps to dislodge the protestors from the Red Zone, even if it must use some force. Establishing the writ of the state is its prime duty and constitutional obligation.

 The writer is a freelance columnist.