At the very outset let me state categorically that Pakistanis must condemn the irresponsible call towards violence, killings and ‘gherao jalao’ by veteran politician Sheikh Rashid during his fiery speech at Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf’s public meeting at Nankana Sahib the other day.

While the nation respects Rashid’s struggle in past democratic movements, that does not entitle him to instigate anarchy and bloodshed in the federal capital. In doing so he has caused irreparable damage to Imran Khan’s peaceful democratic movement for the Supreme Court probe into allegations of widespread rigging in the May 2013 general elections.

But equally provocative is the ill advised move apparently at behest of the federal government for obtaining non bailable arrest warrants for top PTI and PAT leadership in connection with violence on and after August 30. This step further heightens the already charged and polarized political atmosphere and could lead to serious confrontation as well as adversely affect the revival of stalled dialogue to break the ongoing impasse between the government and PTI.

The government seems to have taken serious view of Imran Khan’s threat to paralyze or make matters difficult for the government in case his demand for setting up the Supreme Court Commission is not met by November 30. The arrest warrants could well be part of the government’s strategy to coerce the PTI in giving up its elaborate plans for a mega Dharna on November 30 and to avoid a repeat of the August 30th chaos and police action in Islamabad’s red zone that resulted in a few deaths and hundreds injuries.

In all fairness, if FIRs with terrorism charges against PTI and PAT leadership are being pursued , then should similar action not be taken against PML-N leaders nominated in the Model Town FIR that has murder/ abetment/ terrorism charges?

Is Imran Khan’s demand for ISI/ MI’s role in the judicial commission, legal and constitutional? There remains no doubt that under Article 190 of the Constitution, all executive and judicial authorities in Pakistan are bound to act in aid of the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court’s Judicial Commission, if and when established is therefore empowered under the Constitution and Law to call upon any government organization including key civil intelligence agencies like the Intelligence Bureau( IB) or their military counterparts ( ISI/MI) through respective executive channels to assist the Court in investigating the May 2013 elections.

Pakistanis are not convinced that while on one hand the government found nothing wrong with the reported presence of IB/ISI/MI officers during negotiations with PTI or Pakistan Awami Tehreek’s (PAT) leaders to resolve the political crisis, on the other it now vehemently dismisses any role of the ISI/MI in support of Supreme Court’s Judicial Commission.

The opposition to ISI/MI’s role in the Judicial Commission by political parties represented in parliament, especially the PPP, is understandable. So severe was the joint parliament session’s criticism of the PML-N government for involving Army Chief General Raheel Sharif in mediating a resolution with Imran Khan and Dr Tahir ul Qadri, that the Prime Minister was forced to deny any such move on the floor of the House.

Why is the federal government averse to PTI chairman Imran Khan’s demands of co-opting the ISI/MI in the Judicial Commission’s probe? First: Given the domination of military intelligence agencies in the past under Army rulers, political governments are generally uncomfortable with these agencies which know too much about many politicians.

Second: While civilian organizations working directly under political governments can be influenced and arm twisted, military agencies would resist any such interference.

Third: It is possible that the ISI/MI may already be in possession of credible evidence that could support allegations of lack of transparency including the dirty role of certain candidates as well as the election staff to manipulate the 2013 election results.

And finally, the ISI/MI representatives who were members of Joint Investigation Team (JIT) with regards to the Model Town tragedy, reportedly differed with findings of Punjab police experts in the JIT’s findings. This dissenting note did not go in favor of the Punjab Government.

It is well known that Pakistan’s intelligence agencies have extremely well organized networks throughout the country even up to the union council level. During the general election period, these agencies not only undertake pre-polls assessment of political parties’ overall positions as well as chances of success of their candidates in various constituencies, but also monitor the elections process for any irregularities and malpractices.

The Judicial Commission needs to employ ISI/MI as well as IB (to be fair to all) to assist and oversee the election audit so as to ensure that organizations like Election Commission or NADRA that have become controversial, do not create deliberate hurdles in the conduct of fair and transparent investigations as per Judicial Commission’s directives.

Interestingly, this month of November is all about deadlines and important milestones. The government failed to meet the Supreme Court’s deadline to appoint a new and full time Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) by November 13 after being unable to arrive at a consensus candidate. We must get out of the 70s/ 80s age related syndrome and not repeat the Fakhru Bhai disaster of 2013 elections that led to the present political instability in the country.

General Raheel Sharif leaves for the US on November 16 on his maiden visit after taking over as Army Chief, a trip that assumes significance in light of emerging geo strategic/ regional security scenarios after US/NATO forces exit from Afghanistan, Pakistan Army’s Operation Zarb-e-Azab and increasing cease fire violations by the Indian army on Kashmir’s LOC and Sialkot working Boundary.

As Imran Khan throws a strong political challenge to PPP’s Zardari on his home ground in Larkana on November 21, former President General Musharraf anxiously awaits the Special Court’s verdict reserved for the same day on his petition seeking acquittal in the high treason case and including other civil/ military leaders who had advised him to impose emergency on November 3, 2007.

That November 30 will be PTI’s ultimate test as a formidable and popular political force will be evident if the party can organize a massive show of strength to make a decisive impact on the ruling elite on that day. If the government blunders by arresting PTI’s top leaders including Imran Khan, it may find itself being swept away by the huge sympathy wave in PTI’s support.

    The writer is a retired brigadier and a political/defence analyst and columnist.