State surrender

As the nation recovers from TLY’s dharnas in Islamabad and Lahore, one lamentable fact has become painfully clear: no matter who the victor was in this stand-off, the State of Pakistan was the loser. In fact, not sine the introduction of ‘Nizam-e-Adl Regulations’ in Sawat, back in 2009, can we find an instance of such blatant subversion and surrender of our constitutional State structure. Except, this time it happened in the heart of Islamabad, and with some assistance (if not support) by PML(N)’s provincial government in Punjab.

Why was the electoral law, in terms of Khatam-e-Nabuwwat oath, changed? Who was the envisioned and engineered this amendment? Why did the government not defend its amendment within the Parliament and the public narrative? Were Zahid Hamid and Anusha Rehman the sole architects of this amendment? Could they even have mustered the audacity to propose such sensitive amendments, without a nod from Raiwand? If not, why did the buck stop with Zahid Hamid? What about members of other political parties who voted in favor of this amendment?

While on the point, the government has provided no answers to the plethora of piercing questions asked by the honorable Supreme Court. How was the operation conceived and implemented? Could the Islamabad administration have acted without consent or knowledge of the Interior Minister? If yes, what sort of an Interior Minister has no control over its own force? What happened to the “I’ll sort them out” narrative? What happened to the promised report and resignation? What was the role of Punjab government in this operation? Was it not Shehbaz Sharif himself, who first demanded the resignation of Zahid Hamid? Did Rana Sanaullah not concede to “nine of our eleven demands” of the protesters, even before they arrived as Faizabad? Who provided for all the food and logistics to the dharna participants? Put another way, who did not stop the provision of these amenities in Faizabad chowk? Who decided to involve the Army? Could the government not have negotiated this abominable surrender without the khakis? If not, what sort of a government is this?

These, and other similar questions, remain unanswered. However, the time to answer most of these has now passed. And, instead, we are faced with far more pervasive and existential dilemmas.

In order to explore these, it is perhaps pertinent to revisit the “settlement” entered into between TLY and the government.

This settlement/”muaida” between TLY and the government read more like a charge-sheet against PML(N) and its leadership. At the very outset, this settlement (singed by the Interior Minister himself) states that TLY is a “peaceful” party, which “does not believe in any sort of violence or disorder”. And that “sadly” the “government used illegal force instead of addressing the peaceful concerns” of TLY.

Yes, the Interior Minister, on behalf of the PML(N) government, signed this.

And in order to “peacefully” resolve the issue, the government “must” accede to all (six) demands of TLY, which include: 1) resignation of Zahid Hamid; 2) Raja Zafar-ul-Haq be made public within 30 days, and action be taken against all responsible for the subject amendment; 3) all arrested members of TLY arrested during the protest/operation be released within 3 days, and cases against them be dropped; 4) an inquiry board be constituted, taking TLY in confidence, and inquiry be conducted “all governmental and administrative officials” responsible for the 25th November operation; 5) the “Federal Government” shall bear all expenditures and costs incurred during the dharna; and 6) all issued, agreed upon between TLY and Punjab Government, be implemented in letter and spirit.

And yes (at the cost of reiteration), the Interior Minister (of not just Faizabad) signed on all these demands!

In the circumstances – given this most ignominious surrender of the State machinery, under the signatures of Interior Minister – is there any reason to believe that PML(N) government is still functional and in-charge? Has the government not solemnized, under its signature, that gathering people at Faizabad Chowk is a legitimate way to seek removal of cabinet members? Was this not precisely the reason for government’s resistance of PTI and PAT demands in 2014? In the circumstances, how many people in Faizabad Chowk will it take to topple the entire government? How many people will it take to impose Taliban-esque sharia law? How many people before public floggings are instituted? How many people before the wheel is rolled back on constitutional rights? On democracy?

Also, in light of the happenings relating to Zahid Hamid and Rana Sanaullah – and particularly Zaeem Qadri’s role as mediatory – are we now going to be required to testify our faith, in front of some vigilante board? Will self-proclaimed peeran-e-tareeqat, and other mullahs in our street mosque, be awarding certificates about who is and is not a Muslim? Who does or does not believe in God? Who does or does not love the Prophet (SAWW)? And what will be the consequence of their judgment? If they doubt the faith of an individual, based on personal preferences, will such individual be condemned to vigilante justice that is fast becoming our de facto judicial system?

Speaking of signatories on this settlement, why did this settlement take place under the signature and guarantee of Pakistan Army? Why was the name of Army Chief mentioned? Was this part of Army acting “in aid of civil power”, under Article 245? Did the government ask the Army to intervene as a guarantor? Did TLY? Regardless, why did the Army become a party to State’s surrender to street power? Was it “necessary”, in the circumstances? And if so, are we moving towards some new ‘doctrine of necessity’? And why has Nawaz Sharif – a newly minted ideologue – remained so eerily silent about this? Is he not perturbed by the fact that, on the one hand he is criticizing Army’s (historical) involvement in politics, and on the other, his own party is involving Army as the guarantor to diffuse a political stalemate?

These issues cannot simply be brushed under the carpet. They require serious thought, by serious minds. And regardless of how this unholy episode of State surrender came to pass, those responsible must be brought to light. The nation deserves answers.

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