Traditionally, my Sunday write up should be light hearted and nostalgic, something that is not possible as black smoke gradually darkens the horizon and I can detect a subtle acrid smell irritating to the eyes that could only mean tear gas. The source of these ominous signals is visible in the images flitting across my television screen since morning – images of Muslim arrayed against Muslim, burning vehicles and pitched battles between police and protestors. Ironically enough this violent unrest, which has rapidly spread nationwide, could have been avoided with the simple morally just act of one ministerial resignation. Sources within PML N say that the Law Minister’s refusal to resign stemmed from express instructions of the disqualified Prime Minister for reasons that could span countless conspiracy theories.

Having failed to resolve the crisis and then botching up the action to break up the protest through unprofessional planning, lack of vision and faulty execution, the Faizabad operation was more than enough proof of PML N’s ineptness to rule (a harsh reality, which the Party’s vote bank needs to understand). That the present day Government lacks wisdom, became more apparent, when the regulating authority directed cable distributors to stop transmission of private news channels, followed by the reported blocking of Face book and You Tube. This decision was taken without taking into account the fact that such a black out, would actually deepen the crisis and begin a spate of rumors and speculation. Whoever took the decision to do this appears detached from reality.

The gravity of the situation has reached a point where the civil administration has reportedly put in a request that the army be summoned to restore order. Of great significance however, is the rationale for army intervention as stated by the civil authorities i.e. that the protestors are likely to listen to the men in combat fatigues (because of the respect this institution generates). The request is also an admittance of failure by the administration or more specifically Mr. Ahsan Iqbal’s Ministry. Gone is the fire and brimstone from the said minister’s body language as he eats humble pie and turns to an institution that he has spared no effort to victimize.

I am reminded of a time in the early nineteen fifties, when the Army was called out to quell riots on the same basic issue as the one that has currently inflamed widespread passions. I remember being helped aboard a Bren Gun Carrier positioned near our house by an impressive looking khaki clad individual and the feeling of awe and security that he radiated. I am sure that a greater feeling of similar nature will be generated, wherever our officers and men appear, when called to do so. I however cannot help, but quote a former colleague known for his ‘out of the box’ notions, who is hoping that dragging the Army into a sensitive situation of the Government’s own creation, was not part of PML N leadership’s larger scheme of things, keeping in view Sharif and Company’s perpetual animosity towards this great institution.

A great responsibility also lies with Pakistan’s religious opinion makers, who must realize that a wily enemy is perhaps exploiting the nation’s religious reverence, to internally destabilize the country at a time when stability is critical from security point of view. It is therefore time for them to play their part in restoring normalcy and doing this speedily.

There is not an iota of doubt in my mind that the so called clerical error or omission was neither of the above. Legislation is a serious business with effects, amongst other things, on national security and bearing equal responsibility is the portfolio that the concerned minister carries. If the issue was clerical or an omission, then it reflects a non-serious and callous attitude and if in reality there was no omission or error, then the lapse could be categorized as a conspiracy against the state. In both cases it is necessary for the person responsible to be punished – the least of which is for him to resign.

 

The writer is a historian.