ISLAMABAD  -  It was unanimously decided at a high-level meeting at the Prime Minister Office to peacefully resolve the issue of Faizabad sit-in and the ISI was given a lead role with complete authority to negotiate with the protesters, it is revealed.

A defence ministry inquiry report submitted to the Islamabad High Court altogether dispels the impression that the Inter Services Intelligence was behind the weeks-long protest staged by the Tehrik-e-Labbaik Ya Rasulullah (TLYR) and others in Islamabad.

“False impression was created that the ISI was behind the dharna and fake stories were created that the ISI was sustaining the protestors. In reality, the ISI made every effort to support the government in the peaceful resolution of the issue,” according to the report available with The Nation.

It says: “As the sit-in prolonged, the ISI managed to engage TLYR leaders and brought them to have negotiations with political leaders. Several such sessions were organised which failed due to the uncompromising stance of the government on the resignation of the law minister.

“All along, the ISI advised the political leadership to avoid the use of force, squeezing the logistics support including preventing reinforcement followed by negotiations was the recommended strategy of the ISI to deal with the situation.

“Post-failed operation on November 25, 2017 by police, TLYR workers and their like-minded supporters had blocked main communication arteries (motorway, GT Road and railways) and dharnas in 16 major cities had paralyzed the country.

“Engagement with TLYR leaders in such an emotionally charged environment was an extremely challenging task. Rumours abounded that dozens of TLYR workers had been killed in the operation a day earlier while the government was quietly burying the dead at undisclosed places to avoid a public backlash.

“Media blackout had given further fuel to rumour factories while social media was ruthlessly employed to create chaos and confusion. In such environment, ISI representatives once again engaged TLYR leaders, clarified the actual situation and started negotiation to resolve the issue peacefully.

“Emboldened by the nationwide support, the TLYR leadership demanded the resignation of the entire government while ISI representatives convinced them to remain restricted to their original demands.

“An agreement between government officials and TLYR leaders was thus reached by November 27, 2017 morning and dharnas from across the country were dispersed the same day and national communication arteries were restored.”

The report also includes a perusal of petitions moved to the IHC during the Faizabad sit-in. It mentioned that “IHC judge Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui also showed annoyance over the agreement to end the crisis and blamed armed forces and the ISI for staging the dharna and then surrendering before the protesters”.

It also mentioned that Supreme Court of Pakistan also took a suo moto notice of the sit-in and asked the government to explain measures taken to resolve it while showing its dissatisfaction over the handling of the issue. This matter is still sub-judice in Supreme Court of Pakistan, it says.

Narrating the causes of the sit-in, the report states that “it was triggered by amendment to the Election Act and a subsequent delay in their reversal. The matter was further aggravated by the rhetoric of the political leadership wherein senior politicians demanded a probe and action against those responsible for these amendments. The same analogy was forwarded by the protesters who demanded that those responsible for amendments must be identified and punished.”

It said that the post-failed operation environment and violent attacks on government functionaries played an important and crucial role in determining the terms and tenor of 27 November 2017 agreement.

The report says that despite ISI’s recommendation to resolve the issue politically and avoid the use of force, the operation against dharna was launched on November 25 on the order of the IHC while the operation was an utter failure which triggered countrywide protests.

Describing the reasons of the failure of the operation against the sit-in protesters, it mentions that “lack of unified command and resultant lack of coordination between ICT and Rawalpindi police force, poor plan to force the protesters off the bridge resulted in confused execution, excessive use of teargas (which eventually affected police force itself) and inability to block reinforcements from nearby seminaries were as major reasons for the failure of the operation.”

The report says that another reason of the failure was live coverage of the operation in the electronic media as well as social media, which resulted in mobilisation not only in the twin cities but also across the country.

Other reasons of the failure of the operation, according to the report, were “exhaustion due to prolonged deployment, low morale resulting due to confused plan and religious sentiments of police personnel duty exploited by TLYR leadership through continuous speeches on speakers.”

It also raises questions on the response, coordination and plan of the police force as well the administration of the twin cities.

“Law enforcement agencies also failed to evict dharna when ordered to conduct an operation; failed attempts resulted in the sapped morale of police and handing over of the situation to the Armed Forces,” reads the inquiry report.

It points out that a serious lack of coordination was noted between administrative setups of twin cities; both sides kept blaming each other and apart from deploying the police force did not make sufficient efforts to resolve the crisis.

“The Rawalpindi administration did not have even a single meeting with TLYR leaders, hence remained totally indifferent while the Islamabad administration also did not make serious efforts to negotiate with TLYR leaders, the matter was deemed political and the buck was passed on to the political leadership,” it says.

About the failure of political leadership, the report states that “all third party efforts to reach a solution failed as none had authority to negotiate on the demand of resignation of the law minister, being declared no-go by the federal government.”

The special branch of police covered dharna while restricting themselves to providing tactical information, strength, participation and other logistic aspects were reported. The Intelligence Bureau remained aloof; no information/efforts were visible on part of this agency, the report states.

It concluded that the TLYR leaders’ speeches and the manner in which they acted were to be explained by them and they ought to be summoned to explain their conduct.

 

 

ISI ‘was authorised’ to negotiate with Faizabad protesters