ISLAMABAD - Tehrik-e-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah’s sit-in in Islamabad exposed the fragility of democracy and writ of the government, as civilian rulers ran from pillar-to-post amid pressure – in the end, rescued by the military.

There were also rumours that the government was about to fall as the sit-in lingered on. Many previous civilian governments had fallen to coups and agitations in the past – so the fears were not without reason.

By all means, the protesters were no more than a few thousand and until the weekend’s operation, had largely remained peaceful.

The only problem was the credibility of the elected government as the TLYR leaders and activists had no confidence in government promises to investigate who was behind the amendment in the clause relating to finality of the Prophethood - which was amended and restored to its original form within days.

The sit-in only ended when army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa intervened and the military gave assurances to the protesters that their demands would be met.

There was a meeting between General Bajwa and Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi hours earlier.

Under a deal with the protesters, Law Minister Zahid Hamid resigned on Monday.

“On the assurance of the Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, we are calling off the sit-in,” TLYR chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi told the demonstrators.

He added: “We have given a 12-hour deadline to the government to release all the arrested workers.”

Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal and Federal Interior Secretary Arshad Mirza signed the agreement as government representatives, while Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi, Pir Afzal Qadri and Mohammed Waheed Noor signed the agreement on behalf of the religious groups.

The agreement cited General Bajwa as the guarantor.

Senior Pakistan People’s Party leader Qamar Zaman Kaira said ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz had always “damaged democracy”.

“There is no harm, if we respect the army chief and believe in him but still the military should do what it is supposed to do. Ending the sit-in, negotiating with the protesters was the job of the government and the ministers in which they miserably failed,” he said.

Speaking to The Nation, the PPP leader said the PML-N had weakened the parliament and the democracy.

“Not only they failed in dealing with the protesters but they also exposed their bad governance,” he added.

Kaira pointed out that Ahsan Iqbal had claimed the district administration launched the operation against the protesters on its own and he had no information about the action.

“When the interior minister is not in the picture, it shows inefficiency. This damages democracy and its future. Whenever we came to power after a PML-N rule, we had to start from ‘zero’ to ensure the supremacy of the parliament,” he added.

Kaira said the PML-N had no respect for the democratic institutions and had neglected the parliament in the last four years.

“No doubt the people look to the military to solve the political issues in the presence of such an inefficient government,” the PPP central Punjab president said.

The PML-N leader, Najma Hameed, said the government did everything to disperse the protesters peacefully but the TLYR was not ready to listen to the authorities.

“We told them that action will be taken if anyone was found guilty of the amendment in the clause of the finality of the Prophethood. The mistake has been corrected and we assured the protesters of serious investigations into the issue,” she said.

Hameed said that the army was an institution of Pakistan and could be called for help on law and order situations. “This is not a threat to democracy. The civilian government is firmly in place,” she added.

PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar termed as unwise the media release of the telephonic call of army chief to the prime minister advising that the sit-in be handled peacefully and avoiding violence on both sides.

 The term “both sides” equates the sit-in people “already declared as terrorists by the Islamabad high court making demands at gun point with a legitimate government that is constitutionally bound to protect the life, property and honour of citizens,” he said in a statement.

Babar said the interior minister mishandled the situation no doubt but his error of judgment was no reason to equate the two sides - the government and the protesters.

He said that the army and the civilians must speak to one another through available mechanisms and not through media. “Even if the tele-talk was necessary there was no need for issuing any press release, which could be misinterpreted,” Babar said.

Media management is not about writing good press releases, it is about anticipating the impact of press release on people’s minds, he said.

The lawmaker said in the context of protesters “chanting death threats avoidance of violence by both sides is impossible and blurred the distinction between rule by the mob and rule of law.”

He said that violence could only be used by the state and those who had successfully carried out Raddul Fasaad know it fully well.

Babar said sit-ins had become a regular feature of “our political landscape and instead of lawful means to air grievances they are now used to paralyse state and society.”

He added: “Sit-ins over long periods of time require huge financial and managerial resources. It is time that a judicial probe is held in all the sit-ins of 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017 to expose if there were hidden hands behind them.”

Political analyst Dr Khurram Iqbal said the military should not be dragged into political affairs. He said the fact that the protesters ended their sit-in on the call of the army chief exposed “fragile democracy” and the authority of the civilian government.

“The government could have done better by negotiating with the protesters and making offers. If in the end, the law minister had to resign, he should have done it a few days earlier,” Iqbal added. Dr Iqbal said the political parties should work together to revive the credibility of the civilian rulers and people’s faith in democracy.