ISLAMABAD - The passive approach adopted by the government and the half-hearted manner in which the operation was conducted mainly led to the defeat of the law-enforcement agencies as they attempted to clear the Faizabad Interchange from the protesting Tehreek Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah activists last Saturday, background interaction with officials involved in the operation suggest.

Islamabad police, Rangers and Frontier Constabulary (FC) are under severe criticism for their failure to disperse the protesters followed by rumours of the federal government considering reshuffle in police department of the twin cities at the highest level for their ‘incompetence’.

The police, the FC and Rangers were jointly deployed at the Faizabad Interchange for the operation.

According to the personnel who spoke to The Nation on condition of anonymity, there was more than one factor that led to the defeat.

No doubt, they admitted, the protesters were in a high spirit. They said the Islamabad police high-ups jointly commanded the police and the FC as the action started.

“The police looked towards FC and the latter looked towards the police, whenever they were ordered to advance during the operation, leading to a state where none of the side was willing to shoulder the responsibility,” a senior police officer who was also part of the operation team said on condition of anonymity. He said that two forces under one command led to confusion even among the forces.

The police officer further told The Nation that during the operation the personnel advanced half-heartedly as, in their opinion, the other side was there for a noble cause.

“It was becoming difficult for the personnel to compromise their conscience,” he said, listing reasons for the much-criticised failure.

The police officer said the personnel were of the belief how one could attack a person reciting the holy Quran. That led to a half-hearted action against the protesters, he added.

The police officer said the protesters fought the personnel fearlessly as the latter were not armed.

He was of the view that the government itself was not clear what to do with the protesters due to the expected backlash from the common man in general and religious elements in particular that led to delay in action against the protesters. On the other hand, according to the experts, the timing for the action was not appropriate. Such operations are conducted in the small hours and not in the daylight.

Former IG Motorway police Zulfiqar Cheema, while talking to The Nation, said operations against unlawful crowd are not conducted in broad daylight. “There should be an element of surprise. You cannot afford providing opportunity to the crowd for preparation when a large number of spectators are also standing at the site,” he maintained.

“It was ill-planned, ill-executed with no command and motivation from the seniors,” Cheema commented on the operational plan.

On the government’s approach towards the crisis, he said the government also seemed indecisive about how to deal with the protesters.

“What would you expect when the interior minister is becoming so apologetic after the failed operation? He was not ready to own the operation. He was blaming the Islamabad High Court for the operation and what would one expect from such a government,” Cheema said.

Former IGP Islamabad Tahir Alam Khan, while talking to The Nation, said the timing for the operation was right as darkness might lead to a major mishap. However, he was critical of the plan as he found no coordination between the officers and the jawans during the operation.

“The command of Islamabad IGP was very poor. He was never seen on the spot during the three weeks to encourage the jawans. The jawans were not briefed properly about the situation,” Alam maintained. He said it was the duty of the high-ups to motivate the jawans.

On a question, whether the force was under influence of religious sentiments, Alam said they might be under some influence of the cleric speeches but it was the job of the seniors to brief them that “duty is duty” and no sentiments should dominate a jawan in the line of duty.

He said the jawans heard the speeches of the clerics for 20 days and it was duty of the seniors to tell them that they were bound to follow the orders of the command and not their sentiments.

Alam further said the Rangers who were in second tier of the cordon did not stop fresh protesters from joining those already fighting the police.

According to an eyewitness, the police parked the prison vans on Murree Road near Faizabad Interchange in the direction of the venue leading to a difficult situation when the protesters attacked them. The prisoners were stuffed in the van from its rear side and it should have been more logical to park them in the direction opposite to the venue, he added.

“The drivers could not reverse the vans and the protesters torched them,” Alam said as he shed light on the poor planning of the police.