In a perfunctory attempt to clear the Faizabad interchange off protesters, whole country had been left paralysed with roadblocks, rallies and sit-ins. The latest episode of the ‘good governance’ perfectly explains how a government can pick a non-issue and successfully transform it into a crises which can send shock-waves all over the world. In international community, perhaps it was not sufficient to be recognised by the faces of Hafiz Saeed and Masood Azhar that we had added one more name in the list : Khadim Hussain Rizwi. The latter should send a ‘thank you’ note to Ahsan Iqbal, who divides his time between interior ministry and the job he has in Mecca.

Botched operation has tarnished the beleaguered image of federal government and has raised serious questions regarding its capacity and efficiency. Though there exists a whole battalion of ministers and state ministers being fed upon taxpayers’ money, but to find out the exact whereabouts of the government only Scotland Yard can help. Dithering and hesitation had been hallmark of PML-N’s current government, but since the disqualification of Nawaz Sharif ministers have found lucrative priorities. More than governance, the party is more concerned to keep its president politically alive with a firm belief that nothing is unfair at this stage. As Islamabad sit-in has the potential to be spinned in many ways, peaceful dispersing of agitators was not found that interesting.

Though there are no signs, but assuming that the operation was meticulously planned and a comprehensive strategy was formulated to cope with during and post operation situation, perhaps the professionalism of Punjab Police was not kept in mind. Just a year ago, it required the help of Pak army for the release of its 24 officers from the custody of Chotu gang, a band of local dacoits in Rajanpur. Indeed Punjab Police is doing a great job to protect the elite and during the VIP movement etc. Its effectiveness, as we have witnessed during model town massacre, is beyond doubt against innocent citizens, children and women. It has an impressive record against farmers, doctors and teachers etc. but to handle a mob armed with stones and sticks is altogether a different challenge.

Before the operation, Ahsan Iqbal, had bragged that this is a job of 2 to 3 hours to disband the unlawful assembly. He had been teaching subjects like ‘business strategy’ and ‘planning’ in the past. He is also known for his plans and visions for Pakistan which are always long term. It was thus quite natural to believe him, though for many he was never a suitable choice for the portfolio of interior minister. Nonetheless, more than 8500 security personnel started the operation on the morning of 25th November to vacate Faizabad interchange off around 2000 protesters. In the first few hours of the operation, it was evident that there existed no plans. Lack of coordination, intelligence and planning were apparent every where. TV channels were sent off air and social media sites were blocked which turned the rumour mills on. Instead of leading the operation from Islamabad, interior minister was found in the presence of Nawaz Sharif, along with the Prime Minister of Pakistan and Punjab chief minister, in Jati Umra, Lahore. By the evening, protests have erupted in many cities and the situation became out of control. Thus the Pak army was called in to help restore normalcy in Islamabad, with a letter full of clerical mistakes. The nation was left to wonder if the operation was designed to embrace the failure?

Before using the religion as a tool for political advances, it should be kept in mind that the other power players may also unleash the same weapon and certain moves may backfire as well. This is the job of national assembly to make and amend laws. But the laws should not be made and amended discreetly, keeping the masses in darkness. This is a very hard to believe for any rational mind that the adjustments in the statement of sworn oath regarding the finality of prophet-hood were just clerical mistakes. If those modifications were resulted after due deliberations and were deemed necessary, the nation should have been taken into confidence before their passage. But, let us believe for a moment that those irregularities were the product of error, the government should have closed the matter with the promise of reversal. It was unnecessary on the part of Shehbaz Sharif to demand the resignation of the minister responsible for such changes. If the modifications really resulted from clerical errors, then why on earth was the committee formed to probe into the matter and then why was its report not made public?

It is not as simple as it appears to be. At this point of our 70 years history, no further proof is required to believe that mixing religion with politics is a dangerous recipe but still it was done for petty gains. With the announcement of Qamar Javed Bajwa as a successor of Gen. Raheel Sharif, a campaign was launched against the former casting doubts on his religion and accusing him to be an Ahmadi. Secondly, Capt® Safdar’s provocative speech in national assembly against Ahmadi community and no action was taken for such a hate speech. Thirdly, the alterations which were desirable by Ahmadi community but had the potential to spread unrest across the country. Most importantly, since his disqualification, Nawaz Sharif has repeatedly reminded the nation about the fall of Dhaka. In this madness, a calculated method and pattern is hard to ignore. Due to a half-hearted and poorly managed operation, the sit-in has become a national movement and the government’s attempt to drag the army in the mess has also been foiled. Had the situation worsened further and army had to use the power to control the law and order situation, it is unthinkable how toxic narrative for the national unity and cohesion could be built up from such a scenario.

Whatever happened on November 25, for whatever reasons, does not bode well neither for government nor for the liberal and moderate segments of the population. The government badly failed to establish and maintain its writ. On the other side, efficiency and efficacy of law enforcement agencies has been badly exposed and thus a dangerous precedent has been established. The extremists elements have seen that with the charged crowd of a few thousands, the government can be brought to its knees and this is not a great number for a religious party to amass. The genie is out of the bottle and this model can be replicated in future too.