Dangerous grounds

Will the parliament ask the army to remove the protesters from its premises?

Dangerous grounds
Known for his mesmerizing oratory skills, a man vowed to rid his country of corruption. He contested the elections, but was rejected by the voters. The man felt his mandate had been stolen by corrupt politicians. After almost a year of planning, he stormed the capital with thousands of supporters. The prime minister requested the powers-that-be to quell the unconstitutional uprising, but received a big emphatic No. Eventually, the prime minister had to step down and the man was offered to form a government. That watershed incident occurred almost a century ago in Italy. And the man was Benito Mussolini.

While people may not agree with his ideology and methods, they would sincerely hope the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan will not make history repeat itself. Everyone knows the disgraceful end of the Italian dictator.

If someone reprints the highly rejected 1971 “Anarchist Cookbook,” he may like to dedicate a whole new chapter to Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri’s case studies.

Recently, Imran Khan warned of anarchy in the country lest the chief justice takes notice. He sounded like Al Capone forewarning a bloody gang-war in the streets of Chicago.

[quote]Against whom should the apex court act - those who are instigating the anarchy or those who have blatantly failed to contain it?[/quote]

Against whom should the apex court act – those who are instigating the anarchy or those who have blatantly failed to contain it?

PTI President Javed Hashmi stands vindicated with Mr Khan’s latest but unfathomable demand. Mr Hashmi revealed it was Sheikh Rashid who had once told them that a government of technocrats to be led by the chief justice would be established.

The so-called son of Rawalpindi denied having said that. He demanded evidence from Mr Hashmi. What evidence he is talking about?

Considering himself an acme of morality and discipline, Mr Khan set dangerous precedence by indicting anyone he wanted from the rooftop of his container. He does not need evidence, only a mike attached to the DJ Butt sound system to level heinous allegations on politicians, judges, journalists and whosoever does not believe in his revolution.

While the month-old revolution has blatantly exposed the prime minister’s incapacity to establish the writ of the state against lawless citizens, it also unearths the PTI chairman’s obstinacy to break the entire democratic system down.

Now, people are asking whether Mr Sharif has any moral justification to remain the prime minister or Mr Khan to pose himself as future prime minister.

A policeman stands guard ontop of a broken down prison van carrying anti-government protesters, as he waits for a backup van
A policeman stands guard ontop of a broken down prison van carrying anti-government protesters, as he waits for a backup van

But politicians may not be entirely blamed for the prolonging stalemate. Other than the prescribed constitutional methods, a regime change is not possible other than through a military intervention. In the initial days of their protests, both Mr Khan and Dr Qadri were seemingly confident about that. The frequent reference to a ‘third umpire’ was not out of context.

The federal government directed the armed forces under Article 245 of the Constitution to protect state buildings. Later, their role was enhanced to a ‘facilitator.’ Might one ask what facilitation they have done besides forcing Mr Khan and Dr Qadri to resume dialogue?

Insiders say it was the army who compelled the PML-N government to get the FIR of the Model Town incident registered according to the whims and wishes of Dr Qadri.

For reasons they knew best, the two revolutionaries were inciting their followers to thrash police but worship the army personnel. Technically, the chief of army staff reports to defense secretary, a grade-22 officer. In reality, he does not. The Imran-Qadri duo convinced people once again that the army was the strongest third party in this political crisis.

Several federal cabinet members were convinced that extra-constitutional intervention was thwarted only after political forces demonstrated unity to protect democracy. The so-called London Plan, they said, was conceived with an endgame of installing a technocrat government and implicating seasoned players in the name of accountability. That might leave the field conveniently open for the PTI chairman in the mid-term. And Dr Qadri could be given a ceremonial but lucrative office of the President.

Recently, the army spokesman reiterated his institution’s neutrality. He explained that the army was not backing any particular side. The statement was uncalled for. First, the armed forces must obey the prime minister’s directives. Secondly, the statement gave an impression that the Imran-Qadri duo enjoys an equal status with the democratically elected Parliament.

Analyst Ayaz Amir says if the army has decided not to intervene, no power could bring down the Nawaz government in Pakistan. The revolutionaries would love military support, but they did not get it. “No matter how long they stay outside the Parliament, the PML-N government is not going anywhere,” said the staunch critic of the PML-N government.

A senior PTI leader after spitting venom against the prime minister in a live talk show conceded they all were exhausted. Requesting anonymity, he said the PTI chairman was not consulting senior party men before making important announcements.

Mr Khan is openly moving from D-Chowk to his Bani Gala residence and elsewhere in the country these days. Getting arrested, on multiple charges he now faces, will be a perfect face-saving exit for him. So far the government has not decided to arrest him.

Meanwhile, hectic backchannel negotiations with Dr Qadri are underway. Some offers of lucrative compensation were made, but he has not budged so far.

Given the obduracy and its economic, political and social cost to Pakistan, one man – Gen Raheel Sharif – can save the day. How he would do it is the million dollar question.

If things remain unchanged, the government might ask the armed forces through the Parliament to throw out the “anarchists” from its premises.

Shahzad Raza is an Islamabad-based journalist

Twitter: @shahzadrez