26 Nov 17/Sunday.
Islamabad and Rawalpindi are virtually under seize in Pakistan by a troika of fundamentalist organizations that includes, Tehreek-e-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYR) led by firebrand cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi, Pakistan Sunni Tehreek (PST) and Tehreek-e-Khatam-e-Nabuwat. These organisations are demanding Pakistan’s Law Minister’s dismissal and arrest accusing him of blasphemy. The blockade of the main road into the capital for two weeks have not only paralyzed the civil life but also thrown the governance into total chaos.
“We are in our thousands. We will not leave. We will fight until end,” Tehreek-e-Labaik party spokesman Ejaz Ashrafi told Reuters by telephone from the scene.
Protests have also spread to other main cities with activists brandishing sticks and attacking cars in some areas. New demonstrators had joined the camp in Faizabad, just outside Islamabad, in a stand-off with police.
Army’s Silence is Baffling
Strangely, Pak Army Chief and DG ISPR who are very quick on twitter or otherwise to pass relevant or irrelevant comments and press statements, are completely silent and in fact suggested to the government not to use force. This ill-advice seems to have emboldened the protesters.
Now, the Pakistani government asked the army to deploy in Islamabad by Saturday evening. The interior minister said the order was issued at the request of the city authorities, who were not able to clear the sit-in.
However, there was no immediate comment from the Pakistani All Powerful Military. It has been caught in a bind.
Earlier, Supreme Court’s order of clearing the blockade had been thrown to the winds and it is now quietly watching the chaos, helplessly. Posters have started appearing on city streets at number of places to urge Army to take charge of the country. Now the latest is that Army has been called by the government in quelling the strife, after violence broke out during protests by Islamists. It will be the real test for General Bajwa as he has now been handed over the reins to deal with Islamists. He has already axed his own foot by advising the Government to not to use force. Whether he deals with an iron hand or velvet globe remains to be seen.
Gag order on Media
The Army does not want to publicize its helplessness so they have quietly suggested to the government to blackout the media. Blaming media for spreading violence the Pak Government has clamped down on the media. This is going to fuel speculations as Army’s tough measures, if any, will not be subject to media scrutiny.
About 200 people were injured when security forces tried to disperse an Islamist sit-in at the Faizabad Interchange – a key highway.
Several deaths have been reported.
Pakistani media report that demonstrators also broke into the minister’s residence in Punjab province. Mr Hamid and his family were not in the building.
Chaos versus Conspiracy
The ruling party of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif – who was disqualified by the Supreme Court in July and is facing a corruption trial – has a history of fractured ties with powerful military, which threw Sharif from an earlier term in 1999, through a well-planned coup.
Earlier in the day, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal said the protests were part of a conspiracy to weaken the government, which is now run by Sharif’s allies under a new prime minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.
“There are attempts to create a chaos in (the) country,” Iqbal said on state-run Pakistan TV.
Army has been quick to hint India’s role in Pakistan’s internal chaos. How far this has been swallowed by international community, remains to be seen- but, Pakistan’s international image has certainly taken a beating when it released Hafiz Sayeed a globally proclaimed terrorist, inspite of protests from India and the US.