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Are Azadi Marches a norm in Pakistan?

 

JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, in a sudden U-turn announced to call off the Azadi March dharna on Wednesday in Islamabad and given a call for ‘Plan B’ of the protest which would entail blocking of main roads and highways across the country. Maulana said, “We will leave  from here now and join those who are blocking roads across the country.”

The JUI-F chief called on Pakistanis across the country to take to the streets and protest against the “illegal” government. He chanted the slogan ‘Girti Hui Deewaar Ko Ek Dhakka Aur Do’ with Azadi March protesters and urged everyone “from Karachi to Gilgit-Baltistan” to join the protest against this government. He reiterated his resolve that no demand less than the resignation of the prime minister and call for fresh elections would be entertained.

Maulana issued strict warning to the security agencies primarily Pakistan Army to stay out of the protest and not to thwart Plan B of the Azadi March and said,” if we have remained peaceful then no clash should take place from any security institution. To protest is our right. If you stop us once, we will come out again. Stop us a second time and we will take the third route. No state institution can stop our protest now.”

Meanwhile, he also urged them to remain peaceful and exercise maximum restraints to avoid violence and asked them not to block the path of any ambulance, patients or funeral processions going through the highways.

Azadi march 2014

In similar exercise to oust the Nawaz Sharif Government in 2014, an Azadi march was undertaken by none other than present Prime Minister Imran Khan on similar issues of rigged polls, incumbency, corruption and many more. The protest known as tsunami march was held from 14 August to 17 December 2014 all across Pakistan. However, the protest turned violent and clashes erupted in other parts of Pakistan resulting in the killing of 13 protestors by the security forces and injury to many police officers. On the other hand, Police defied government’s orders to further control the agitation and four senior police officer resigned in protest against police brutality on protestors. Pakistan Army had to issue instructions to all for exercising restraints. However, this Azadi march came to an abrupt end when Imran Khan announced to call off the march in response to the Peshawar School attack on 16 December to express his solidarity with security forces and unity of the country.

Viewpoint

What Maulana has achieved from this Azadi march? With 13 days of sit-in put off, it appears that this entire exercise of JUI- F is turning out to be a complete disaster in terms of political gains. In spite of unprecedented participation of awam which kept swelling right from inception of the protest from Balochistan, the Imran Khan Government showed no panic and in fact allowed the protest and sit-in to continue. The Government followed the policy of ‘wait and watch’ without any reaction to the numerous deadlines set by the Maulana for the resignation of Imran Khan. With the passage of time, it looked as if Azadi march losing its steam and Maulana is looking for a graceful exit route. It is worthwhile to explore as to how the protest of such a magnitude, putting the entire nation out of gear, has been permitted that to the aftermath of the Abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir. On the other hand, Imran Khan is so confident of the outcome of the ongoing protest! Who is the ‘main’ player of this entire gimmick? Is it game plan of the “Establishment”, to deflect the attention of Pakistani awam from Kashmir, the issue on which it has been surviving so long and pass blame of its inaction to internal situation’ due to political instability in the country with the sole aim to continue to remain relevant in the eyes of the gullible people of Pakistan. Are these Azadi marches are a new strategy of Pakistan Army to play its game?

In spite of the brave front put by Nawaz Sharif against the all-powerful Pakistan Army, it was the Army that emerged winner, this time through Political ‘Military Coup’ by rigging the elections. The general elections of 2018 which saw Imran Khan-led PTI emerging out of nowhere to become the ruling party. It is widely believed that Imran Khan’s party was aided by the Pakistan Military in an allegedly “rigged” election in 2018. The fact that DG ISPR is the face of a government decision and the parallel economy run by the military are authentication to the belief that Pakistan politics is still governed by the military.

To assert its power, the military has instated a new “Puppet” leader who defeated stalwarts in provinces where the PTI had absolutely no reach. The delay in the declaration of results, all opposition parties expressing concern, and the rift between Nawaz Sharif and the military hegemony over foreign and domestic policies during his tenure all indicate towards a military-backed election result. The recent escalation with India and the pride with which the Pak military have falsified facts to the world and its own people has further strengthened their image in the general masses. The problems with democracy and politics in Pakistan are deep routed and complex. The influence of foreign powers like the US, Russia, and China on the political scenario in Pakistan can also not be ruled out. The crux of the issue is that any democratically elected government with a vision for actual development and which is against the idea of feudalism will never sustain in Pakistan. No government will ever improve ties with India as that would put the position and control of the military in question. Democracy in Pakistan has been found only as an interval between the next military regimes. After seventy-plus years of independence, feudalism and age-old traditions prevail in Pakistan which is responsible for the weakness of democratic politics in Pakistan. True democracy, if at all Pakistan ever wants it, can only be achieved when democratic practices are allowed to prevail under the supremacy of an unchanged constitution. The irony is, the constitution of Pakistan has been a mockery in itself and has been changed by military dictators to their fancies.

15 Nov 19/Friday                                                                        Written by Azeema

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