Tuesday, July 28, 2015
By Lisa Curtis and Olivia Enos
The U.S. Must Prioritize Religious Freedom in Pakistan
Reviving Pakistan’s Founding Vision
The long road to the JC verdict
Had the plan made by the ‘referee’ gone right Imran Khan would have been the prime minister in September 2014. What went wrong was the failure on the part of the planner to correctly weigh the balance of forces at the time in Pakistan.
Gen Pasha was deadly opposed to democracy. Foremost among the factors that saved the PPP administration from his machinations was CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry led judiciary which, despite its hostility against the PPP government, was opposed to direct military intervention. Other factors included US pressure for the continuation of democracy and the embarrassing, and in the case of the US raid in Abbottabad highly damaging, incidents that stood in the way of the army leadership.
Despite these problems an attempt was made by Gen (r) Pasha to destabilise and if possible to remove the PPP government through the Supreme Court. For this the ISI chief visited the dubious character Mansoor Ijaz abroad to persuade him to act as the main witness in the so called Memogate scandal. He had the PML-N’s support in the case
The PML-N leadership was equally unacceptable to Gen (r) Pasha and to a section of the army top brass. Nawaz Sharif had made no secret of his desire to establish friendly relations with India. Weeks before assuming power in June 2013 he had told Indian journalist Karan Thapar that he was going to turn the army into a subordinate department of the government. He had also told him “we have a lot of love for India.” Nawaz Sharif appeared to be determined to recast civil-military relations. What is more unlike the previous PPP government he possessed the means to fulfil the dream. Sharif possessed absolute majority in the National Assembly while he had developed an understanding with the PPP that could help him pass a law in the Senate aimed at strengthening civilian supremacy.
This was enough to cause worry to Pasha and those who joined hands with him. They thought that peaceful transition from one democratic setup to another had gone to the head of the new prime minister.
With his Jalandhar ethnic Pushtun backround Imran Khan had always enjoyed good relations with the army. He was seen to be a crowd puller. He was also headstrong. This qualified him as the perfect choice to bring down the government. He too was seen to be a man who could create problems once he was in power. But Pasha and company had another plan for the post Sharif set up that would make Khan dependent on the army and thus perfectly harmless
Gen (r) Pasha was confident of the success of his plan. He had in fact already conducted a dry run of the exercise in January 2013.
Tahirul Qadri, who had renounced politics and had been out of Pakistan for seven years, was rediscovered, motivated, and promised the crown if he initiated a movement against the PPP government which had survived, to Pasha’s chagrin, the Memogate affair. The cleric arrived in December 2012 ‘ready to become caretaker premier’, as he unabashedly put it.
Tahirul Qadri was handled deftly by the PPP government. He was given due protocol, provided help in conducting the ‘million march’, even offered inducements through Malik Riaz Hussain. Unlike the ruthless way the PML-N was to treat him in 2014, the PPP dealt with as if he was a highly respectable national figure. The cleric’s s ego was boosted when a dozen of top PPP ministers and leaders of allied parties visited him in his container with the request to call off the sit in. The man who had been ranting against the government for days, demanding its urgent ouster, and giving timelines to t prime minister to resign agreed to disperse the marchers gathered at what he called the “World’s largest Tahrir Square” in Islamabad.
To doubly ensure the success of Imran Khan’s agitation Pasha once again recalled Tahirul Qadri from Canada. The cleric’s strength lay in his fairly large network of schools spread all over Punjab, besides the blind support from the Qadri’s followers who belonged to of a particular sect. Together the two were supposed to generate synergy sufficient to bring down the government through street power assisted at the crucial moment by support from above. What is more each one was supposed to act as a check on the other to ensure that both adhered to the agreed plan.
What the mastermind failed to take into account was the possibility of the entire opposition joining hands to support the system and parliament taking a firm position on the issue. This had never happened in the past. The planners therefore ruled it out. Keeping in view the differences within the opposition, Imran Khan’s promoters had thought that it would remain disunited or might even hail the removal of the government. What followed was a gradual escalation of the conflict.
The so called Azadi March led by Imran Khan had left Lahore on August 14. On August 16 the two sit-ins, one by Imran Khan and the other by Tahirul Qadri, were initiated.
Perturbed at the reports of the agitators getting support from those who matter, Ch Nisar and Shahbaz Sharif called on the COAS. They were advised to open dialogue immediately with the PTI and PAT leadership. While the PML-N maintains they had asked for facilitation, the army started mediation.
The army leadership was playing a visible role in the affair. The COAS had met Nawaz Sharif, Ch Nisar, Shahbaz, Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri. Both Imran and Qadri shared their parties’ demands with the army chief who advised all to hold talks. He also reportedly told the government to find an “urgent solution” to the confrontation, thus putting Sharif under pressure. What is more the police was advised to avoid use of force against the protestors.
Encouraged by Gen (r) Pasha, Imran and Qadri insisted on Nawaz Sharif’s resignation. Neither was willing to agree to anything less than that. Consulting their mentors on a daily basis from their respective containers regarding tactics to be adopted the next day the two continued to increase the pressure. The resignation by the PTI MNAs was also a move in the direction.
According to Javed Hashmi a script was laid out well in advance. “When Imran laid out the plan, I said to Imran, ‘Khan sahab what are you doing?’”
“He said, ‘I am telling you there will be elections in September and everything has been worked out.’”
The plan according to Hashmi was simple. PTI workers had been instructed to drag Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif out of his official residence, while Tahirul Qadri’s activists were to ransack the Parliament with support from PTI.
The attempt was made on August 30. Imran and Qadri led their followers in the attack. But as the protesters rushed towards sensitive buildings like the Cabinet Division, Presidency and Prime Minister House they were met with a heavy police contingent, teargas and rubber bullets. After failing to advance towards the PM House, many protesters gathered in front of the Parliament and pulled down its gate with the help of a truck. A government which had been under siege was now fighting for its existence.
It was at this moment that the PPP advised the prime minister to call the joint session of Parliament. The session which was called on September 2 continued for many days with speakers criticising the week-kneed attitude of the government, the arrogance of its ministers as well as exposing all the characters involved in the conspiracy against democracy.
Once the parliament took a firm stand against the protestors, the offstage players shunned open confrontation. The PTI and PAT leadership thought they had been abandoned. This was followed by demoralisation in the ranks of the two parties. There also appeared cracks in the alliance.
The PAT chief announced to end the sit-in on October 22. Imran Khan looked for a face saving device to follow suit. He demanded setting up of a judicial Commission to probe the three charges he had levelled. The government’s promise provided the fig leaf he needed.
Khan had made no effort to collect evidence to prove systematic rigging. He thought he didn’t need any after assurances from the ‘referee’ regarding fresh elections being in the offing. After the sit-ins were over he continued to tell his followers that the findings of the Judicial Commission would support his charges and this would make elections necessary. This might have happened if the PTI had presented proof. When asked to do so it told the Commission to look for them itself.
In a statement issued from New York, the CPJ’s Asia Coordinator, Bob Dietz expressed sympathy and good sentiments for Faheem Siddiqui and demanded of the government of Pakistan and concerned institutions to ensure him security and bring to justice the culprits involved in the abduction after thorough investigation.
Faheem Siddiqui was kidnapped on his way to work on Saturday by men in plain clothes and police uniforms. He was bound and gagged, assaulted, his property taken away and was left tied up in Manghopir.
Answering to a question over the demand of Tariq Fatemi, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs (SAPM), Kirby said he could not say anything on the role of Washington in resolving Pak-India conflict, however, there are some issues between the two the neighbours that need to be worked out.
Kirby said, “We want to see the conflict and tension reduced between Pakistan and India.”