CREATING a sensation in Pakistan politics, JUI chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman seems to have won the first round, but can he achieve the goal he has set for himself? It indisputably is a dicey question, needing deeper study, but with army, rebutting his charge within hours, gave a sudden new twist to a drama, which may not be as exciting or thrilling as it was supposed to look like, still awaits a keen finish.
The long march from Karachi to a 1000-mile journey to Islamabad, generated interest and excitement within and outside the country, but the principle poser remains unanswered. Will it affect the sitting government? Can it force Imran to resign but how and in what way, and how soon or can it just prove a aimless, purposeless exercise? All these are all crucial questions, demanding credible, authoritative answers.
One thing is certain. Realism demands that the issue may be viewed from all possible perspectives—composition of the crowd, its rapport with firebrand speakers like the Maulana himself, Shahbaz Sharif, Bilawal Bhutto, Asfandyar Wali, Hasil Bizenjo, Mahmood Khan Achakzai. The crowd was indisputably big or large enough to draw attention of the countrymen, but the trend of applying loose terminologies is now a common practice in the country. Capacity-full Olympic stadia normally have 50 to 60,000 spectators. Even the world’s biggest stadium, Even Gardens of Kolkatta can have 90,000 people, but claim of million marches has become so common in our country, that protestors or marchers of 40 to 50,000 are unhesitatingly placed at over lakh.
Whether that also was the case with Maulana’s October 31 show, remains undetermined. But more relevantly here is the questions like presence of Bilawal at the Murree highway rally that baffled westerners, puzzling them to ponder whether secularism or liberal approach of Peoples Party had been handed over to fundos of religious fanaticism. Obviously, the PPP and PML(N) became wiser after their initial mistake, and appear reviewing their cooperation with a seminary-led crowd of JUI madressah students. The West is scared of fundamentalists reigning supreme in Pakistan, whose nuclear asset can easily land in extremists’ hands.
That will not only be a dangerous but explosive proposition for the liberal world to look at. Seminary crowd was of special significance for the protest that may set a new trend. Analysts arguing change in political map of the country can only be categorized as sheer optimism, or perhaps over-optimism. Prime Minister, noticing the trend, summoned his core committee and parliamentary committee meetings to work out counter-measures. Nothing has been announced so far, but obviously the threat held out by opposition negotiating team head, Akram Durrani to block highways, and expand a mere to long-time sits-in, caused disappointment in PPP and PML-N ranks.
Whether they would continue their cooperation with Maulana, becomes the most vital question. Should that happen, how far can the Maulana go all by himself, depending on his seminary students. Difficult proposition to start with, but the JUI chief, revengeful after his defeat at 2018 elections, loss of perks and privileges as Kashmir Committee chairman, and withdrawal of land allotments in not too distant past, obviously has added to his hostility.
But them ISPR chief Maj-General Asif Ghafoor made it clear that army as institution, supports merely an elected government as guardian of democracy, General Qamar Bajwa making it clear time and again, and ISPR chief in his rebuttal asked Maulana frankly to point out the institution he had been critical of. Army is a neutral institution, and does not discriminate between political parties, groups or associations, but hates to favour street agitation, for it yields nothing in the end. He also warned that any attempt to disrupt nation’s unity and create unpleasant situation would not bet tolerated.
This is simply a timely reiteration of policies aimed at preserving peace on Western and Eastern borders, and the unhappy situation at the Kashmir like of control where innocent civilians, and pak army has been victims of India’s nefarious designs. Apparently, PTI government appears quite comfortable but ignoring rapidly developing realities will be costly mistake. With army, preferring peace over everything else, and PPP and PML (N) reviewing their decisions to be on Maulana’s side, is a happy augury.