Chaotic mishandling, lack of ownership

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Zaheer Bhatti

WHILE a near mayhem was being created across the country with complete mishandling of the situation, virtually all political stakeholders who had deliberated together on the Electoral Amendment Bill washed their hands off the appalling error in the text of oath of the Parliamentarians, which appeared to create misgivings over finality of Prophet-hood. The Government once again as usual failed to sort out the issue within Parliament for whose supremacy it cries hoarse all the time. Instead of promptly identifying and punishing whoever indulged in the indiscretion and making ample noise publicly to claim credit, the Government despite rectifying the error before passage of the Bill tried to gloss over it and allowed currency to a small group of protesters over the highly sensitive issue.
While it still remains to be established whether the error which had been rectified as soon as pointed out was inadvertent or by design, the Government with each passing day is in danger of sinking deep into the abyss with a series of missteps. It must understand that the more it delays bringing the culprits to justice, the more it will give credence to the view that it was no error but a sinister move by design, which will be deadly for the sitting Government. The Government about which the impression is rife that it is never on the same page with its Defence Forces, once again moved without acumen and faltered, as this time it exposed the yawning gap within its own ranks which is on the increase by the day. The Government moved belatedly only after things appeared to be getting out of control and the Judiciary intervened asking the Government to restore Order, but committed one blunder after another in the process and shirking to take ownership.
Mian Shehbaz Shari the Punjab Chief Minister promptly urged that the culprits be immediately sacked even before the demand for resignation of the Law Minister was made but no one paid attention. And as the word went out and the sit-in starting in Lahore shifted to Islamabad and actualised unhindered despite Section 144 in the city which disallows more than 4 persons congregating in public, demand for resignation of the Minister this time came from ‘Tehreek Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah,’ which until then had been viewed as a ghost outfit.The Interior Minister egotistically declared that the Government would not bow to the demand without a probe, as it would set a bad precedence, but took no urgent measures to nail responsibility nor effectively engaged the protestors except half-hearted contacts without creating any impact, and instead allowed pressure to be brought upon the Government itself.
Parliament yet again, did not act in concert to diffuse the situation by forming a representative delegation of politicians and religious personalities to negotiate with the protestors in order to make them see reason on the extremely sensitive religious matter which was likely to be exploited by enemies of Pakistan. And this is what exactly happened, as instead, it let the issue spin out of control and each one chose to criticize the faltering Government for the manner it was dealing with the sit-in. The media also jumped into the foray by putting the Rulers in the dock with some TV Channels going overboard and the Government committed the blunder of indiscriminately ordering all private media news outlets to be taken off the air, which made headlines across the world and as apprehended, speculations and exaggerations took center-stage inflicting irreparable damage during the 24 hours that the black-out lasted. Concurrent to these developments on the sensitive religious Issue, the Trump Administration adding fuel to the fire had the cheek to ask the battling Government in Pakistan to repeal its Blasphemy Law. This was a perfect occasion for the Pakistani Government to tell the US that it was none of its business, while also refusing its demand to re-arrest Hafiz Saeed without any substantial proof against the Religious leader enjoying mass support in the Country. Only after the latest unannounced drone attack in Waziristan, has the Government routinely condemned the US incursion, and rejected its unfounded allegation that the Haqqani network of Afghan Taliban and its leadership was allegedly living in and operating from Pakistan against its interests in Afghanistan.
Sit-ins have become a fashion in the country by anyone and everyone. This time ironically, it was none from amongst the main political Parties but a religious group styling itself as ‘Tehreek Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah’ which had emerged from nowhere on the political scene in the recently held by-elections in Lahore and Peshawar. During their campaign they happened to showcase the portrait of Mumtaz Qadri who as member of the Body Guard squad had shot dead his boss, a Muslim ex-Governor of Punjab for blasphemous utterances. He proudly admitted having committed the murder and was consequently sent to the gallows according to the Law of the Land for taking the Law into his own hands rather invoking legal action against the Governor, in the same manner as Ghazi Ilam Din Shaheed slaying an infidel for the same liberty. The half-hearted and ill-planned Operation just as the Lal Masjid Musharraf fiasco, had to be abandoned but not before half a dozen casualties on account of an ill-advised police action of which the Interior Minister had boasted could clear the area within a matter of 3 hours. The Law Minister has since resigned and the Sit-in vacated as a result of Army mediation having earlier refused to take military action against fellow-citizens, but sanity needs to be injected into the self-seeking guardians of Islam who have since split into two factions each claiming leadership, but not letting up on further demands demeaning the great faith and its followers. Little do they realize that with their conduct and use of foul language they have lost out and not gained in public estimation.
—The writer is a media professional, member of Pioneering team of PTV and a veteran ex Director Programmes.
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