Dithering is no option
THE news headline ‘Fawad warns TLP protestors’ families… Tell your people to return home’ of 30 October, took me decades back to childhood days.
As little boys, we sometimes quarrelled but most of the time, we managed to sort out the problems ourselves.
However, weaklings among us threatened their opponents of complaining to their father about the matter.
So, I was really and truly dismayed by the hopelessness of the situation where the Federal Minister of a nuclear-armed state had to make passionate appeals to the families of troublemakers – which word does not do full justice to the people referred to — to persuade their relatives to return home.
According to the report, the minister further stated unequivocally that ” the state will not stop at anything to assert itself,” while also informing them that no mob could stand up to a state.
And to add further weight to his warning, he added “The civilian and military leadership are like one clenched fist on this issue.”
The federal minister also claimed that the National Security Committee meeting had resolved to back the police force and the state would not tolerate this “mockery” for long, without specifying the time scale to differentiate between short and long.
However, he gave some clue on this point when he asserted “the government would be taking all possible measures to quell any further mischief”.
But that leaves vagueness about mischief already done. According to press reports issued a few days back, the Federal Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed had said that he had found the TLP’ incarcerated chief Saad Rvizvi to be very cooperative compared to other leaders of the proscribed organisation.
Sheikh Rasheed also claimed that government’s negotiations with the TLP went very well, adding that he had requested not to be included in the government’s negotiating committee because it was not the job of the Interior Ministry but of the Punjab government.
However, his stance was rejected on the insistence of Saad Rizvi and another TLP leader, Gulam Ghaus Baghdadi.
It seems surprising that the Federal Interior Minister was over-ruled on the ‘wish/commands of persons belonging to a ‘proscribed’ organization.
Sheikh Rasheed also vowed to fulfil the commitments the governments made with Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan during negotiations, saying the matter would be discussed during the federal cabinet meeting following Prime Minister Imran Khan’s return from Saudi Arabia.
Elsewhere, he was also reported to have said that all demands of the TLP have been accepted except the one about severing diplomatic relations with France.
Moreover, 350 TLP members had been released already. One can see that right from the beginning, the issue had been mishandled by the government.
The main flaw in its strategy was that the government tried to placate the militants by bending over backwards, and went too far doing that.
The government knew very well that it could not yield to TLP’s demand of ending diplomatic relations with France becauser such a step would cause the whole of Europe to rise against us.
And yet it made dubious agreement with the TLP, just as a matter of expediency, and to postpone the inevitable, which issue returned with a greater intensity later, which is what happens in such situations.
Sheikh Rasheed has also stated that the government does not want to use force against religious groups.
Yet being religious is one thing, but using, rather misusing religion to gain political and other advantages, causing death of civilians by blocking roads even for ambulances, killing of many law enforcers and wounding hundreds of policemen, apart from doing massive damage to private and government property, can hardly be justified as genuine activity of religious groups. A Muslim is defined as one who does not harm other Muslims by his words or deeds.
In fact, Islam forbids killing or harming even innocent non-Muslims, equating killing of one person with the murder of the entire humanity.
Just heard that a 25-member delegation of ‘Ulema and Mashaikh’ arrived at Bani Gala, to bail out the situation.
Without any reference to the killing and destruction already done by TLP hooligans, Mufti Muneeb warned that use of force against what he called religious persons would harm the government as well as the people.
Perhaps the delegation will get an attentive ear from Imran Khan who is himself using over-religiosity to consolidate and prolong his hold on power.So, it is quite a confused situation. Let us hope that those who have power do use it for the benefit of the country and the nation.
Unless stopped, the movement has a potential to develop into something which was finally brought under control, but only after causing death of over 70,000 Pakistanis and $ 100 billion loss to infrastructure.
— The writer is senior political analyst based in Karachi.