November Issue 2019

By | Editor's Note | Published 3 weeks ago

From the extreme right to the extreme left to the in-betweens – the wily Maulana, to his credit, managed to collect all shades of opinion under the baton of his Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F). With essentially a one-point agenda: Prime Minister Imran Khan’s ouster. Dissolution of assemblies, fresh elections and electoral reforms were side-bars.

Was it the sliding economy and the rising inflation or Khan’s undemocratic practices such as legislating through ordinances and bypassing the assemblies, that led to calls for his ouster? Yes, that too. But for the Bhuttos and the Sharifs – the country’s leading political families – a lot more was at stake. It was their assorted cases of corruption in NAB courts that led them to join forces with Maulana Fazlur Rehman.

As for the Maulana himself, it was his crushing defeat in the last elections that set the ball rolling. He believes that his mandate was stolen by Imran Khan’s PTI through rigged elections. JUI-F won 2.5 per cent and PTI 30 per cent of the votes.

Does that give him the moral justification to descend on the capital with his cast of thousands, comprising young students, with impressionable minds, culled from Deobandi madrassahs, and throw them into the political cauldron?

They were told they were going to wage a war against an “agent of the Jews and the Ahmedis,” who posed a threat to Islam with his anti-Islam acts. Even the Kartarpur Corridor came under a cloud of suspicion. Was a self-professed messenger of Islam justified in levelling blatantly false allegations to incite a mob against the head of state?

Secular, liberal politicians like Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Mehmood Khan Achakzai flanked the Maulana, even as he was using the religion card to inflame passions. Were they not mindful of the consequences of such inflammatory  rhetoric for the future political discourse of the country? Also, were they comfortable in the presence of highly charged students of madrassahs who, at one call of the Maulana, could wreak murder and mayhem in the capital?

Perhaps the Maulana subscribes to the view that all is fair in love and war. Is it?  To what lengths can one go to achieve one’s goals?

Prime Minister Imran Khan did not emerge unscathed from the Maulana’s dharna which, in a strange way, was reminiscent of Imran Khan’s own dharna, that locked down Islamabad for 90 days? Sure, the PM got a taste of his own medicine. But more to the point, did he draw any lessons from it?

Even as a team was being put into place by his government to negotiate with the JUI-F and company and end the dharna, Imran and his mouthpieces, Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, Fawad Chaudhary and Sheikh Rashid, continued to pass disparaging remarks against the Maulana, the Sharifs and the Bhuttos, leading to heightened tension.

Pakistan’s political scene has never appeared as polarised it does now. And the PM must share a major portion of the blame. His failure to attend the assembly sessions, his disdain for the opposition, his  refusal to hold any dialogue with them and his constant refrain of “NRO nahin milega” is beginning to grate on the opposition’s frayed nerves.

As Prime Minister, the burden of reconciliation and normalisation now rests on his shoulders. He will have to clamber down from his high horse, shed his arrogance and undemocratic practices and take the opposition along, if he wishes to have a smooth sailing in the next four years of his tenure and ensure political stability in the country.

As of now, the Pakistan army stands between him and Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s threat to march to Islamabad’s red zone with his religious brigade.

Rehana Hakim is one of the core team of journalists that helped start Newsline. She has been the editor-in-chief since 1996.

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