Maulana’s Azadi March | Pakistan Today

Maulana’s Azadi March

  • Things come full circle for the PTI

All across the Third World, it is debated that there is always a tug of war going on between the two limbs of the establishment: the civil establishment and miltablishment. They wage a secret battle against each other, attempting to gain an upper hand over the other. The proponents of democracy argue that democracy is not allowed to flourish freely, let alone take roots. On the other hand, it is argued that politicians are generally power-hungry and corrupt. They accumulate massive wealth at the cost of the common man and sacrifice the national interests at the altar of corruption and nepotism. They cannot be allowed free rein. It goes without saying that in guided democracies, the fundamental rights often suffer setbacks. What to talk of Third World countries, US President Donald Trump often complains that the US establishment thwarts his ambitions and policies. His hunch is that it is behind the launching of the impeachment inquiry against him and is intent on ousting him from power.

Amidst the Panama scandal, the long march and dharna by the PTI and PAT, Imran Khan came to power riding on a wave of populism. The PTI’s rallying cry was to nip corruption in the bud. Opposition parties rejected the whole election outright and termed it “a soft coup” and an outcome of “election engineering”. The JUI(F) was more vociferous in its protest than other parties. Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman tried his level best to prevail upon them to support him to make a bid to topple the government. However, at the time, the PML(N) and the PPP could not be persuaded, and they decided to sit in Parliament, lest democracy should suffer.

Since the Maulana is determined to fulfil his mission, any obstruction or disruption caused to his procession could lead to disastrous consequences, which would not augur well for democracy, the economy and the survival of Pakistan

It goes without saying that the PTI inflated and raised expectations of the man in the street, who considered Imran Khan a panacea for their ills and troubles. It is a pity that the ruling party has miserably failed to deliver on any of its promises during the 14-month of its rule. It has virtually made a mess of the economy.

October is a month marked by revolutions, turbulence and disruptions. If we go back in time, this month left indelible marks on the political history of Pakistan. The first Martial Law in Pakistan was imposed on 7 October 1958, in which the nascent Constitution of Pakistan, 1956 was abrogated, thereby opening the way for future military autocratic rule. It is one of the myriad reasons that democracy failed to fully take root in Pakistan.

The fourth coup d’état in Pakistan occurred on 12 October 1999, suspending the Constitution and overthrowing the civilian government of Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif.

Interestingly, Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman also chose the month of October for achieving his ambitions, announcing he would carry out a long March towards Islamabad on October 27. When the government taunted him for choosing this date deliberately to downplay the importance of the Black Day to be observed against the forced occupation of Indian-held Kashmir, he had to readjust his plan. He announced that after observing the Black Day, his party would start marching the very same day, arriving at Islamabad on October 31. Initially, the PPP dithered, but on second thoughts, has decided on throwing its full weight behind the Maulana. The PML(N) appears to be divided on the issue. Nawaz Sharif in his letter, presumably authored by Pervaiz Rasheed, quite unambiguously expressed his intention to join forces with the Maulana. And yet, Shahbaz Sharif continued to hum and haw. He seemed in two minds about joining the cause, probably out of the fear that the already fledgling democracy might take a hit and ultimately be derailed, should there be any bloodshed. Of late, he has announced to take part in the Azadi March of Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman for the day of 31 October. Yet, he fell short of announcing his wholehearted support to the proposed dharna. Needless to say, it is one thing to eat one’s cake and quite another to have it. However, Shahbaz Sharif wishes to have it both ways: to reap the benefits and to avert the consequences. It is widely held that the PML(N) joined the long march of the lawyers’ movement for the restoration of judiciary in 2008 at the 11th hour, when Nawaz Sharif secured assurances from former Chief of Army Staff, Gen Ashfque Pervez Kiyani.

Quite recently, a video of JUI(F) went viral, in which uniformed members could be seen holding batons, indicating their preparation for a showdown with the security forces. Criticism is being heaped on the Maulana that he has a private militia with an agenda to topple the government. And under Article 256 of the Constitution, it is illegal and unconstitutional to do so. Therefore, the government should consider banning the JUI(F), taking a cue from Article 17(2) of the Constitution read with the Political Parties Order, 2002. On the other hand, the Maulana is of the view that the role of the guards is spelled out in the manifesto of the JUI(F), and has never been objected to by the Election Commission of Pakistan. As for the baton-carrying members of JUI(F), they would swing into action only when someone attempts to disrupt its procession violently. In order to buttress their contentions, JUI(F) leaders have contended that never before have these baton-carrying jawans indulged in violence. They exercised restraint even in the face of provocation. The 2011 attack in Swabi district on Maulana’s possession is a case in point, when 26 of his companions were martyred.

However that may be, a bare perusal of Article 256 would reveal that JUI(F) does not by any stretch of imagination fall within the expression of a “private organization capable of functioning as a military organization”, exposing it to punitive action by the state. Apparently, JUI(F) members are not armed to the teeth and there is not a chain of command that is inherent for the functioning of the military. Should the government pay heed to its advisers, it would land itself in a legal mess. Besides, its actions would be viewed with skepticism.

To sum up, things have come full circle. The PTI, headed by Imran Khan, and PAT by Tahirul Qadri, marched on Islamabad and held a sit-in spanning 126 days in 2014 against the then ruling party, the PML(N). During that period, the country witnessed its economy tumbled down, PTV attacked and clothes hung outside the Supreme Court and Parliament. The proponents of the JUI(F) argue that now it does not lie in the mouth of the PTI to turn around and call the long march and sit-in an attempt to upend democracy. They also maintain that they are well within their fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution under Articles 15 and 16 to undertake a long march and stage a sit-in. The opponents are trying to find hidden hands, in the belief that the Maulana is a mere cog in the machine, or at best an “agent of change”. Regardless of the motives attributed to the Maulana, Imran Khan is hoist with his own petard. The Maulana is simply giving Imran Khan a dose of his own medicine. However, the apologists of the PTI don’t see eye to eye with this by coming up with the counter-argument that this time around both security establishment and civil establishment are on the same page. However, they appear to be oblivious to the political history of Pakistan.

Since the Maulana is determined to fulfil his mission, any obstruction or disruption caused to his procession could lead to disastrous consequences, which would not augur well for democracy, the economy and the survival of Pakistan.