Zaman Park Lahore was not known for petrol bombs (Molotov cocktails, which are bottles filled with petrol but having a protruding wick to be ignited before throwing) until now. A lavish residential area otherwise, the park witnessed several rounds of pitched battle between the workers of the Pakistan Tehreek Insaf (PTI) and the police on March 14, day and night.
From the PTI quarters, although through audio leaks, the only voice of reason emerged was that of former Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid, who was speaking on telephone to Dr Arif Alvi, Pakistan’s President. In the taped telephonic conversation, Dr Yasmin Rashid was found expressing her concern over the petrol bombs being hurled by PTI workers on the police. She wanted Dr Alvi to intervene before the situation slipped out of hands. The petrol bombs put on fire several police vehicles, giving a tinge of the wrath of the PTI workers, who wanted to replicate Turkey in Pakistan.
A leading gynecologist, Dr Yasmin Rashid is a sane voice. She led the doctor community (Pakistan Medical Association) for a couple of terms at the provincial level. During the detention period of the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, she not only validated the blood test showing a low platelet count, but she also advised the PTI government to release him from prison. She remained instrumental in Sharif’s departure to some foreign land for better treatment as well. Certainly, Sharif’s was not the case of poisoning in detention. The cause must be either a drug’s quality and dose or a drug-induced autoimmune (anti-platelet) reaction. It was left to foreign doctors to find out the reason for the depletion of platelets. Nevertheless, her pertinent intervention and dispassionate opinion not only saved the life of Sharif but it also saved Pakistan from a political upheaval, in case Sharif were harmed.
The PTI is lucky to have Dr Yasmin Rashid on its side. Her fretfulness about anticipated deteriorating law and order situation might have annoyed the PTI stalwarts, who could not comprehend that she was right. She understands politics and consequences of any miscalculated action. Under the spell of enthusiasm, PTI workers could set ablaze police vehicles but the act could not be barren of serious legal consequences. The police represent the State of Pakistan. The state cannot be denied access. The police were there to serve the notice of arrest on the PTI Chairman Imran Khan, who was required in person by a court in Islamabad. The PTI Chairman had to submit before the law without offering resistance. To the disappointment of many PTI workers and leaders, Dr Yasmin Rashid gave the right kind of advice: Khan had to give in.
The PTI was fortunate that the police were unarmed. In February 2022, Mohsin Baig, a senior journalist and analyst, resisted the Islamabad police and was manhandled. The Lahore police made the right decision to relent and withdraw instead of pushing ahead and getting into confrontation with the Gilgit-Baltistan police, which were armed and which were affording a protective inner layer to the PTI Chairman. Reportedly, the Chief Minister of Gilgit-Baltistan had brought along a police contingent to Zaman Park to express his loyalty to the PTI Chairman. The CM Gilgit-Baltistan made an unwise move. He put the formula of federation at risk. This is how, instead of serving the cause, petty politics mars prospects for an even tenor of life.
It is understandable that the concern and advice of Dr Yasmin Rashid are construed as a sign of timidity, which would invite the ire of many enthusiasts filling the ranks of the PTI. Obviously, contrary to the flaunted devotees, she seems to be cautious about the party’s repute and future.
The push ahead would have been turned into a bloodbath. The Gilgit police needed to be neutralized before the Lahore police could reach its target. The cool head of the Punjab’s IGP Dr Usman Anwar must have prevailed over his own emotions, and everyone else, who wanted a swift capture. The withdrawal was an evil lesser than confrontation with the Gilgit police, the IGP of which has been removed from his post. The IGP Gilgit unnecessarily engaged his men in Punjab. The clash could have introduced disharmony into the federating units.
The Punjab police are otherwise known for their ruthlessness (and brutality as well). They spare none. They have witnessed the rise and fall of many politicians. This time, they fell soft on the PTI workers, many of whom were assembled from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. They were stationed in either Zaman Park or other Pashtun localities in Lahore. They were there for offering intense resistance. Perhaps, Dr Yasmin Rashid was unaware of this fact. Together, including PTI workers from Lahore, they were ared with clubs and slings to harm the invading anti-riot police, which used tear gas to subdue resistance. Stones were pelted on them. The police did not lose their calm, despite sustaining injuries, though they kept on crafting their way by baton-charging the PTI workers. In totality, the IGP Punjab must be appreciated for not making the police withdrawal or capitulation an issue of ego.
By not submitting to the police and thus to the court, the PTI Chairman set a wrong precedent. He must be haunted by the fear of humiliation while he is under arrest. Expectedly, he may not be fearful of the police; he may be terrified of men in other uniforms who could interrogate or humiliate him in the dead of night.
Compared to this kind of dread, Nawaz Sharif stands taller by not acquiescing to any such fright. At that time, the whole state machinery had turned against him. Amusingly, Pakistan’s prime intelligence agency, the know-all, remained busy in collecting photocopied documents termed as “evidence” to fill in boxes. Reportedly, certain wooden boxes were arranged, to fill which was touted as a great job. The major “evidence” the sleuths got their hands on was Iqama (an employment visa), on the basis of which the decision is still a matter of shame for the Supreme Court (SC). The boxes must be rotting in the store room of the SC for their ultimate disposal. Iqama remained the nadir of both the SC and the know-all.
In short, it is understandable that the concern and advice of Dr Yasmin Rashid are construed as a sign of timidity, which would invite the ire of many enthusiasts filling the ranks of the PTI. Obviously, contrary to the flaunted devotees, she seems to be cautious about the party’s repute and future.