After years of using dharnas to combat corruption and protest against the then ruling parties, Imran Khan’s PTI led government looks weak and silly in opposing a dharna led by the JUI of Fazlur Rehman.
On October 31st, the Azadi March organised by Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) is scheduled to enter Islambad. The party will organize rallies in cities around the country on October 27 and then all those rallies are scheduled to enter Islamabad together on October 31.
Other opposition parties, including the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) have announced support for the march. On Friday, the PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League-N) announced its support for the JUI march. Shahbaz Sharif announced “that a massive rally will be held in Islamabad on October 31 to present a joint list of demands by the opposition. “Despite the support that Imran Khan enjoys, he has failed the country and is placing the burden of his failures on the shoulders of our institutions,” said Sharif, as he addressed a press conference in Lahore. “If even the most far gone of governments had received just 25 per cent of the support he has received, then Pakistan would have been soaring high in the skies of progress,” he continued.”
The government’s response has been to argue that not only was the march anti-government and hurt the country’s image. Foreign Minister Qureshi “referred to the PTI’s own sit-in in the federal capital in 2014 and said that such moves rarely meet with success. “If someone thinks that with governments can be sent packing with sit-ins, they are wrong. We have a 126-day experience of this. We are not novices,” he said. “It is not that we fear them [the JUI-F march participants], I must stress on that,” he added. He urged Fazl to come to the negotiating table, assuring that “we are ready to listen to it [JUI-F’s concerns] and if a reasonable solution emerges, we will accord that a priority”. “Pakistan is now fighting the Kashmir cause at international fora so a unified stance must be presented on it.”
According to Babar Sattar “There is nothing that the Maulana is threatening to do that the PTI and PAT and then the TLP, supported by the PTI, didn’t do before. So talk of immorality of the JUI-F’s purpose or the threat it poses to the state or to public interest or the abuse of madressah students or the need to use force to thwart the protest march is all rather rich coming from the PTI.”
Further, “The PTI’s diatribe against the JUI-F dharna, and efforts to employ the law to scuttle it is certainly seeped in hypocrisy. The PAT brought to the fore this anarchist style of politicking in the recent past. But it was the PTI that effectively patented it in 2014, used it to paralyse the PML-N’s government and drain legitimacy out of it. It sought approval and legitimacy from the ‘umpire’. It supported the TLP dharna and employed bigotry as the tool to hammer the last nail in the PML-N government’s coffin prior to Election 2018. And it succeeded.”
Further, “Our state doesn’t pay heed to the genuine grievances of those who speak softly. It takes note and responds only to those with the ability to create nuisance. We have a polity driven by the logic of force and not legitimacy or moral authority. Our state has nurtured a society also driven by schadenfreude and not concepts of right and wrong backed by principle. IK might be reaping what he sowed, but Maulana’s politics and those supporting it, including
the PML-N and PPP, are only reinforcing the predatory character of our state and society.”
The final irony is that JUI hardly represents liberal democracy, embraces religious bigotry against Ahmadis and Shias and is engaging in religion-based politics just like PTI. But in Pakistan’s intrigue-based politics, that is how civilian governments, even those selected by the military, are threatened.