Confusion compounds

Confusion compounds

It did not come as a surprise when the military came out openly to end the political impasse on Thursday night. The story of a hidden hand pulling both Tahirul Qadri and Imran’s strings were making the rounds from the day they had started the long marches followed by the sit-ins in Islamabad. With each passing day, as both the leaders’ intransigence grew against the government, the theory of the third force started making sense. At midnight, Thursday, both Qadri and Imran left their audiences in the middle of their speeches to attend separate meetings with the Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif. According to the media reports, the government had asked the army to intervene as a guarantor to resolve the political deadlock. The excitement and the enthusiasm with which both Qadri and Imran leapt at the opportunity betrayed the general impression that the political forces were loath to have the military on their side for a political settlement. After coming back by 2:00 am, Imran announced that he will wait another 24 hours before announcing his next plan of action. A streak of madness ensued following the announcement that the army will now call the shots; jubilation, derision against the government and frustration with the political forces all catapulted together to create an inexplicable situation. The commotion continued until the government gave another overwhelming statement in which it refuted calling in the military as the arbitrator to undo the political mess. On the floor of the National Assembly, Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar denied even the possibility of asking the military to intervene in the political process. The PM said that he could sacrifice as many as ten of his governments but could not sacrifice his principles. Chaudhry Nisar and the PM said that in fact it was the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Party (PAT) that pleaded with the army to play the role of the guarantor between them and the government. Leader of the Opposition Syed Khursheed Shah in a charged speech, besides pledging his party’s support to the government, frothed at the mouth against Qadri and Imran for making the country hostage to their unconstitutional and illegal demands. Following the speech, all hell broke loose in Qadri and Imran’s camps. They derided the government for lying to its people, though the people had no idea what was going around. All eyes were now on the clarification from the ISPR to clear the air. The clarification explained that it was neither PAT nor PTI but the government that had asked for the military’s help. Following the clarification a weave of jubilation once again ran through the protesting camps. They demanded that the PM has now become constitutionally liable to resign, because according to Article 62, 63, a liar cannot become a member of the Assembly leave alone a PM. In the meantime, Chaudhry Nisar held a press conference and reiterated his government’s stance while differentiating between the words guarantor and facilitator. He acceded that the government did seek facilitation from the army but has never asked it to become a guarantor.

Will the army play the role of a facilitator or guarantor is not known, as of now. One is also not sure what has transpired between the government and the army or between the protesting parties and the army. What is sure is that this immature politics will cause an irrevocable loss to the political forces and culture of the country. If Imran thinks that the army’s intervention will give his political career another lease of life, he is mistaken. If Qadri believes by holding onto the military’s hand he can make a political career for himself, he is naive. And if the government feels it can save its skin by hiding behind the army, it is ignorant. If the master scriptwriter’s aim to weaken the government using Qadri and Imran succeeds, they both should be prepared for a repeat performance. The military’s intervention is a loss for both the government and the protesting parties. It is a failure of the political forces and a reflection of the reality that the politicians have not yet learned how to walk without the military’s crutches. *

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