Wrong strategy

November 27, 2017

Top civil and military leadership has decided against the use of force to disperse protesters in the Federal Capital. The decision came after Saturday’s botched operation against protesters. The huddle also decided to end the ban on news channels and social media websites.

The failed operation not only heightened tension in the twin cities but resulted in protests across the country. Reportedly at least six people were killed in Saturday’s operation with hundreds injured. News Channels and social media websites were also blocked by the government to stop the spread of operation related ‘news’. The protesters belonging to religious parties have been camped in Islamabad’s Faizabad area for three weeks now. The sit in has resulted in closure of the Islamabad highway causing misery to the citizens of Islamabad and Rawalpindi. The Islamabad protesters belong to various religious parties, including the Tehreek-i-Khatm-i-Nabuwwat, Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah and Pakistan Sunni Tehreek.

The protest started as the protesters believe that that a sworn oath affirming a politician’s belief in the finality of Prophethood was deliberately modified as part of a larger conspiracy during the passage of the Elections Act, 2017. The government had declared the amendment as a clerical error and subsequently rectified the ‘mistake’ through an Act of Parliament. However the protesters are insisting on the sacking of Law Minister Zahid Hamid for his alleged role in the controversy. The sacking of the person involved was first demanded by Chief Minister Punjab Shehbaz Sharif. The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Friday issued a show-cause notice for contempt of court to Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal over his failure to take steps ordered by the court to end the sit-in after which the operation was launched by the government.

However, the decision to use force against the protestors and the way the operation was carried resulted in more chaos with protests spreading across the country. The situation has now become embarrassing for the government as now the government will once again engage in negotiations with agitators. The option to find a solution to the issue through negotiations looked the only option since day one when the protesters were allowed to camp in Islamabad. It is questionable as to why the government took so long in settling the issue. The lack of preemptive measures against the participants of the sit in also raises many questions.

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