Friday, January 9, 2015
Daily Times Editorial Jan 10, 2015
Now Fazlur Rehman It is well known that Maulana Fazlur Rehman is a diehard rival of Imran Khan, particularly since the latter’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) won the 2013 elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and formed a coalition government there with the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI). But in an ironic twist, the Maulana, miffed over his inability to sway the vote in favour of the 21st constitutional amendment and the amendment to the Army Act 1952 to set up military courts for two years to try terrorists basing their activities on religion or sect, and which his party eventually boycotted, has now threatened to take a leaf out of bitter rival Imran Khan’s book to stage a dharna (sit-in) at D-Chowk Islamabad, made famous last year by Imran Khan’s rallies from on top of a container, if his demands are not met. Rivalry aside, the container ‘revolution’ seems to have captured the imagination of some dissidents. And what exactly are the ‘demands’ the Maulana is agitated over? Basically it is the narrowing of the definition of terrorism in the two amendments mentioned above to acts in the name of religion or sect. The Maulana would have preferred a ‘non-discriminatory’ measure against terrorism without the distinction insisted on by the PPP among other parties. The reason the Maulana was unable to win the day for his point of view was the apprehension of the objecting parties that a blanket provision would have brought into the military courts net, nationalists and other dissidents, possibly extending thereby the limited tenure granted of two years through a sunset clause to an open-ended and indefinite future. Reservations about the setting up of military courts per se could not resist the pressure of unanimity throughout the country for effective action after the Peshawar massacre of school children, but parties such as the PPP attempted to soften the blow by restricting the scope of the measure to religion or sect-based terrorism and also insisted on the sunset clause. For Maulana Fazlur Rehman as for the JI, the fear was annoying their constituency and what the Maulana has categorised as the targeting of madaris (religious seminaries). Fazlur Rehman has called the amendments draconian laws that will promote terrorism without explaining how he arrives at this conclusion. He plans a seminar of religious parties in Lahore on January 22 to highlight the “negative impact” of these amendments. Through such steps and the threatened dharna at D-Chowk, the Maulana wants to “mobilise the masses” against these anti-terrorist measures. So far he has gathered the JI, JUI-Pakistan, Jamiat Ahle Hadith, Shia Ulema Council and the Wafaqi Madaris on this platform. With the exception of the JUI-F and JI, none of the others has a significant presence in parliament and some have none whatsoever. However, this does not mean we should underestimate their capacity for street agitation. No doubt these parties/groups can easily mobilise their committed cadres and supporters, but whether their appeal lies beyond to a wider audience is open to question, particularly when the national consensus seems to be running against their stance. Despite the amendments having been adopted by both houses of parliament by a two thirds majority without a single dissenting vote, the notable absence from the proceedings was that of the JUI-F, the JI and the PTI, the last being in the middle still of a boycott of parliament over its allegations of rigging in the 2013 elections. Whereas the support of the PPP, particularly in the upper house, was critical as without such support the measures may not have passed muster, the greatest dissent from within those parties that supported the amendments, openly reluctantly or silently resentfully, also came from the PPP. It is therefore not surprising perhaps that its members (among others) raised the issue of bringing the dissidents on board to support the amendments rather than continue to leave them out in the cold. Well intentioned as the argument may be and informed by the desire for national and political unity in the face of the terrorist challenge, it seems unrealistic to expect the JUI-F to modify its vocal and the JI its more circumspect opposition to what they perceive as amendments meant to target only those ‘with beards and chadors’ as Maulana Fazlur Rehman put it. The Maulana owes the country an explanation whether all those involved in terrorism over the years in the country were found dressed in Saville Row suits?