Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Business Recorder editorial Oct 25, 2016

PAT jumps on bandwagon Estranged ally Dr Tahirul Qadri of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) has been reconciled with his erstwhile comrade-in-struggle Imran Khan of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI). Only a few days earlier, Imran Khan had in his characteristic style whaled into the good doctor. But politics sometimes makes strange bedfellows. Through the good offices of Sheikh Rasheed, that ‘one man demolition squad’ as Imran Khan describes him, mediatory efforts have borne fruit and the PAT has decided to let bygones be bygones and join the PTI in its ‘lockdown’ drive in Islamabad on November 2. Their mutual differences first blew open after the unsuccessful joint venture of the 2014 sit-in. Since then, relations went into a steady nosedive. Now, however, mutual interest seems to have trumped past ruction. This mutual interest revolves around their discrete discontents with the incumbent government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Whereas for Dr Qadri, the issue of his workers’ killing in Model Town Lahore in cold blood by the police, allegedly on the orders of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, still rankles as no redress has been available, for Imran Khan the anti-corruption drive against Nawaz Sharif is paramount. He wants the prime minister to resign or present himself for accountability in the Panama Papers case. The government on its part, after its desultory dismissal of the affair initially, seems to have left the fate of the matter in the hands of the Supreme Court, which is to hear petitions on the issue on November 1, just one day before the PTI planned ‘invasion’ of Islamabad on November 2. Imran Khan has guardedly welcomed the apex court being seized of the matter, but in the next breath expressed his lack of confidence in receiving justice from even this august judicial forum. Meanwhile, another group that has jumped onto the sit-in bandwagon is the Lal Masjid brigade. Whether this is a welcome addition to the ranks however is a moot point. Politically, the incendiary Lal Masjid brigade’s embrace of Imran Khan could well turn out to be the ‘kiss of death’. Besides, how the Barelvi-Deobandi divide will be reconciled atop the container if both Dr Tahirul Qadri and Maulana Abdul Aziz are seen strutting their stuff atop it remains to be seen. Unfortunately for Imran Khan’s best laid plans, something or the other tends regularly to queer the pitch. In the present instance it is the horrendous tragedy in Quetta of the attack on the Police Training College in which about 60 cadets were killed and over 100 wounded. Imran Khan of course has in his inimitable style interpreted this pattern as proving Nawaz Sharif a ‘national security risk’. The argument put forward is that there is a sinister ‘collaboration’ between the ‘embattled’ prime minister’s difficulties and the distractions provided by clashes on the Line of Control or terrorist actions like the one in Quetta. Even for the most imaginative mind, the connection seems inexplicable. Just to ensure that no one takes Imran Khan’s visit to the victims of the Quetta carnage as a sign of weakening resolve, he has underlined that come what may, November 2 will happen, and continue until either of the two desired outcomes are obtained. The government for its part has made preparations, including pre-emptive arrests, but is keeping its powder dry until the Supreme Court has spoken. Sensible minds agree on the right of peaceful protest in a democracy, but part ways with the extreme position implied in the statement of intent that the PTI protestors will resist, violently if necessary, any attempt by the government to prevent the sit-in. That position tests the credentials of both sides. One only hopes that wisdom and better sense prevail and both protagonists exercise maximum restraint. There are too many examples in our history of how any other scenario ends to prevent sleepless nights at the thought.

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