And a weak government?
On the mullahs’ target is never a comfortable place to be when it comes to Pakistan. What makes this spot even less cozy is that one almost never seems to be in control of the circumstances in which one might, one fine morning, find oneself in the red zone, completely without warning. It is such a position that the Minister of Law Zahid Hamid currently finds himself in.
The hornets’ nest was initially stirred back in October when, through a detrimental slip of the pen, the Election Bill was altered in a manner believed by some to be blasphemous. The scribe of the bill intentionally or unintentionally exchanged the words “I solemnly swear” with “I believe” turning the concerned text into “I, the above mentioned candidate believe that I believe in the absolute and unqualified finality of the Prophet of Muhammad (Peace be upon him)…” This led the self-ascribed protectors of the finality of Prophethood to charge the government, especially those responsible for drafting the said bill, with intentional blasphemy, leading to country-wide outrage. Luckily for PML-N much of the outrage was contained, and restricted, to verbal abuse.
A couple of weeks ago, however, matters suddenly took a turn for the worse, when one after another pan-Islamist group laid siege to the federal capital, demanding the resignation of Zahid Hamid, whom they believed was responsible for the ‘blasphemous’ edit. Led by the Tehreek-e-Labaik ya Rasool Allah and spearheaded by the likes of Maulana Khadim Hussain Rizvi and Pir Afsar Qadri, the holy protestors have, as of this day, blocked all the main roads leading to the city of Islamabad, especially the junction known as Faizabad, which runs both to the GHQ, Rawalpindi, and to the capital.
It has been over two weeks and matters have remained unchanged. The government has held several talks with the distressed parties, attempting to arrive at a solution acceptable to both ends of the table, however, despite reportedly conceding most of the protestors’ demands, the situation has thus far been stuck at a stalemate. The reason behind the stagnancy of affairs is the government’s unwillingness to let the minister of law resign, and the ulema’s unwillingness to let him off the hook. The government has even attempted to undo this knot by declaring that the minister of law was, in fact, not responsible for the “amendment” in the Election Bill – a conclusion drawn by the PML-N probe committee led by Senator Raja Zafarul Haq.
Naturally, the leaders of the sit-in did not find this conclusion acceptable, since the committee had no one who represented them. Thus, they rejected it.
Following the rejection, the Islamabad High Court decided to step in, ordering the authorities in the capital to clear the protestors out by the morning of Saturday, November 18, 2017. Fetching help from Rangers and Frontier Constabulary was also not deemed off-bounds. This warning, of sorts, failed to stir the protest as participants remained glued to Faizabad interchange, leading the Islamabad High Court to summon an explanation of the authorities’ failure to clear the location, as well as for the Supreme Court to take suo motu notice of the situation.
If minister of interior, Ahsan Iqbal, is to be believed, the protestors were not forcefully cleared out because there was a fear of them defending themselves with arms, worsening the situation exponentially. However, despite its inability to vacate the sit-in sites, the government has “gently” resorted to using force on the protestors, making several arrests since the IHC decision came out – a welcome development, not only for the residents of the twin cities, but for most sane minds in the country.The country’s capital cannot and should not be allowed to be paralysed for nearly twenty days in the manner that it is being done at the moment – especially when the mistake that is being protested has already been rectified. The concerned amendments had been edited back to the original “I solemnly swear” a long time ago – then what seems to be the issue?
The ulema’s rigidness over the matter seems increasingly less about Khatam-e-Nabuwat and more about a show of force – something that they have unfortunately been successful in displaying.