Hardline clerics and businessmen not ready to cooperate with govt, tussle
with India not minimised, Bajwa orders commanders to be vigilant at LoC
Nation special report
ISLAMABAD: For Muslim community all over the world, the month of Ramadan is regarded as holiest and meant for blessing but in wake of coronavirus pandemic and adamant attitude of lockdown violators,it has turned into problematic period for Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan. Observers term these thirty days as upheaval and test case for the government.
Imran Government has enforced tight lockdown instructions but hardline religious cleric and business community are not ready to obey government’s orders rather have declared to continue their activities as routine, without any hindrance. But Pakistan Army and supportive elements stand beside the government.
Imran Khan, his government and Pak Army have always been giving impression to be on the same page and following the same way of length. In latest development, Imran Khan, COAS Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, DG-ISI Lt. Gen Faiz Hameed, certain federal ministers and advisors went to ISI Headquarters in Rawalpindi on Thursday (April 23) and discussed the prevailing situation and various measures to counter any odd situation.
According to informed sources, the participants received a comprehensive briefing on internal and external challenges faced by the country including the impact of Covid-19. Apart of other strategic issues, the tense situation at eastern and western borders was stocked and military spokesman submitted his output in this regard.
The sources said that seriousness of the situation can be guessed by the fact that DG-ISI has been in close contact with President and Prime Minister. Earlier, just two days before, President Dr. Arif Alvi, Prime Minister Imran Khan and DG-ISI Lt. Gen Faiz Hameed discussed in detail the prevailing situation at the Presidency. Before this meeting, Lt. Gen Faiz Hameed held one-to-one consultations with Imran Khan at PM House a week before.
Business community in Karachi has threatened to ignore government orders, will open their shops and will do business as usual while religious clerics are leading prayers in mosques as normal. Contrary to their hard stance, the doctors and nurses are in favour of enforced stern lockdown instructions. They have launched a hunger strike in Lahore demanding adequate protective equipments for frontline staff treating coronavirus patients. The protest is also continued in Karachi. “Overall circumstances are not short of a civilian disobedience if govt does not relax its strict measures to maintain lockdown effectively, and will face a difficult position”; sources commented.
Health workers have complained for weeks that the country’s hospitals are suffering chronic shortages of safety gear, prompting the arrest of more than 50 doctors who called for more supplies in the city of Quetta earlier this month. Frontline staff have been left vulnerable, with more than 150 medical workers testing positive for the virus nationwide, according to the Young Doctors’ Association in worst-hit Punjab. “Situation is seriously grim”, YDA spokesman said.
The sources confided that at the ISI Headquarters, it was agreed in principal that police, rangers and even troops can be used to maintain law & order if business community and religious clerics attempt to cross their limit and violate the lockdown instructions but would not let position go beyond control. A number of violators have reportedly been arrested in Karachi, Lahore, Quetta, Peshawar, Rawalpindi, Islamabad and other cities today (Saturday) the first day of holy month of Ramadan. “The situation will get worsen soon if the government would not ease its restrictions since poor people are very frustrated of not getting food and other basic amenities”, the sources said adding “government system is not effective”.
Tussle with India
Despite, deteriorating situation generated by deadly coronavirus pandemic, tussle between Pakistan and India is continued as usual.Taking serious note of tension along the Line of Control (LoC) and Indian military leadership’s statements which were termed as “irresponsible” by military spokesman, the Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Friday directed the military commanders to remain vigilant along the border amid concerns that India may resort to any misadventure despite the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic.
The increased incidence of ceasefire violations along the LoC was one of the key agenda items during the conference of Principle Staff Officers presided over by the army chief at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi.
Speaking at a press conference, Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Babar Iftikhar said, “The military leadership has taken strong exception to the growing ceasefire violations by India along the LoC as well as irresponsible statement by their leadership.”
He said there had been a significant rise in ceasefire violations. “In 2020, India committed 848 ceasefire violations and targeted innocent civilians in Azad Jammu and Kashmir,” the DG ISPR said, adding that 456 such violations were detected since the first case of coronavirus was reported in Pakistan on February 26.
He alleged that India was using heavy artillery while targeting the innocent civilians along the LoC. The Indian military was using civilians as human shield to avoid Pakistan’s retaliation, he claimed. He was of view that the increased hostility along the LoC is believed to be linked with Indian government’s domestic problems as well as ongoing anger in the Gulf countries over the Modi government’s anti-Muslim policies.
Officials in Islamabad said that Pakistan was assessing the situation very closely and suspected that India could resort to any misadventure to divert attentions from these issues. “The visit by Prime Minister Imran Khan along with the army chief to the Inter-Services Intelligence headquarters on Thursday was linked to increased tensions along the LoC”, they said.
The civil cabinet including prime minister, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, federal minister for economic planning Asad Umer, Economic advisor Hafeez Sheikh and the military leadership reviewed the preparedness of Pakistan Army in case if there was any provocation from across the border.
The India military leadership recently accused Pakistan of sending “terrorists” across the LoC as well as Covid-19 patients. The DG ISPR refuted the Indian allegations as “rubbish”, saying this only indicated its “frustration and demoralisation” to cover up its own failures.
“At a time when the entire world is getting united against the coronavirus, unfortunately the RSS-inspired extremists are busy in promoting Hindutva and Saffron terrorism while flouting all international laws and norms,” Maj Gen Iftikhar opined.
He tried to divert the subject by referring the situation in J&K and stated that “the India’s atrocities against Muslims in occupied Kashmir have now spread all over India. “Saffronisation of India military polity is a sad spectre that the world can ill afford under these circumstances,” he added.