Dharna tactics and instability of Pakistan


By Senator Rehman Malik

We lost East Pakistan because of unreasonable agitation [that Pakistan believes Indian sponsored] and we did not care about the hate in the eyes of the people of Bengal and failed to counter this hate and our enemies. The enemy is back in the town with the same tricks to replicate to achieve its evil designs. I wish our then leadership had sensed those anti-Pakistan moves and had given serious attention to what India and the USA had been doing behind the scenes by triggering and exploiting ethnic hate. Pakistan was successfully kept busy in negotiations with China for the benefit of the USA whereas we were deceived during the same period and the expected and committed help didn’t arrive from the US. The present leadership needs to read the recent statement of Henry Kissinger on the debacle of East Pakistan. India has continued and is expanding dirty tricks whereas we as a nation are taking it very lightly while India is trying to develop a 1971 war-like situation. If anyone remembers my solid information three weeks back wherein, I had specifically made public the designs of three anti-Pakistan countries who are trying to destabilise our defence forces by pumping in billions of dollars. We need to wake up and rise above the politics and work for a collective response to the enemies. In my recent trip abroad, I found that overseas Pakistanis ask only one question; “where are we heading as a nation?” The big question about dharnas has now become a political fashion by all political parties.

The recent dharna cost five lives in Rawalpindi and life remained paralysed between the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad and also in surrounding linked cities. The cellular services were suspended and sadly the administration seemed helpless before certain pressing demands and the large mob. I started thinking about the police and LEAs personnel on duty standing and trying to maintain law and order without proper warm clothes on cold nights and I was feeling equally bad for the poor participants who have been brought there. Is it all free or was this mob costing the exchequer to maintain? I am not against the procession as it is a democratic right for a cause and here the cause was right as no one should be allowed to pass derogatory and blasphemous remarks or make cartoons of our beloved Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) come what may. What is important is that the general public should not be blocked to perform their daily duties and the administration should have made proper alternate routes but it failed to create alternate routes.

RAWALPINDI: The latest dharna staged at Faizabad by ‘Tehreek-e-Labaik” on November 16.

It took me 10 years back when I had countered similar kinds of four dharnas when I was interior minister and handled those with string first without a single loss of life and no damage to public property and also all possible steps were taken to reduce the inconvenience to the general public. The people of Islamabad in particular and the rest of the country must be remembering the rowdy and violent protesters advancing fast towards the diplomatic enclave to target a few embassies but were successfully blocked well on time. I was present on the scene just opposite the diplomatic enclave due to the emerging serious situation of the safety of diplomats when the situation got worse and BBC without inquiring into factual reality miss announced that the mob had already entered the diplomatic enclave. It was false news that had added further panic. Sensing the seriousness of the situation I stood beside the then IG Police and started giving instructions to the police and other LEAs to ensure safety as to how to deal and handle the mob peacefully. My strategy of a few teargas shells from the helicopter right over the mob gave the desired results dispersing the mob in front of the Serena hotel.

I was not sure as to who was behind the crowd pushing this crowd towards and providing them with all necessities. I had some suspicions which came true a few months later. This Dharna too could not achieve its desired targets and similarly, the Dharna of Imran Khan couldn’t achieve anything. There are a lot of questions that emerged as to how Imran Khan and Dr. Tahir ul Qadri were financially supported and who arranged and fed the large crowd as none of these two parties could arrange finance from their kitty personally. The mystery was resolved later with the information that all these Dharnas were being financed by a known business tycoon and some others. While dealing with both the Dharna at least it was exposed before me to who was the business tycoon behind these street chaos/sit-ins and what were his vested interests who funded these Dharnas and all such similar activities. I will share these graphic details of its planning in London and who was implementing and planning. I had a copy of the plan and that is why I did allow Dr. Tahir ul Qadri in Islamabad and, however, I found him a God-fearing man. I handled these Dharnas with the kind blessing of President Asif Ali Zardari after taking into confidence as the anti-group wanted to replicate the Cairo episode of President Gamal Abdel Nasser with President Asif Ali Zardari. What the public witnessed was not a fraction of the said skilful work done behind the scene some might have perceived some idea when my warning went to vacate the Dharna by 3 PM the next day and one day I will inform the public about the said administrative tool which was deployed against all odds. I will soon reveal all of it with full details as it is the amanat of my people.

I still find the answer to the big question as to what did the nation and the country achieve out of these Dharnas and why so much time and money was wasted over these. The nation has a right to know the waste of funds etc. on these fruitless anti-economic Dharnas. Soon, I will unmask many faces. I would like to refer to yet another unfortunate incident when Imran Khan fell from the container in Lahore which was fully engineered and managed whereas I had earlier informed him of this kind of threat a few days before it happened. Imran Khan thanked me when I met him in the hospital to deliver him an important message of President Asif Zardari withdrawing the strike call post-2013 elections. It is a hard fact that President Asif Ali Zardari has always advocated politics of consensus in the greater national interest. Actually, the public is made to believe the benefits of the futile sit-ins while as a nation we are under heavy burdens from such expensive activities which cause heavy on the national exchequer and I am sure by now Imran Khan must have realised it.

Our Dharna culture with these fancy activities must come to an end to save this poor nation. I propose the government must come with the following legislation covering the following points:

All processions supporting any anti-Pakistan group or country must be banned. Undefined anti-government agenda to be banned. Any movement against the defence forces or judges should not be permitted and the violators to be punished under the constitution. Both the government and opposition rallies should be dealt under the same law and without discrimination. Advance permission of the procession with the undertaking that no person from the judiciary or armed will be made the subject of derogatory remarks. Any government servant if found instigating for seizing the city should be punishable. Every Deputy Commissioner should declare a special corner for agitation and no road or bridge should be blocked.

Let us say for the sake of argument that my arguments are not convincing to everyone as an independent opinion. Could somebody convince me or the nation about the benefits we have achieved out of these mass agitations except personal egos satisfaction and publicity?

In my earlier articles, I have expressed that the Dharna tactics are bound to bring political instability and discourage economic growth which eventually adversely affect the socio-economic and political environment of a country. Consequently, the political instability further reduces economic growth and escalates inflation and price hike. A big question in the minds of the public is Dharna going to be the future way of politics or an effective tool as a counterforce to keep the governments in place or to impose the will of a handful of protesters on the rest of the general public and government. I am of the firm view that all Dharna in the past have ended either by the fall of governments or ended with skilful political negotiation playing a win-win situation and handling skilfully. However, it is time, let the evil not grow and we must not close our eyes just because of certain compromises. Nations with compromises disappear like the Ottoman Empire, Mughal Empire, and many other such strong empires in history disappeared because of compromising policy. Let us agree to agree that confrontational and agitation power brings heavy loss to the nation.

(Author Note: Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of my party.

The writer is former Interior Minister of Pakistan, Chairman Senate Standing Committee on Interior and Chairman of Think Tank “Global Eye”. He is the author of four books and his fifth book is about to get published. He can be reached at: rmalik1212@gmail.com, Twitter @Senrehmanmalik