The authenticity of what was known in the past has been confirmed now: the London plan was a reality. On 28 September, 2018, a leader of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) Khurram Nawaz Gandapur revealed on a TV talk show hosted by Moeed Pirzada that, in the first week of June 2014, the plan was hatched in London to launch a street agitation against the then sitting elected government of Mian Nawaz Sharif. Gandapur revealed that, Allama Tahir-ul Qadri reached London and to call on him Imran Khan, Chairman Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI), and Chaudhry Pervez Elahi and Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain of the Pakistan Muslims League-Q (PML-Q) reached London from Pakistan.
In the consequent meeting, it was agreed that the ruse of alleged rigging of general elections of 2013 would be used and the venue would be Islamabad, where Dr. Qadri had already staged a four days’ sit-in in January 2013. Reportedly, there had taken place rounds of meetings discussing multiple ways, and there were more people than the four leaders. Zulfi Bukhari was also a part of these meetings.
Back home, in his talk show, anchorperson Hamid Mir revealed that the real target of the London plan was to help General Pervez Musharraf escape the clutches of Article 6. A street agitation would be launched to weaken the then sitting government and an effort would be made to weaken the government’s moral authority. The PAT wanted to launch its part of the agitation as a revolution to replace the whole system with a new system. Somehow, the then sitting government got a whiff of the plan and, consequently, on 17 June, 2014, the Punjab police conducted a crackdown on the PAT workers at the party’s headquarters (called the Model Town massacre) in Lahore taking the lives of a dozen of PAT workers.
The whole development was in the background that, on 31 March, 2014, General (retired) Pervez Musharraf was indicted for high treason by a special court for abrogating the Constitution of Pakistan on 3 November, 2007. Nevertheless, political commentators were surprised at the conjoining of the PAT and PTI which otherwise shared nothing in common. The PAT was not a political party; however, the PTI offered the PAT a political cover.
In July, in Lahore, both Khan and Dr. Qadri reiterated their resolve to launch a synchronized march towards Islamabad. There were certain background contacts including Sheikh Rashid of the Awami Muslim League (AML). On 14 August, 2014, the Azadi (independence) march towards Islamabad began. In Gujranwala, on their way to Islamabad (from Lahore), from atop the truck, Rashid pleaded publicly to the army to intervene. In Islamabad, Khan repeatedly referred to the “third umpire” to raise its finger in the favour of the PAT-PTI duo. The then sitting government leaked certain reports revealing the tapped recordings of the telephone calls of the then DG ISI chief Lt. General Zaheer ul Islam giving instructions to the agitators on how to act. There were also reports that the former DG ISI Lt. General (retired) Shuja Pasha was also active in meetings with the PTI leaders. Nevertheless, the major strategy of the plan was to stop the sitting government from performing its day-to-day functions.
On August 30, to the street agitation, the Islamabad police responded coercively. On 31 August, 2014, a corps commander’s conference was convened in a hurry at the conclusion of which the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) issued a press release asking the then sitting government to be lenient towards the agitators. On 1 September, 2014, while hearing the plea against the extra-constitutional act, the bench of the Supreme Court asked advocate Hamid Khan to apprise the court “what kind of suo motu should be taken” to resolve the crisis after the full court could become the “final mediator”. This was the time when a veteran politician Javed Hashmi (who was the president of the PTI) became sure of the beginning of the end of the then sitting government. Consequently, in the evening of the same day (September 1), Hashmi conducted a press conference in front of the parliament and said that there was a nexus between the army and the higher judiciary to introduce a judicial martial law in Pakistan. Hashmi also said that the PAT-PTI movement was a “hijacked movement” by “non-democratic forces” who wanted to meet their own objective. Interestingly, in response to his widely reported press conference, neither did the ISPR issue any denial statement nor the Supreme Court took any suo motu notice. Hashmi denigrated both the higher judiciary and the army, which are still struggling to exonerate their names from political maneuvering.
Hashmi’s press conference alerted all the parties concerned. The parliament was in session (to forestall any judicial martial law) and became grateful to Hashmi for uttering the words for its life and legitimacy. In the wake of Hashmi’s press conference, leaders of both PTI and PAT refrained from mentioning the “third umpire” publicly, whereas leaders of the PML-Q issued statements against the army. The main players of the London plan became defensive and tried to prove their disassociation from both the higher judiciary and the army even by condemning these institutions publicly.
Though the Peshawar school massacre on 16 December, 2014, forced the PTI to end its agitation, the London Plan became successful in weakening the then sitting government and consequently getting General (retired) Musharraf released from the clutches of the judiciary on 18 March, 2016. Nevertheless, whatever premonition Hashmi uttered in his press conference (on September 1) proved true later on, though under a different context called the Panama leaks.
From the academic perspective, the whole episode is a case study, which reveals the way politicians make compromises on democratic principles and get ready to play in the hands of non-democratic forces just for the sake of getting their share in power. Secondly, the whole episode also indicates that the dream of seeing democracy in full swing in Pakistan still stands frustrated.