NationalVOLUME 15 ISSUE # 07

Maulana Fazl’s offensive

Maulana Fazlur Rahman may have risen to prominence through his so-called “Azadi” March but he has pushed himself to threats which could end his role in national politics forever.
Though his open agenda is to force Prime Minister Imran Khan to resign and announce fresh elections, yet he has not spared any effort to malign the national institutions. The Indian media is covering his march keenly, because it too is annoyed with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan who has raised the Kashmir issue at international level vociferously. According to analysts, Fazlur Rahman wants to break the “partnership” between Prime Minister Imran Khan and Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa. He thinks political space for him will continue to shrink in their tenure. He cannot ask for the Army Chief’s resignation, so he demands Prime Minister Imran Khan to step down, dissolve assemblies and announce fresh elections. Even if Imran Khan steps down and holds snap elections, Fazl cannot win and become the prime minister of Pakistan.
Maulana Fazl’s agitation has not altered the political landscape of the country, though he is leading the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party, the two mainstream political parties, which are playing second fiddle to him. The march aims to settle his personal vendetta with Prime Minister Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) party, which have almost eliminated his party from its traditional strongholds in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).
Undoubtedly, it is his democratic right to protest against the government and ask the prime minister to step down. However, the way he is trying to malign the Pakistan Army he is only serving the purpose of enemies of Pakistan. The army had to respond to his rants thrice in a week. Reacting to his speech in Islamabad in which he asked “unnamed” institutions to act impartially, the military came with a strong response, telling the JUI-F chief and opposition parties that the army was an impartial institution and it supported the democratically elected government. In his speech, Maulana Fazl had told the Azadi march, “We do not desire a clash with the institutions” and expected them to be “impartial”. Later in the night, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Maj-Gen Asif Ghafoor joined the special transmission of ARY News over the phone and said, “Fazlur Rahman is a seasoned politician, first he should be asked which institution he was talking about. “Is he referring to the Election Commission of Pakistan, judiciary or army?” “If he was referring to the army, the opposition should understand that the army is an impartial organisation. We believe in the rule of the law and the Constitution. Our support is not for one party but democratically elected governments,” he said.
The ISPR chief said if the opposition had complaints about the transparency of the July 25, 2018, general elections and was “dragging the army” into politics because of it, then it should keep it in mind that the army had fulfilled its constitutional and legal responsibility. He asked the opposition parties to lodge their complaints with institutions concerned as street protest would not solve issues. He declared that there was no point in levelling allegations against the army. He said that no one would be allowed to disturb peace in the country.
Few days later, the military’s top brass expressed the resolve to continue supporting national institutions “as and when asked”. A Corps Commanders Conference, presided over by Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, pledged the Pakistan Army’s continued support to national institutions as and when asked as per the Constitution. The commanders expressed their firm resolve to defend the country against the full spectrum of threat. “We have attained better internal security and stability through cohesive national efforts and sacrifices rendered by the Pakistan Armed Forces, all national institutions and above all, the nation. We shall not let it reverse to suit any vested agenda at any cost,” the Army Chief said. The military’s statement came days after opposition leaders, including JUI-F chief Fazlur Rahman and PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif alleged the ruling PTI had undue support from “institutions.” The army also indicated that it had no issues with not getting a role in holding of elections in the country in the future. Taking part in a talk show on a private channel, army spokesman Maj-Gen Asif Ghafoor said that Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa had already proposed to political leaders to devise a system and create an environment that could end the military’s role in elections. He was reacting to Fazl’s demand that army men should not be deployed inside or outside polling stations during an election. Fazl’s demand is only aimed at maligning the army as he fully understands that elections are not possible in Pakistan without a security cover by the army. The army does not take responsibility at polling stations at its own. The civil administration calls it to maintain peace.
It is strange that Fazl had also alleged massive rigging in the 2008 and 2013 elections but accepted their results happily because he was offered a role in the government by the PPP and the PML-N. He also contested the presidential election after the 2013 election and resorted to agitation when he failed to claw back into the power corridors.
Some analysts believe Fazl is acting on an offensive policy against the establishment to extract some space for himself and other opposition parties. Some retired army officers claim Fazl has received funds from Indian and Afghan intelligence agencies to create unrest in Pakistan through protests. They say the foreign agencies can target him after failure of their plan.