Mysterious banners urging COAS to take over put up across country

Published July 12, 2016
PESHAWAR: Banners carrying a message for Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif displayed on the Arbab Sikander Khan Khalil flyover. Such banners are mounted also in different parts of the provincial capital, including the Cantonment area, by a little-known political party, Move on Pakistan.—Abdul Majeed Goraya / White Star
PESHAWAR: Banners carrying a message for Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif displayed on the Arbab Sikander Khan Khalil flyover. Such banners are mounted also in different parts of the provincial capital, including the Cantonment area, by a little-known political party, Move on Pakistan.—Abdul Majeed Goraya / White Star

ISLAMABAD/KARACHI/PESHAWAR: A little-known political party of Punjab put up banners in 13 cities across the country on Monday with its leaders urging Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif to impose martial law and form a government of technocrats.

The banners have been put up in Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar, Quetta, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, Sargodha, Hyderabad, etc, by the Move on Pakistan party and unlike its earlier campaign requesting the army chief to reconsider his retirement plan due in November the message is quite ominous this time around.

A banner hanging at a traffic intersection on the thoroughfare between Chief Minister House and the Rangers headquarters in Karachi reads: Janay ki baatain hui puraani, Khuda k liye ab ajao (Talks of leaving are now old; for God’s sake now come).

Read: Banners requesting COAS to stay removed in Rawalpindi

Ali Hashmi, the central chief organiser of the party, told Dawn that the goal of their campaign was to suggest to the army chief that after imposing martial law a government of technocrats should be made in Pakistan and Gen Raheel should himself supervise it.

While the official mouthpiece of the army — the Inter-Services Public Relations — remained silent, analyst Amir Rana believed that the latest move strengthened the view that something was cooking up.

Interestingly, the banners sprang up overnight on all major thoroughfares in the 13 cities, even in cantonment areas, despite the presence of several checkpoints and extra security.

Mr Hashmi claimed that his party’s banners were removed in Lahore and Faisalabad in the morning.

The Move on Pakistan party — which has little grass-root support — has been registered with the Election Commission of Pakistan for the past three years and a Faisalabad-based businessman, Mohammad Kamran, is its chairman. He runs a number of schools and ‘businesses’ in Faisalabad, Sargodha and Lahore.

The party came into the spotlight in February when it put up posters and banners across the country asking the army chief not to retire and “help in eradicating terrorism and corruption”.

Though five months back the party maintained that it was not inviting the army to take over, this time it said that “there is no choice but to enforce martial law and form a government of technocrats”.

Mr Hashmi said that the absence of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from the country for more than 40 days proved that there was no need of a political government. “Those who have been running the country will keep running it.”

Regarding his future plans, he said: “We have been considering holding rallies from Faisalabad to Lahore and Karachi to Sukkur in the second phase to convince the army chief that he should intervene for the betterment of the country and nation.”

Analyst Rana said that there could be some forces behind the persons responsible for the latest campaign.

“Some elements always remain ready to find ways to come close to the armed forces and make an alliance with the establishment,” he said, adding: “Although a change cannot be brought with such moves, it strengthens the doubt that something is going on.”

The issue was widely discussed on TV talk shows and on the social media.

The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, however, was cautious in making any comment.

At a private TV programme, Minister of State for Privatisation Mohammad Zubair said that the army chief had already expressed his intention that he would not seek an extension in his tenure. “He [Gen Raheel] is the head of a great institution. I’m sure the person who will replace him will be equally professional and competent.”

He said that only legal experts could say what action be taken against those putting up such banners and posters.

Pakistan Peoples Party leader and Adviser to the Sindh Chief Minister on Information Maula Bux Chandio said in a press talk that Gen Raheel would take a decision in the best national interest.

He, however, asked the army chief not to pay any heed towards the advice or suggestions of sycophants.

Meanwhile, when asked whether the inscription on the banners amounted to sedition, a Peshawar police official said in a lighter vein that the message on the banners was vague and the organiser of the party might be asking the army chief to come to Peshawar.

Published in Dawn, July 12th, 2016

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