A law enforcement, administrative failure

Published November 26, 2017
Teargas shells rain down on the protest site in Islamabad on Saturday. — Photo by Tanveer Shahzad
Teargas shells rain down on the protest site in Islamabad on Saturday. — Photo by Tanveer Shahzad

ISLAMABAD: The government failed spectacularly in removing the protesters from Faizabad on Saturday, and despite using thousands of officials from law enforcement agencies, the protest site was occupied by more protesters than before hours after the ‘operation’.

For many, this proved that the halwa-eating maulvis proved better at planning a protest and putting up resistance than the law enforcement agencies and administration had anticipated.

How did this happen? This was the question everyone was asking on Saturday.

Some experts blamed the government’s delayed reaction for the chaos and instability that ensued on Saturday.

However, others felt the problem was more complicated. Retired military officer and defence analyst, retired Brig Asad Munir, attributed the government’s failure to ill-planning.

“They should have blocked all the routes to the sit-in to avoid chances of more protesters reaching the site at the time of the operation. In the morning, there were just a few hundred of them – as most people tend to go away at night and return in the morning. If supporters had been arrested as they tried to reach the sit-in on Friday morning, the situation would have been completely different,” he said.

Retired Brig Asad Munir thinks authorities should have blocked all routes to the sit-in.
Retired Brig Asad Munir thinks authorities should have blocked all routes to the sit-in.

“More important, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, the leader of the protesters, should have been arrested as early as possible by using teargas, as it is the most effective weapon against protesters,” he said.

“For such operations, law enforcement personnel in reserve should be three times as many as the men deployed; but here there was no such arrangement. Hence, once the force was exhausted, it became impossible to control the situation,” he said.

He also pointed out that political support is very important in such situations. “In Karachi, the situation is under control because MQM has supported the operation,” Mr Munir said.

Security and political analyst Imtiaz Gul told Dawn that “the state’s delay allowed the protesters to make plans for a counter-protest across the country. This is why country-wide protests were witnessed after the operation began. Due to such strong and widespread demonstrations, it has become very difficult to address the situation without involving the armed forces,” he said.

Imtiaz Gul says the state’s delay allowed the protesters to plan a counter-protest.
Imtiaz Gul says the state’s delay allowed the protesters to plan a counter-protest.

Like Munir, Mr Gul also felt that the most serious mistake was not arresting Rizvi in the morning, when there were just a few hundred participants at the sit-in. “It is strange that the law enforcement agencies focused on the workers rather than arresting the leadership,” he said.

He also felt that the electronic media should have been approached earlier and explained why it should not cover the operation. “The live coverage simply helped fuel the anger across the country and more people headed for the protest site.

In his opinion, the military had to be called in.

A former inspector general of police (IGP) who served in Islamabad, Tahir Alam Khan, felt that the operation revealed the lack of coordination between police officers and personnel.

“High-ranking officers should have led the operation, but they did not bother.

“Now, the government should first focus on controlling the protests across the country before it launches another operation to clear Faizabad,” he said.

Published in Dawn, November 26th, 2017

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