ISLAMABAD: Leaders from across the political spectrum on Sunday unanimously called on state institutions, including the military and the judiciary, to stay out of politics and allow democracy to take root in the country.
The rare gathering of key leaders from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) and the Awami National Party (ANP), who came together for the launch of veteran politician Makhdoom Javed Hashmi’s third book, expressed concern over recent events in the country, where religion was used to whip up political sentiment.
“I ask all political parties, rightist or leftist, to beware of renewed efforts to use religion for the advancement of political agendas,” said Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani.
The recent sit-ins by religious groups, he said, were “unconstitutional” since they violated Article 256 of the Constitution, which states that no one could raise a private army.
He said statements by law enforcement personnel that protesters were carrying the latest weapons should serve as an eye-opener for the state, which had done nothing to prevent the situation.
Leaders voice concern over use of religion to whip up sentiments
“The protesters did not merely challenge the writ of the state, they eliminated the writ of the state,” he maintained, adding that any confrontation among state institutions would be detrimental for the federation.
This sentiment was echoed by ANP’s Afrasiab Khattak, who termed the Faizabad sit-in a “revolt against the state”. Expressing concern over the historic role of the military and the judiciary in the country’s political system, he said it seemed that a “judicial-isation of politics” was now under way.
Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique deplored what he termed the “unjust maligning” of politicians in a country where democracy had yet to become fully functional.
“Why can’t a chief justice or the army chief be wrong? Why is the prime minister always the one at fault?” Mr Rafique asked, referring to the way nearly all elected prime ministers in the country’s history were forced into unceremonious exits.
The nation must realise the difference between an army’s professional and political role, adding that a country’s army should not be controversial.
“If a political party fails, another one replaces it. But what will happen if the army fails? Who will replace it?” the minister asked.
The firebrand orator from the ruling party predicted that political parties formed through “engineering” could not survive, adding that parties such as Pak Sarzameen had no future.
Climate Change Minister Mushahidullah Khan told the audience he was abroad when protesters were staging the Faizabad sit-in, and was perturbed to see foreign media reports saying that Pakistan was a failed state and did not deserve to possess nuclear weapons.
Mr Hashmi, an out-spoken critic of military intervention in politics, also criticised the role of the armed forces and the judiciary in the country’s political arena. He expressed concern over the army’s role in dealing with the Faizabad protesters, saying that seeing “a general distributing Rs1,000 each among protesters and calling them ‘our own people” was beyond belief.
He said that politicians always respected court decisions, but generals never did. He also regretted that the government was unable to try retired Gen Pervez Musharraf under Article 6, despite the fact that he had violated the Constitution.
Mr Hashmi said the military believed that those who agreed with them were ‘patriots’, while those opposing their political role were ‘traitors’. Saying that Pakistan had entered a decisive phase in its history, he predicted that: “Either parliament will get the right to rule or nothing will be left in the country”.
In his speech, Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani also called for reviving student and trade unions, which were banned across the country during the military regime of Gen Ziaul Haq in the 1980s. He said the ban had been imposed because the military leadership knew that people from student and trade unions, alongside intellectuals, created an “alternative paradigm” that could challenge martial laws.
He regretted that, in the past, student unions affiliated with progressive political parties were banned, whereas extremist organisations were allowed to continue their activities on campuses.
Talking about his book, Zinda Tareekh (Living History), Mr Hashmi said it was compiled from the entries in his daily journal, which he would write when he was in jail under the Musharraf regime.
He also narrated how he was tortured in prison and how he was denied bail by then-chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry on one pretext or the other.
JI’s Aisha Syed also paid tribute to Mr Hashmi’s struggle and sacrifices for the cause of democracy in the country.
Published in Dawn, December 4th, 2017