ISLAMABAD: Senators from both sides of the aisle called on Thursday for judicial or parliamentary probe to solve the mystery behind the recent Faizabad sit-in and matters associated with it.

They were speaking on an adjournment motion about “the situation arising out of the manner in which the recent sit-in at Faizabad was called off culminating into abject surrender of the rule of law and constitutionally established government before a mob”.

The senators were of the view that the level at which the decision to distribute money among those who had challenged the writ of the state had been taken should be ascertained besides discovering as to who had financed the protesters.

Farhatullah Babar of the Pakistan Peoples Party described the agreement under which the sit-in had been called off as ‘a one-page national document of surrender’ that set up a dangerous template to hold state and society hostage by a gun-and-stick wielding mob of a few hundred.

Adjournment motion deplores ‘abject surrender of the rule of law’

“On that day something profound happened and Pakistan ceased to be the country that was before,” he remarked. The state surrender on Nov 25 before the mob will only give additional handle to our adversaries to claim that nuclear assets were unsafe and could be hijacked by a few thousand armed people, he added.

Read: Terms of agreement with Faizabad protesters 'cannot be legally justified', says IHC

Mr Babar lamented that the stage for surrender was set by a statement on the eve of operation that seemed to equate the legitimately elected government with the unruly mob.

Referring to the army chief’s statement soon after the police action, he said: “By calling for no violence from either side, equal legitimacy was conferred on legal state institutions and the mob. It is inconceivable to engage in operation like Raddul Fasad without the state using violence. The question before us is whether we accept defeat for all times or we take it as one of the low points in our history, overcome it and move on.”

He said it needed to be probed as to how the protesters came all the way from Lahore unhindered, how they were sustained for three weeks, who negotiated the terms of surrender and why some appeared to be rewarded with cash at the end of the sit-in.

“It also needs to be investigated whether it was an isolated incident or the strange events of the past weeks in Karachi, Islamabad, Faizabad and in Lahore were interconnected in some ways,” the PPP senator said.

Usman Kakar of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) said the protesters came from Lahore to Islamabad under a plan, with a clear target of imposition of martial law or putting in place government of technocrats. He said the Rawalpindi police did not cooperate in dispersing the mob.

Saud Majeed of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz said the political parties working to weaken democracy should be identified. He also said a parliamentary committee should find out the hidden hand behind the sit-in.

Nihal Hashmi of the same party called for bringing the culture of sit-ins to an end and observed that a commission should be formed to probe the sit-ins staged since 2013.

The Senate chairman remarked that a loud and clear message should be sent across from parliament that religion should not be used for advancement of political agenda.

Rehman Malik of the PPP said the absence of rule of law and weak governance provided room for sit-ins and terrorism, and underlined the need for soul-searching. He wondered as to why the Punjab chief minister had restrained the provincial police from assisting the Islamabad police. He said even those whose names were there on the Fourth Schedule came and joined the sit-in.

Azam Moosakhel of the PkMAP said the government committed a blunder by calling in the army in aid of civil administration to get the mob dispersed.

Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Aitzaz Ahsan said the sit-in was unique as a religious matter formed the basis for it. He said the social media exposed the language used by those claiming to be religious leaders. He said the government kept on saying that a conspiracy was being hatched against it, but stopped short of naming the conspirator. He said the government was conceding civilian space for which a lot of sacrifices had been rendered by his party.

He asked why an official plane had been used for a private meeting in London.

Ghous Mohammad Niazi of the PML-N said there should be a probe into the remarks made by a judge about the sit-in and if these were found to be true, those responsible should be punished.

Rubina Irfan of the PML-Quaid said it was the failure of the government that a mob was allowed to enter the capital. “This government has failed and failed very badly. They should gracefully resign.” She said they claimed to be democratic but they were not. She criticised the PML-N leadership for what she called politics of inheritance.

Delimitation law

Aitzaz Ahsan expressed the hope for a breakthrough on the issue of delimitation law at a meeting of the parliamentary party leaders convened by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Friday.

“We will go there with an open and positive mind, but the government will also have to show some flexibility,” he remarked. Observing that the prime minister has a flexible attitude, he hoped that something good will come out.

Published in Dawn, December 15th, 2017