ISLAMABAD: Supreme Court lawyer and human rights activist Asma Jahangir has called for a probe by a parliamentary committee to ascertain as to who was behind the recent Faizabad sit-in and from where a new lot came despite a successful operation against religious activists.

Speaking at a press conference after a meeting organised by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) at a hotel here on Saturday, she said: “We don’t want a judicial commission on it and demand that only a parliamentary committee should investigate the matter.”

The HRCP meeting was held to finalise recommendations on possible strategies to protect places of religious significance against faith-based violence.

“We need to know how the army became a guarantor during the agreement between the government and protesters. Why money was distributed among the protesters,” she said. “The parliamentary committee should see how people reached Islamabad and who brought them,” she said.

On Nov 25, an operation was started by thousands of personnel of law enforcement agencies against the activists of a religious group who were demanding resignation of then law minister Zahid Hamid. Police removed the protesters in the morning, but later a new lot reached there and occupied the Faizabad interchange.

Ms Jahangir claimed that every department and institution, such as the opposition, economics and Foreign Office, were being influenced by the same people who were playing a role in issues of Balochistan and Fata. “The government and civil society have become hostage,” she said, adding: “Militarisation of politics has been started in Pakistan.”

The lawyer said that by the Faizabad sit-in a message had been conveyed that the powers that be had every kind of groups for waging proxy wars. “It has politicians, lawyers and even those groups who can do politics in the name of religion. Unfortunately political parties have surrendered.”

The rights activist claimed that even on the issue of Fata reforms, the same powerful people had taken a lead role. “If politicians cannot control the situation, they should call out the masses,” she suggested.

While talking about a negative impact on society because of such interference, she said that religious intolerance had been increasing, especially after the Faizabad sit-in, as now people had been deciding who was a good Muslim and who was not.

Ms Jahangir said the civil society had taken an initiative in Karachi and started a signature campaign for rights, but political parties had surrendered and some of the politicians had admitted that in parliament things were controlled. “A charter of civil society will be made after consultation with the media, chambers of commerce and other stakeholders,” she said.

“Pakistan can develop only under a democratic system. Moreover, the judiciary should give justice rather than becoming involved in political balancing acts. The judiciary should not look at political cases in a political way,” Ms Jahangir said.

In reply to a question, she said ‘encroachments’ would not be accepted without resistance because whenever a dictatorship came in Pakistan it took 20 years to bring the country back on track. Even in parliament there was censorship and politicians faced threats, she regretted.

“We have also requested politicians to speak up, but we cannot keep silent just because they are not ready to speak against those who are hatching conspiracies,” she said.

In reply to a question that the PPP, PTI and PSP had been showing solidarity with Dr Tahirul Qadri and he might hold a sit-in in Islamabad, Ms Jahangir said that Mr Qadri had become Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan.

“Politicians should draw a red line and need to understand what is right and what is wrong,” she said.

Renowned rights activist I.A. Rehman said that civil society wanted that all political parties should sit together and give a message to all institutions that they should work in their domain. “No one has the right to encroach upon the domain of other department. The executive cannot look into the affairs of the judiciary and the judiciary should not look into the issues of the executive,” he said.

“I suggest that all political parties should play their collective role for democracy and if there is any hurdle or difference of opinion, civil society can provide them a platform,” he said.

Published in Dawn, December 17th, 2017