Our newspaper has reported that after buckling under relentless pressure, the government sent its information minister packing as preliminary investigations established a lapse on his part vis-à-vis a planted news story about a top level huddle on national security.
Senator Pervaiz Rashid’s sacking came barely 48 hours after an unusual meeting of senior government functionaries with army chief General Raheel Sharif at the Army House, according to our paper’s report.
Following Rashid’s sacking, there were reports that Principal Information Officer Rao Tehsin Ali Khan has also been removed from his office and made officer on special duty (OSD). There was no official confirmation, though.
On Sunday, interior minister Chaudhry Nisar confirmed that Rashid was sent home after a lapse and not on suspicion of actually leaking the story.
If we listen to the experts on different news channels, it is clear that more heads will roll. A number of names are being mentioned. These developments come in the backdrop of the November 2 dharna that Imran Khan and his supporters plan to start in Islamabad.
These developments come at a time when Pakistan’s relations with India are at an all time low, with residents along the LoC as well as the working boundary being targeted by cross border firing on an almost daily basis.
The Nawaz Sharif government argues that this is not the time for political tamashas. It says that the situation on the border is dire and at the same time, we are now reaching a crucial phase in our war against terrorism. A recent attack on a police training centre in Quetta which led to the death of over 60 innocent cadets proves the fragility of the situation. In between we have seen successive sectarian attacks by militant outfits.
While the government insists that its decision to restrict PTI supporters from arriving in Islamabad is justified, we see Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), a proscribed group, holding a rally in the heart of Islamabad.
ASWJ comfortably held its annual conference a day after PTI workers were attacked, provoking many to accuse the government of double standards. Hafiz Uneeb Farooqui, a spokesman for the ASWJ Islamabad chapter told the media that the programme was a traditional conference similar to the gatherings and processions related to Muharram. “Therefore, the restriction of Section 144 does not apply to us.”
The Islamabad High Court (IHC) last week had ordered the capital administration not to place any containers or block roads during the PTI’s scheduled lockdown of Islamabad on November 2. Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, while hearing the case, directed the capital city administration to ensure smooth running of daily business in Islamabad on Nov 2.
At the same time, the court also said that the administration should ensure that hospitals, schools and markets remain open on the day and no containers are placed to block roads.
The million dollar question is - what next? What does this week hold for us. The government is on the defensive. In 2014, most mainstream political parties had stood by the PML-N. This time round, no such alliance is in place.
The role of religious parties and their proxies is important. Some religious parties and groups are aligning themselves with the PTI. This brings street power to Imran Khan and his party workers. But the PTI should be wary of this. In the past, such parties have hijacked the agenda.
For its part, the government is trying to woo the same parties. Nawaz Sharif’s priorities to implement the National Action Plan (NAP) on Counter-Terrorism, which he announced after the Peshawar APS attacks, is under question.
Nisar met with a delegation of Difa-e-Pakistan Council this week to win them over. The purpose of the meeting was to allay concerns of the DPC which is holding a rally in Islamabad on November 28.
The DPC has remained critical in the past of the US policies towards Pakistan as well as Pakistan’s free-trade policy with India. What is ironic is that the PML-N had earlier criticised Imran Khan for supporting Madrassa Haqqania. And now it is supporting the same players.
An action-packed week seems to be in store for us. Let us hope the ultimate victor of any such situation is our country – Pakistan, and not any one
person or party.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 31st, 2016.
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