A day after the government decided to call out the army to “secure the federal capital against possible terror attacks”, the second largest opposition party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), warned that it could challenge what it calls a ‘dangerous tactic’ in the Supreme Court.
The government decided on Friday to invoke Article 245 of the Constitution to “requisition the army at the Islamabad Capital Territory to pre-empt any possible blowback of Operation Zarb-e-Azb.” But critics say this is just another underhand way to thwart the upcoming rallies of opposition parties, especially PTI’s ‘Azadi March’ scheduled for August 14.
The PTI Core Committee, the top decision-making body of the party, met on Saturday to deliberate on the government decision.
“The Core Committee stated that it will not, under any circumstances, accept the PML-N government’s decision to invoke Article 245 and call in the army in support of the federal government in Islamabad,” said the PTI information secretary, Dr. Shireen Mazari, in a statement following the meeting.
Rumours were making rounds in the morning that the government was rethinking its decision of calling out the army for the security of Islamabad – a move that was also opposed by the largest opposition group, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), on Friday.
“It’s realpolitik if the government has withdrawn its decision [to invoked Article 245],” Dr. Mazari said. “A democratic government doesn’t resort to Article 245 as it effectively signals an admission of failure to govern and maintain law and order,” she added in the statement.
While the nation is very clear that the ruling party has failed on all fronts, the invocation of Article 245 by the government is a direct admission of its failure, Dr. Mazari said. It also clearly indicates that the PML-N government is, in desperation, trying to hide its rigging in the May 2013 elections and PTI’s expose of the same, she added.
The Core Committee said if the PML-N government was seeking to place the ‘Azadi March’ in direct confrontation with the army, then this was a ‘dangerous but futile tactic’ because the PTI has always had a culture of peaceful protests and marches.
The committee said it was ‘unethical and unacceptable’ for the PML-N government to try and draw in the army into a democratic political protest march. “The army is a national institution, not a tool for the PML-N to use against its political opponents,” it added.
Dr. Mazari said that if the government invokes Article 245 to sabotage the ‘Azadi March’, then the PTI reserves the right to challenge it in the Supreme Court. The Core Committee also pointed out that the PML-N had staged a ‘Long March’ for the reinstatement of superior court judges just before the Swat operation in 2009.
At that time the PML-N had claimed that it was their democratic right – and the then government had not invoked Article 245.
The Core Committee also unanimously passed a resolution wherein the party reiterated that time for negotiation on four constituencies was over. The party claims that the 2013 elections were massively rigged in favour of the PML-N and initially demanded re-verification of voters in four constituencies.
“We have spent over a year seeking justice through election tribunals and the courts, including the Supreme Court, with no response,” the resolution reads. ”We sought to work through parliament also but the committee formed to examine electoral rigging was dismantled by the PML-N after two meetings.”
The Core Committee stated that the party also called for the constitution of a judicial committee to examine the four constituencies through voters’ verification within a period of two weeks but again there was a stony silence. “Now the time for such approaches is over. The decisions will be made after the Azadi March arrives in Islamabad,” it added.
The Core Committee said any party willing to support PTI’s democratic and constitutional agenda would be welcome to join the ‘Azadi March’. “For this purpose, we will approach all likeminded parties prepared to use constitutional means to achieve our democratic agenda,” it stated.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 27th, 2014.