Yet another debacle at D-Chowk?

Spearhead Analysis – 07.04.2016

By Saad Sohail
Research Analyst, Spearhead Research

Islamabad-Red-ZoneThe Government held successful negotiations with the demonstrators on Wednesday, prompting protest leaders to declare an end to their sit-in in the high security Red Zone that they had held under siege for four days in a row. The press conference by the Interior Minister Ch. Nisar Ali Khan announcing an end to the sit-in also put an end to all the rumors and speculations that had started to surface regarding the looming threat of a clash between the protesters and the law enforcement agencies.

The red zone in Islamabad is considered as the most sanctimonious place symbolizing that with places such as the Parliament, Supreme Court, Prime Minister House and even the diplomatic enclave. The area is a no-go zone or at least was perceived to be a few years back, the constant sit-ins and protests at the D-Chowk are an appalling indicator of the incompetence of the Government to deal with agitation. It has not been long since the Government reinstated peace and civility back to the Red Zone after the Imran-Qadri sit-in which continued for a total of 126 days. The recent protest by the pro Qadri supporters raises serious questions on the capability of the government to maintain the writ in the constitutional heart of the state.

The Interior Ministry despite being well informed regarding the imminent advancement of the restless pro Qadri supporters on Sunday was unable to provide any sort of resistance to their march towards the capital. The entry of these supporters coupled with a baggage of religiously motivated demands they carried, signified a precarious precedent which is now being set. The sit-in sends out a message to all the violent mobs, outlaws and miscreants that all they need are a couple of thousand like minded people to create havoc among the government ranks. The people of Islamabad had to face the brunt of the situation as the mobile connectivity was suspended for three days and they were also left confined to their households. What’s more troublesome is the involvement of people who despite being on the Fourth Schedule of Anti-Terrorism Act for over a year still made their way to the capital unhindered. If the lack of vision and strategy wasn’t enough for us to pull out our hair, the government successfully managed to give us more reasons to ponder upon their decision to have the army have a faceoff with the public. This is always detrimental not only for the institution of army but also significantly undermines the role of Police and other law enforcing agencies.

As a local resident, as a law abiding citizen and as a patriotic Pakistani there are many questions that crop up in one’s mind and are usually left unanswered after any such debacle at the D (Debacle) Chowk.

  • Were the government and law enforcement agencies too incompetent to devise a strategy to resist that march despite being notified of it? Or were they too nonchalant to never consider the possibility of this escalating to such an extent?
  • Is suspending mobile connectivity and restricting freedom of movement an easy fix to problems like religious fanaticism and rampant extremism within the society?
  • Why is the government too scared of taking ownership of their country’s due process?
  • Is the free movement of charged and accused miscreants part of the so called ‘National Action Plan’?
  • Whether the verbal acceptance of the demands put forward by the protestors makes their sit-in any less illegitimate?

The notion that government strategically fizzled out this situation by acting calmly and buying out their time cannot cloak the numerous What’s and Why’s that any citizen has. This notion can also not be commended especially after looking at the despair the local residents had to go through and also the destruction of infrastructure in the amounts of nearly Rs150 million. Even if we are said to accept the perceived notion that government was successful in articulating a patient strategy in averting any major loss of life, the cost incurred by the state and the people of Pakistan is way too much for it to outweigh such fabricated benefits.