Lt. Gen​ (R)​ Tariq​ Khan's Response to the PML-N Interior Minister, Ahsan Iqbal​ - BY: ​Lt. Gen (R) Tariq Khan​

Lt Gen(r) Tariq Khan

The honourable interior minister has found it within himself to challenge me to a TV dual after his recent display of incompetence. A shot out of the blue, a spontaneous remark, more of an outburst at the spur of the moment. With nothing to say, and very little to prove, this was his best shot under the circumstances. I am flattered that these people have found me to be their only point of reference. He too claims, I was responsible for the 2014 Dharna; an oft repeated false accusation by these morally bankrupt politicians. Organising such a Dharna by anyone is a crime and a case for high treason. The good minister while still in chair must and should pursue legal action, which he is obliged to undertake rather than making a fool of himself by his childish accusation on TV? Like a repeated clarification by a ‘dahati’ woman justifying some perceived slight, the matter is regurgitated again and again, regardless of its relevance to the occasion today. The minister, an iqama holder, and of the, ‘sort them out’, fame who promised to remove the protesters in three hours from Faizabad chowk and failed, has now found sanctuary behind the accusation that I had organised a dharna in 2014. First of all I would like the good minister to recognise that he has a lot on his plate and he would indeed be very foolish to add me to his problems. Secondly, about our TV engagement, I do not wrestle with a "donkey" (for want of a better word) it likes mud and I don’t. So good luck to you, please deal with what you must; I am the least of your worries; do remember, let sleeping dogs lie.

The government for some unexplained reason suddenly decided to amend the text of the Oath in the Constitution. An innocuous amendment leading to nothing. But the government wanted to anyway; probably because it had promised some friendly embassies that it was about to set into motion a series of changes, containing extremism and radicle Islam. That it was itself the only viable instrument to change societal intolerance and introduce a moderate and enlightened concept of ideology in Pakistan. That if removed from power the effects would be devastating to the world at large and the region in particular. That nuclear Pakistan may become a threat to the world if the PMLn was out of the saddle.

The ploy led to unintended consequences. A few mullahs, 1500 in number, travelled from Lahore to Islamabad, unobstructed and organised themselves into a credible protest at Faizabad, egged on by Safdar, the thief-in-law, who tried to make the best of a bad situation. Islamabad was paralysed, people suffered and the courts ordered the clearing of the Faizabad interchange. The protesters demanded resignations of the Law Minister, he in turn threatened to spill the beans. The government decided to support the minister; he knew too much. The minister of interior, of the ‘sort them out’ fame, bragged that it would take three hours to clear Faizabad. The police suddenly moved and just as suddenly retreated. The government discovered that it did not have the wherewithal or the will. Army was asked to takeover in indecent haste probably in keeping with the premediated design of the PMLn; neither had the police been fully deployed nor had the Rangers been employed as yet. A force of 8000 was routed by 1500 protesters. Army was now in a situation where it had to mount an operation to protect a Law Minister who was responsible for the ruckus in the first place. Damned if they did, damned if they don’t. The Army never negotiates by design, it fires for effect by the very nature of its deployment drills. Had the Army moved in under article 245 it would lead to blood shed; for some a necessary outcome but for other others an unnecessary one. The Army advised against applying article 245 and an operation by it under the article. Having secured the approval of the PM, the Army facilitated a resolution and secured the resignation of the Law Minister and dispersing the crowd using the Rangers. It chose not to ‘protect’ this government by killing the people the government claimed to govern and from who they acquired that illusive heavy mandate. Some have confused this with FATA, where the Army was fighting for the survival of the State and not the Government. FATA operations have seen three governments come and go, but the operations have remained consistent with continuity. Other scribes and critics have said that the Army should now focus on the threat within instead of India, but it was the government that publically blamed India for funding, communication and directing the protesters!!!! The government that has always projected itself as soft on India and blamed the ‘establishment’ for being a spoiler, has now suddenly found India to be the enemy but only when it was convenient to itself!!

In the meantime Justice Shaukat Saddique, of the Islamabad High Court, has vented his frustration against the Army. If the Army was working under Article 245 he should know he has no business making a reference to it since he is bound by the constitution to shut down his shop which the article was in force. If it was not article 245 under which the Army assisted, then it was a private arrangement between the government and the Army and the Army had no authority to begin an operation. But who is this good Justice? He is the younger brother of Irfan Saddique, an advisor to Nawaz Sharif, he also has the dubious distinction of representing MMA in NA 54 in the elections, his claim to fame was representing Mullah Burqa of Lal Masjid, cancelling Musharraf’s bail in the case, represented missing people against the Army and is recognised as a Mumtaz Qadri kisser and lover. He has now suddenly taken offence to the bloodless resolution to the present crisis and why not; it was not in keepings with his expectations and those of his mentors. He is currently being investigated for corruption by the Superior Judicial Council, which in itself speaks for his credentials.

The matter must be seen in its context; a crisis created by the government’s own machinations, designed to confront the protesters and the Army and must not be seen as the Army siding with the mullahs but actually avoiding a potential trap leading to terrible consequences. It was a judgment call which some people may not have liked. I do not wish to apologise for the Army action or its conduct but given that they would have known the consequences and had sufficient insight, I would prefer giving the space under which they made this decision.

What are the consequences of the event that has just unfolded before us? Possibly a precedence has been set. The mullahs may in the future try and dictate policy by mob aggression; by using the hapless citizens of this country as a tool to blackmail governments. Some people will blame the ‘Establishment’ and hold them responsible for this. The confrontation did not end according to their expectations; bloodshed and conflict between the Army and the citizens. They shall forget that it was the government that did the amendment, that it was the government that continually tried to defend its amendment, that it was the government that back tracked under pressure, that it was the government that failed to stop the protesters coming to Islamabad, that it was the government that failed to disperse the mob and did so only the orders of the court, that it was the government that tried to twist the occasion into a civil-military conflict by conniving with the mullahs and that it was the government that failed in all its machinations, intrigues and plotting. This has nothing to do with the ‘Establishment’, and just because it was resolved in the manner it did and not the way some people wanted it to, it does not make it the Establishment’s fault. It makes it a judgment call and the Establishment made that call as it found fit.

Learning from this crisis, it now makes a case for proper legislation to limit the interference of the mullah in politics, to redefine the method to protests, to protect the National Lines of Communication. Will this happen? No and it will not because instead of focusing on what we should, we shall now busy ourselves in finding cause in blaming the Army and the ‘Establishment’, in a crisis not of their making, a conduct not of their doing and a resolution to the problem not to the liking of some. So we come back to the question that at least I have been asking since a while, do we really have a government? Are the manifestos of our political parties in keeping with the ethos of State; was our State founded on the principle of a theocratic system? Is our constitution designed only to protect the government as opposed to the convention that this document actually protects the people from their government the world over. That a judicial review allows for the courts to strike down bad legislation even in countries such as Germany and other European ones. So those who feel that the Mullahs have gained ground, lets contain them democratically, lets restrain them by legislation, after all the same people say democracy is the ‘only’ way; remember you cannot have your cake and eat it at the same time. Decide what you want?

- ​Lt. Gen (R) Tariq Khan​

The difference between average people and people who achieve is their perception of and response to failure’, John C. Maxwell.

Posted on Dec 02, 17 | 11:23 pm