After some initial political hiccups, the Imran Khan government has passed the acid test last week when it handled the countrywide protests of religious parties wisely and successfully negotiated an agreement with the protest leaders. The previous government had allowed a similar situation to go on for weeks, devastating the capital and destroying public and private property before coming to an agreement with almost the same mullahs. That agreement at that time had been welcomed as a relief to the situation when the capital city of this country had become almost ungovernable. This time though the five-point agreement reached was blamed in national and western media as ‘caving into the mullahs’; a close look at the points of agreement suggests otherwise.
A mother of five, Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman who had been accused of blasphemy by the Imam of the village mosque based on the hearsay of some Muslim village women, had stayed in jail for nine years before the judicial process reached the Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan. On Wednesday last the verdict of the previous court was revised by the SC and in his judgment, the learned judge showed that there was insufficient proof for the accusation which made capital punishment impossible. The normal judicial process has one more step that can be taken within a certain period of time: the review of the SC verdict. Only after that, the process is complete and the verdict final. Since then the review petition has been submitted to the SC.
Blasphemy is a touchy issue in Pakistan and the case of Aasia Bibi has already cost the life of former Governor Punjab Salman Taseer and that of minority minister Shahbaz Bhatti, both of whom tried to intervene on her behalf. Thus the verdict acquitting Aasia Bibi created a hype among the mullahs that she would be flown out of the country surreptitiously and be out of reach when the SC review removed her acquittal. Two of the five points of the agreement reached between the government and the protesters say nothing more than that: One, the judicial process will be allowed to go its due course and two, until that Aasia will not be allowed to leave the country and be put on the Exit Control List. The rest stipulates that the protests will end, protesters be released, apologies will be rendered to who have been unnecessarily hurt.
How has the government ‘caved in’ to the protesters? This is an absolute lie. Keeping Aasia in Pakistan is also part of the ‘due process’ demand because what use would be a review petition with the defendant out of the country? Do the western and Pakistani critics suggest that due process should not have been allowed? Or should a massacre have been staged by the army and police so as to kill whosoever protests?
Imran Khan government has acted prudently which led to the de-escalation of the situation. After the primary danger is gone now the police are getting hold of those miscreants that were seen (and filmed or photographed) while going on a rampage and destroying property. This again is a very well thought out and implemented the strategy. While protesting may be a right, hooliganism is certainly not.
The actual problem is that the loopholes of the blasphemy law allow it to be misused. The subcontinent did not have a blasphemy law until the British introduced it in 1860 in the course of their ‘civilizing mission’. The current law was enacted during the rule of Gen Ziaul Haq at a time when the war of the mujahideen in Afghanistan was raging and jihadi interpretations of Islam were ‘en vogue’. Since then subsequent governments and parliamentarians have been trying to change the law so that it should at least not be misused but without success. Every time any such attempt was made it would be met with hue and cry by the custodians of Islam who pretend to know the “Truth” with a capital T. It will take not only time but real effort to get rid of the left-overs of jihadi ideology.
Islam is not complete without respect for the Book and the Prophet of Islam but what would the Prophet himself say about our blasphemy law? We all know the story that relates how the Prophet was insulted and garbage was thrown at him every time when he passed the house of a woman. He never resented that or commented on it. One day he passed by her house but she was not there. He inquired about her and got to know that she was unwell. He went to see her asking if he could do anything for her betterment by which action the woman was so ashamed and impressed that she adopted Islam. How far have we removed ourselves from the piety and forgiveness of the Prophet of Islam – especially those who insist on the hanging of a woman whose guilt is based on secondary evidence and hearsay!
There are some other issues needing attention. The first is the video circulating on the social media showing the nephew of PML (N) MNA Mian Javed Latif from Sheikhupura carrying out the burning of vehicles on the Lahore-Islamabad Motorway between Kala Shah Kaku and Sukheke reportedly under the control and supervision of Mian Munawar Latif, brother of Mian Javed Latif. First, we must ascertain if this was an individual act or a party diktat, it should then be dealt with an iron hand. The deliberate act of arson and looting by political party activists cannot be tolerated in a democracy.
The other issue is far more important to gloss over. Accusing the Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa of being a Qadiani, therefore a non-Muslim, the leader of the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) called on the Army rank and file to revolt against him! This is not only “mutiny” but he also urged for the assassination of the three Supreme Court justices. How in God’s name was the Army and the COAS involved in any aspect in this matter? Bringing the Army Chief into the equation suggests enemy interests behind the protest that are interested in dragging the Pakistan Army into an internal conflict. This is the pure and simple use of “color revolution” to incite the mob in a motivated direction, this is the execution of a prime facet of hybrid warfare. False flag operations, misinformation, incitement of people to rioting and revolt are means of hybrid warfare that is increasingly waged in our country as well. Hybrid warfare disseminates a false information for the enemy’s motivated reasons. Without any doubt, the TLP Chief is guilty of high treason. Fortunately, the protests ended without army involvement. We cannot afford to ignore this, doing so would be at peril for the existence of our country.
The writer is a defense and security analyst