Islamabad’s nervousness

More than a month of protests has failed to dampen the spirits of anti-government campaigners in Islamabad.

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Published: Mon 15 Sep 2014, 8:29 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 9:45 PM

The standoff goes on as cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and an anti-Taleban cleric Dr Tahirul Qadri are determined to stay put in the federal capital despite all odds until they compel Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign. This is unprecedented in Pakistan politics, where governments were either overthrown by the powerful military or were sent packing under special constitutional provisions by the head of state.

Irrespective of the fact that the protesters in Islamabad, believed to be in thousands at any given time, are in shabby conditions of lifestyle with almost no civic amenities like water, toilets and proper food, they want to ensure that they are heard. At a stone throw distance from Parliament House, the commoners of Pakistan under the leadership of Khan and Qadri have extensively questioned — and to a great extent challenged — the writ and legitimacy of the embattled government. What they are asking for is too legitimate and lawful to be ignored for a long time, and their agenda can’t be put on the back burner.

First, they want to bring to book the killer of June 17 incident, in which Punjab Police point blank fired on unarmed people in Lahore. Second, they want proper lawful scrutiny to the allegations of electoral misconduct and rigging, which is also widely acknowledged by the ruling clique. Last but not the least, they want reforms in the electoral system and a national dispensation that should oversee evolutionary changes in the body-politick of the country. But what ails the government is their prerequisite of prime minister’s resignation, which has acted like the cart being put before the horse.

Each passing day, nonetheless, is going against the order of the day, and the Sharif administration seems clueless as to how to politically handle the crisis, which is setting in new evolutionary trends as far as educating the people on the rulers’ alleged corruption and their fundamental rights. The point that the army is keeping its fingers crossed is acting as a ray of hope for both the government and the protesters. But it is widely evident that that the military has somehow thrown its weight behind the protesters by making it categorically clear that it won’t tolerate state-sponsored violence to flush them out. Sharif is rapidly running out of time, as his options are not only drenched in floods but also in uncertainty.

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