On October 2nd, 2017 the Federal Government of Pakistan led by Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) passed the ‘Elections Act, 2017’ bill containing a controversial amendment in the nomination paper about the finality of Prophethood (Khatm-e-Nabuwat).
In the previous bill, the nominated candidate ‘solemnly swear’ that I believe in the absolute and unqualified finality of the prophethood of Muhammad (PBUH), however in the new bill the government replaced the words “I solemnly swear” in Form-A with “I believe” in a clause relating to a candidate’s belief in the finality of the prophethood, which termed a suspected move of government to allow Qadiani’s and Ahmedi’s to hold top positions in public offices.
The said amendment sparked anxiety and stir in the country and the issue was widely debated on assembly floor and in general masses which forced federal government to restore the bill in its true form and on October 5 the National Assembly passed the Election Reforms Amendment Bill 2017. Khatm-e-Nabuwat (PBUH) is a very sensitive issue in Pakistan and whenever government made an attempt to make changes, general public and Islamic Clerks vociferously resisted against coward actions of the government. Every Muslim around the world strongly believe that prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was the last prophet of the God and the prophethood was terminated after him, and whosoever claim prophethood after Muhammad (PBUH) is a liar.
Although the bill was restored in its true form, but a tail of protests originated from Lahore by Tehreek-e-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah headed by Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi. Tehreek-e-Labaik is one of two ultra-religious political movements that have risen up in recent months. On November 8, more than 3,000 protestors camped out on the edge of the capital and paralyzed the socio-economic life of the city. The leadership of protestors demanded to sack Zahid Hamid, Minister for Law, who was accused for controversial amendment in election act 2017. Addressing emotionally charged demonstrators, Khadim Hussain Rizvi said they will not end sit-in until the government has sacked Hamid. “We will not allow anyone to change Islamic laws”.
The government made peaceful attempts to disperse protestors and initiated a dialogue between protestors leadership and government authorities. But the repeated attempts turned down due to firmness on demands from both parties. Tehreek-e-Labaik was demanding removal of Law Minister and inquiry about conspirators, whereas the government refused to step down Zahid Hamid and argued that matter is already solved and no inquiry is needed.
On the other hand, Khadim Hussain Rizvi was booked by Islamabad police in two cases, the first was lodged by a father for the death of a child who was died in an ambulance blocked by the protestors. While, the second case was filled by Magistrate Ghulam Murtaza Chandio for the violation of Section 144 by protestors, along with other charges.
Despite, the repeated attempts of the government to end sit-in peacefully, finally in the morning of November 25th the federal government ordered Islamabad police with the help of Frontier Constabulary (FC) and other law enforcement agencies to launch an operation to disperse the agitators led by the TLYR and other Islamic parties at Faizabad. Roughly 8,500 elite police and paramilitary troops in riot gear took part in the clearance operation and used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protestor. In response the protestors used stones and rocks to attack the advancing security forces, as well as tear gas shells. By the end of day, at least six peoples were killed and over 200 peoples were injured. Unrest in the federal capital spilled over across the country and protestors chanted anti-government slogans and blocked major roads. In many areas, protestors abused LEAs and damaged public property. Meanwhile, a high level meeting of capital administration and police officials, chaired by Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal failed to devise any strategy to control the volatile situation in the capital territory.
On the same evening, the federal government issued a notification to deploy military in Islamabad under Article 245 of the Constitution to aid civilian law enforcement agencies. However, the military had agreed to the request, but put forth a series of issues must be deliberated prior to deployment. Director General (DG) Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Asif Ghafoor tweeted that the army chief telephoned the prime minister and suggested the clearance operation in Islamabad be handled peacefully, “avoiding violence from both sides as it is not in national interest and cohesion”.
The COAS told PM Abbasi that he is opposed the army’s use of force against its own people since the population’s trust in the institution of the army “can’t be compromised for little gains”. However, he assured the PM to accommodate civilian government to conclude an agreement with the protestors. Therefore, on November 27 an agreement was signed between two parties and the federal government accepted six demands put in by the protestors including immediate resignation of law minister, Zahid Hamid and the publication of report prepared by Raja Zafar ul Haq within 30 days and whoever is named in the report for being responsible for the change in the election oath will be acted against under the law. The document of the agreement bears the signatures of Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, Interior Secretary Arshad Mirza, TLY leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi, two other protest leaders and Major General Faiz Hameed, who facilitated the agreement.
Here, it is argued that military has employed dual strategy to arbitrate between the civilian government and the protestors. It employed overwhelming power over civilian authorities to control domestic chaos and disorder and swiftly turned down request of federal government to use force against protestors, but it assured the government to use its influence over Islamic parties to resolve the issue peacefully. The act of military proved that Islamabad is still weak to hold control over Rawalpindi and the military retained extra-constitutional powers over the civilian government. However, it is worthy to note here that the positive and constructive role being played by military not only saved the country from further chaos but it gives strength to PML-N government to complete its term.
On the other hand, Islamic Clerks and general public applauded the arbitrary role of military, which has increased the enthusiasm and respect for military across the country. Both, the general public and the religious parties view that the military is not only guardian of physical borders of the country but it also guard the Islamic ideology and it will not make any compromise on the prophethood of Muhammad (PBUH). Khadim Hussain Rizvi praised the role of military and said “we are thankful to him (Gen Bajwa) for saving the nation from a big catastrophe, “the agreement document concludes, crediting the army chief and his representative team for their “special efforts”. Finally, he ordered his followers all over the country to end sit-ins and go home.