Appeasement or Constitutionalism

Appeasement or constitutionalism?

The government, no doubt, mishandled the situation. It should have called a meeting of all political parties, a joint session of Parliament and a meeting of the powerful national security council to discuss and devise a strategy on how to dislodge the TLY dharnas.

Following the government’s failure to disperse the Faizabad sit-in and later the countrywide sit-ins by the Tahreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasoolullah (TLY) it is obvious that the government would have to talk to the agitators and submit to some of its demands. If any talks were to be held between the government and TLY, the former won’t be talking from a position of strength and it would have to submit to demands of the latter.

The wording of the mutual pact brokered by the establishment clearly gives the non-state actor TLY an upper hand on several counts.

The agreement has been signed with a party that has flouted court orders, broken laws with impunity, and openly indulged in hate-speech. It is an agreement between law breakers and law-enforcers but the latter representing the state have been admonished one-sidedly.

As per the agreement, the non-state actor TLY has been cleared of all charges. It neither has to express remorse nor seek apology from the millions of Pakistanis who were drastically affected by their dharnas.

All of its workers have to be freed within three days, cases and orders for their home-confinement have to be withdrawn and no legal action has to be taken against them. How would the government be able to release TLY agitators who have been booked under Anti-Terrorism Act remains unclear.

According to the agreement, it was the government that made things worse. The TLY is a ‘peaceful’ party but it is the government that aggravated the situation by use of force. It has to fulfill all the private and public damages caused duringdharnas. But why the provincial and federal government has to pay for damages caused by the dharnaholders is inconceivable.

The government has also committed itself to form an enquiry board, taking TLY into confidence, to ascertain the culprits for the November 25th action and to punish those responsible within 30 days. However, no such enquiry is to be conducted against the TLY for violation of laws and damaging public or private properties.

An ideal situation would have been that the agitators had called off their dharna within the deadline given first by the Islamabad High Court and then by the Islamabad administration, but it was ultimately the government that had to succumb to political pressure, renege on its basic responsibility to restore the writ of the state and to prosecute all those who were arrested during this legal campaign.

These are not welcome signs for rule of law and the sovereignty of the state. Anyone who believes in rule of law and infallibility and non-divisibility of sovereignty of the state must have been shocked.

Though the resignation of law minister, as per the agreement, is likely to set a very dangerous precedent, the matter will not come to an end with this. Such appeasement will embolden the TLY and its demands will continue rising after this. A group of TLY has already asked for resignation of Sanaullah, Punjab law minister. Such appeasement has neither worked before nor will be of any benefit towards solution of the current problem.

It was expected that no political, religious or social figure would support these agitators and instead openly support the state institutions but though there had been no criticism by some leaders -like Imran Khan, Sirajul Haq etc- of the prolonged illegal blockade of roads by the TLY, the government has been continuously and severely criticised all these days by them.

Opposition politicians even went a step ahead of the TLY. While it demanded only resignation of the law minister, they were demanding resignations of interior minister and even prime minister for “mishandling the situation.” Emboldened by this backing, the TLY too was seen pressing for the resignation of entire federal cabinet.

The Pakistan Army spokesman too had reported the Army chief to have asked the government “to handle the issue peacefully avoiding violence from both sides as it is not in national interest and cohesion.”

The advice may have stemmed from a sincere wish to bring peace, but it cannot be denied that only the state has the authority to use force — which is called the monopoly of violence — and no non-state actor — group or individual — has any such privilege vis-à-vis the state.

While the state has had all legitimate right to use force to disperse the dharna after peaceful attempts to do so failed, the other side- a non-state actor- must have obeyed the law. When it confronted the state, and continued with its intransigence, it should have been openly criticised, opposed and clearly asked to behave. Rather than equating the two and urging both to avoid violence, all democratic forces and constitutional institutions must have openly and clearly voiced support for the state. How can the state and a non-state actor be dealt equally when the former is trying to establish writ of the state while the latter is trying to resist and refuse to submit to the law of the land and the court decisions?

The two sides of the present situation cannot be dealt with equally. Whereas on one side is the state and its institutions, on the other one is a non-state actor. The latter was not ready to pay any heed to allow people free movement despite repeated requests from intermediaries and orders from courts. But when the government -the executive organ of the state and representative of its sovereign power- started operation to ensure free movement on the roads, some politicians, who had remained tight-lipped thus far on the illegal blocking of roads by the TLY, started severely criticising the government for resorting to violence.

Criticising the government alone for not solving the issue through peaceful talks and resorting to use of force is sheer injustice. In fact, ever since the sit-in began 20 days ago, the government had been using all available channels to talk to the TLY leadership and tried its level best to make it call off the dharna. It was the TLY leadership that was not ready to budge even an inch from its stated position or to accept any request by mediators and orders from court to disperse peacefully. What would the government do in such a situation? To remain silent spectator and thus not only deviate from its foremost responsibility of ensuring law and order and establishment of writ of the state but also risk annoying the IHC and SCP that were calling for ending this illegal dharna quickly?

Another thing that merits attention is the way the “workers” of the TLY battled with the law enforcement agencies’ personnel. They were not ordinary workers and looked like highly trained individuals. It is never easy for ordinary political workers to confront, tease and defeat the trained and experienced LEA personnel. And where did they get gas masks, gas guns and other apparatus must also be investigated.

The government, no doubt, mishandled the situation. It should have called a meeting of all political parties, a joint session of parliament and a meeting of the powerful national Security Council to discuss and devise a strategy on how to dislodge the TLY dharna. It didn’t.

And it was naturally reluctant to use force as it felt this would fetch it against the powerful and now resilient Brelvi school of thought to which the TLY belongs. As always, it was groping in the dark pinning hopes on religious personalities that had no influence on the TLY to change its mind on demands and dharna. The official powerful civilian cum military channel was not considered on time. The result is that its reluctance to use the above official channels and to use force unless ordered to do so by court and that too in a haphazard manner has endangered the authority of the state vis-à-vis a non-state actor.

Change in government and policies must be brought and allowed only through popular vote and parliament. Dharnas cannot and must not be allowed to dictate terms and force ministers and governments to resign. Constitutionalism and Rule of law must not be compromised. Submission and Appeasement to one such group is tantamount to giving up constitutionalism forever which will have dangerous repercussions for the country.

The writer is an academic and researcher who has written extensively on political and social issues. He blogs at and can be reached at

Published in Daily Times, November 29th 2017.

Selective morality of powerful states

Selective morality by powerful states

“Morality and justice demand that one must have the moral strength to call a spade a spade” — Plato

NOVEMBER 23, 2017

Though inter-state relations are predominantly governed by national interests, powerful states are not justified in the exhibition of selective morality and being unfair in their foreign relations.

Unfortunately, most of the global powers — like the US, Russia and Britain follow policies that aren’t consistent with their known commitments to justice and liberty. This injustice — or selective morality- is clearly visible in the constitution of the UN Security Council. Veto power in the hands of the great powers means that if any P-5 member or their allies is the aggressor or wrongdoer and the entire world unites against it in the UN, no adverse action is possible as the P-5 member vetoes any suggestion.

Another example is their take on Pak- India relations. Their relations, with both being nuclear powers, just cannot be allowed to deteriorate because if a war breaks out between the two, it can have dangerous repercussions for global peace. The US famously urges Pakistan and India to resolve their issues through mutual negotiations. Britain too urges Pakistan and India to find a lasting solution for Kashmir. But none of them is prescribing a solution or acting as a mediator.

When major world powers — The US and Britain for example, insist India and Pakistan should resolve their dispute through mutual dialogue and refuse to mediate or condemn India for its atrocities in Kashmir, they are actually toeing Indian lines.

Justice means rendering everyone their due, as famous Greek philosopher Plato reported his mentor Socrates to have said. Morality and justice demand that one must have the moral strength to call a spade a spade.

It is but injustice if India, which is clearly the wrongdoer in Kashmir, being the violator of several UN resolutions on Kashmir and whose leaders openly admit helping breaking up Pakistan in 1971 and vowing to cause a permanent drought in Pakistan against all international norms — is treated at par with Pakistan — which is trying its level best to bring India to the negotiation table for resolution of the Kashmir dispute.

As India is not ready to talk to Pakistan, accusing Pakistan of state terrorism — an accusation not substantiated as yet and for which Pakistan is ready for any international investigation — Pakistan rightly urges major powers for mediation on Kashmir. India rejects this line, insisting Kashmir is a bilateral dispute between the two countries.

One fails to understand how Pakistan and India can resolve their disputes peacefully and through mutual discussions when India is not ready to talk to Pakistan and powerful nations are silent spectators lest any offer for mediation or any criticism of perpetrated state-violence by India in Kashmir displease India -a big economic market.

The US and Britain say they are perturbed over violence in Kashmir and urge patience. It is welcome but what is objectionable is when the oppressors and oppressed are literally dealt with equally, the oppressor is not asked to refrain from using brute force against the peaceful demonstrators and the unarmed oppressed Kashmiri civilians are not openly supported in their legal fight for self-determination.

What else can continuous silence on blatant heinous human tragedies caused by brute force used by “allies” such as Israel and strong reaction to similar incidents perpetrated by “others” such as Saddam era Iraq be called if it isn’t plainly apparent double standards and selective morality?

While Israel is allowed to stockpile loads of nuclear arms with active connivance and no hostile military action is initiated against it even when it blatantly and arrogantly rejects UN resolutions on the halt of extending settlements, Iraq is attacked and its cities turned into heaps of debris and hundreds of thousands of its innocent civilians are killed under the false pretext that it is stockpiling WMD’s despite report to the contrary by UN inspectors.

It is unfair if Palestinians— whose lands have been usurped and who are being displaced and denied human rights are dealt on equal terms with Israel, which openly violates and rejects international laws, UN resolutions and any serious efforts for peaceful solution of its issues with Palestinians.

Reluctance shown by the World Bank — the designated mediator on the 1960 Indus Water Treaty (IWR) between India and Pakistan — to mediate on the issue is another case of this selective morality. While Pakistan — being the aggrieved party for India’s purported violation of IWT terms — repeatedly requested that the WB set up a court of arbitration as per the terms of IWT and asked it and the US to help resolve its IWT dispute with India, the WB remained disinterested and eventually suspended all its processes. The setting up of a court of arbitration or the appointment of a neutral expert on the issue when India asked it not to rush in to resolve the issue. As things unfolded, the State Department too said it wanted India and Pakistan to resolve all outstanding issues bilaterally (without any third party mediation) which were but only toeing the Indian line.

Equally unjust is the stereotype that all Muslim states are radical and rogue nations. Extremist political or religious groups have never obtained absolute majority in any Muslim country in any general elections. Such groups either don’t have the courage to take part in democracy and if they do, they have the lowest popular support base, often standing at less than one percent.

Strangely enough, it is the commonly known “democratic” nations like India, USA and Israel where extremists groups like Modi, Trump and Netanyahu are voted to power by the electorate while their rivals are defeated.

For example, the Jamaat-e-Islami in Pakistan envisions an ideological Islamic state and often talks of Jihad against India but it doesn’t have any worthwhile political support base that could land it in the corridors of power in Pakistan — it obtained only 0.4 percent of the total polled 46 million votes in the 2013 elections and won just 4 seats in the 342-member National Assembly.

And notwithstanding the fact that India is praised as one of the biggest democratic and liberal societies in the world and Prime Minister Narendara Modi’s Bharatia Janata Party bases its electoral campaign on narrow Hindu Nationalism and dangerous anti-Pakistan rhetoric, it has a big public following and was voted to power with a clear majority in the 2014 Indian General Elections. It contested 437 seats of the total 543 seats in the Lok Sabha and grabbed 282 seats, polling over 31 percent of the total polled votes.

Against this, most of the voters in Pakistan who are often ‘chastised’ as intolerant and extremist have been historically supporting two and recently three parties. These are the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Pakistan People’s Party and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. The three parties jointly polled around 30 million of the total 42 million votes in the 2013 general elections.

The writer is a Pakistan-based academic and researcher who has written extensively on social issues. He blogs at and can be reached at

Published in Daily Times, November 23rd 2017.

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