Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Bajwa said today that he will resign if the military was found involved in the recent widespread protests by hardline religious groups which paralysed the capital Islamabad for weeks.
Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Bajwa said today that he will resign if the military was found involved in the recent widespread protests by hardline religious groups which paralysed the capital Islamabad for weeks. About 2,000 activists of Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLY) and its allied groups staged protests and sit-ins on highway and railway lines in several cities of Pakistan for nearly three weeks, disrupting road and rail traffic. The protests paralysed the capital Islamabad for about three weeks by occupying the Faizabad interchange, linking Islamabad with the garrison city of Rawalpindi. They demanded the sacking of Law Minister Zahid Hamid for changes in a law related to the Khatm-i- Nabuwwat (finality of prohpethood) oath in the Elections Act 2017. The protest ended after the Army organised talks between the government and protesters which led to the resignation of law minister Hamid.
There were insinuations about the role of Army in the episode after a video clip surfaced showing a senior Army officer giving money to protesters. Bajwa, however, rejected any support provided by the military to the protesters. He said that he will resign if the military was found involved in Faizabad sit-in, The Express Tribune reported. “The [Faizabad] sit-in reminded me of the Lal Masjid incident and I asked the DG ISI to hold dialogue with the protesters,” the report quoted him as saying. “(Following the talks), it was revealed that the protesters [initially] had four demands, which came down to only one,” it said. Bajwa was responding to Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Senator Mushahidullah Khan’s question relating to the protest.
Earlier, official sources had said an understanding was reached with protesters with the help of the powerful Army to call off the protest. Following the agreement and the subsequent resignation of Hamid, TLY chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi ordered his followers all over the country to end the sit-ins and go home. The agreement lauded efforts of Bajwa for playing key role in peacefully ending the stand-off, which became possible after an important meeting between him and Abassi. The civilian government in Pakistan was criticised for backing down in the crisis, which raises new questions about the military’s role in politics in this country.
Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui of Islamabad High Court had lashed out at the government and the powerful military for the role assigned to the Army as the “mediator” in striking the deal with the protesters to end their sit-in. “The court had asked the government to clear the roads and not for an agreement with protesters. What you have done is surrender,” the judge told Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal. “Who is the Army to play the role of mediator?…Where does the law assign this role to a Major General?” he asked. Citing military sources, Dawn had reported that the Army chief had opposed 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”.