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- Friday, August 29, 2014 - From Print Edition

The truth is before us. We have learned nothing from history. Nothing at all, repeating once more the follies that plunged us into so much trouble in the first place. The Pakistan Army, watching and waiting at the sidelines for weeks has been asked by the government to play a part in resolving the crisis. The step taken at a meeting on Thursday between the army chief and the prime minister pushes democracy a little deeper into the quicksand where it had been trapped for many days. Whether it can pull itself out remains an open question. Even if it does so, it will emerge weakened, with space given away to the military, which once again moves into the driving seat. Unsurprisingly, the role of the military as mediator has been quickly, indeed instantly, accepted by both Tahirul Qadri and Imran Khan. This indeed seems to have been the moment they were waiting for, with cryptic references to ‘umpires raising fingers’ or proclamations that the ‘awaited’ moment was approaching. Both the PAT and the PTI have agreed to give the army 24 hours as it begins its role as ‘mediator’. What terms it will mediate and what direction it will adopt is to be seen. Dr Qadri has also made it clear he wishes the military to act as ‘guarantor’ of any deal. The fervent attempts of the government to reach an agreement with the two parties had run aground essentially because of their refusal to back away from the demand that the PM resign, despite the lack of legal ground for this. From the PAT camp, the goal-posts too continued to change constantly. It is to be seen where they will be placed now.

The announcement that the army had been asked to play a ‘positive’ role, made by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan is also not insignificant. Nisar, known to be close to the military and also Imran Khan, is expected to play a more significant role from this point on. Matters like Imran’s election rigging allegations, Qadri’s demands in the matter of the FIR lodged in Lahore against those named in the Model Town killings case, and of course the PM’s fate still need to be sorted out. With army boots now heard within offices occupied by the executive it is to be seen how these matters are settled. But despite the efforts of most parties in parliament, a few have walked down that dangerous road we have followed before. We wait to see where it takes us.

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