I’m not the sort to say, “I told you so.” But, you know … I told you so. In the aftermath of the massive mess that was the Atif Mian expulsion from Economic Advisory Council, I wrote in this very column barely a couple of months ago:
“When Rizvi and co held the country hostage during the Faizabad sit-in, the role of certain powerful elements in the scenario was not above questioning. IK, himself, came out in Rizvi’s support at the time, completely flouting the rule of law (what is it they say – beware of what you sow?).
“The PM has constantly played footsie with religious/extremist elements and now at the first “barak” from the right wing and the bigots and obscurantists he backs down with hardly a whimper. … [W]hy weren’t his powers of persuasion and leadership put towards convincing Rizvi and co that all Pakistanis, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, have the same rights, including the right to be part of the EAC. Failing that, some tough talk could have been put to judicious use. Now, I’m afraid, the mullahs have tasted blood and their appetite will have been further whetted. You think there will ever be a right time after this for IK to take them on?”
Lo and behold, Rizvi – smelling weakness – decided to use the Asia Bibi case as a pretext to bring the country to a standstill yet again. Have no illusions; this was not about religion but about power and a demonstration of the same. Guess who won?
The Kaptaan made a much-lauded speech warning the TLP not to challenge the writ of the state but, as it turned out, the praise was way premature. IK and his men whimpered, and let the TLP leadership off with not even a slap on the wrist. This is after the latter had openly challenged a Supreme Court judgement (in the streets and not a court of law), called for sedition, destroyed public and private property and caused the loss of lives.
PTI apologists were quick to jump to the government’s defence: “The agreement with the TLP was purely tactical; a volatile situation was defused; the state machinery is now going to spring into action; these criminals will be brought justice, just wait and see; yadda yadda yadda”. Well, I’m waiting. And seeing. And waiting some more. There’s no springing. There’s no action. Rather, Rizvi is sitting pretty. Nobody’s been arrested. The state has filed no FIRs, not a single one (not even one for sedition). So far, all cases against Rizvi and the TLP have been moved by private citizens.
The PTI government has missed yet another opportunity to tackle at least one head of this hydra. Just listen to what a good friend, an ex-DMG officer, has to say: “We cannot keep on defending the government’s actions or rather inactions on the basis of prudence. There comes a time when [the] government has to exercise and implement its writ. It requires bold decisions. I can tell you from my personal experience that the state has tremendous authority if it is willing to exercise it. But now I see that the entire government machinery has crumbled. I don’t see any will to tackle hard issues.”
As I’ve said earlier, religious parties/radicalism have been used to further agendas for ages. But this genie recognises no master now – and hasn’t for some time. It’s past time to forget their (so-called) value as “strategic assets” and confront the problem wholesale – no selective targeting will do. It’s too late for that.
The writer is a freelance columnist.
Email: Kmumtaz1hotmail. com