‘Azadi march’ quite a challenge

October 14, 2019

Far from Pakistan, a big disruption in the region was on display recently sending tremors across Middle East and West Asia. This time Iraq is in near chaos not because of ISIS or sunny insurgency...

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Far from Pakistan, a big disruption in the region was on display recently sending tremors across Middle East and West Asia. This time Iraq is in near chaos not because of ISIS or sunny insurgency but the mundane demands for job, running water, electricity and good governance have been motivating the protesting youth to take law into their hands. Over 100 protestors were killed in these riots.

Mixed into the protest was the subtle impact of Iran-US rivalry snowballing into a major uprising and setting Iraq for another cycle of instability. With far reaching consequences, the crisis bubbling under the surface, is also threatening to unravel the progress made in the war against ISIS.

The analogy has some relevance to Pakistan. Scary scenario may soon be descending on the country with a major religious political force— JUI-F— plans to converge on Islamabad. With the plan B and C of the party, it intends to disrupt the country’s motorways, highways and choke traffic to bring the country to a standstill. Due to the vast network of the JUI-F’s madrasas protests are likely to erupt in major cities and towns.

The critical economic and unemployment situation is a perfect fertile ground for opposition and other youth to create serious law and order problem.

As a catalyst, economic recession can help to coalesce the unemployed to look for similar potential disruptions as means for venting out catharsis creating an environment for major players to quietly manipulate angry sentiments.

Given the governance situation and economic challenges in the country, the JUI-F can truly capitalise on the genuine grievances obtaining. A seasoned politician Maulana Fazal Rahman is leading the pack and outmanoeuvring the two mainstream opposition parties who are focusing on salvaging leadership for their accountability woes instead of highlighting the hardships of their followers and general masses due to day-to-day challenges of governance and economic hardships.

Though the ground swell of support for Maulana may not be very substantial, potentially organised disruption by his madrasa students provides a recipe for foreign manipulation for geo-political gains.

At a time when Pakistan is facing the spectre of Indian aggression and its “grey warfare”, besides, regional contest across greater Middle East, genuine grievances can serve as a magnet for these geo-political interests.

Any disrupting behaviour by the JUI-F may benefit the forces of chaos and regime change hawks waiting to pounce on any opportunity in a country of 200 million people.

Unlike other mainstream political parties the JUI-F’s political muscle has all the potential to create instability and scenes of deteriorating unrest making it all the more difficult

for authorities to control mob and prevent the domestic situation from worsening.

The government has no magical wand to address the mundane demands of the people nor can it give in to the dictates of opposition parties, but any give and take arrived on the back of street chaos will not only cast the government weak but also make the country vulnerable to instability.

Already seen in the example of rivalry between the US and Iran leveraging domestic situation of Iraq, it is a hard task to keep Pakistan’s eastern and western neighbours from exploiting country’s domestic politics

Local drivers fit the modus operandi for creating organised chaos garnering sponsorship for street agitations, burning down infrastructure, violence and added amplifying effects of adverse use of social media. With this gloomy prognosis, the authorities need to be vigilant and taking the march lightly will mean setting up the country for a bigger crisis. (Jan Achakzai is a geopolitical analyst, a politician from Balochistan, and ex-adviser to the Balochistan Government on media and strategic communication. He remained associated with BBC World Service. He is also Chairman of Centre for Geo-Politics & Balochistan)

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