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May 28, 2018

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Incapable police couldn’t handle Faizabad dharna

ISLAMABAD: The Faizabad dharna inquiry report blames poor planning and coordination by police, live media coverage and uncompromising stance of government on resignation of former law minister for the fiasco causing six deaths and huge loss of property.

The six-page confidential report prepared by the Ministry of Defence was made public by the Islamabad High Court last week on the writ petition of Inamul Rahim Advocate.

According to the report, a copy of which is available with The News, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) managed to convince protesters for talks with government several times but negotiations failed due to government’s refusal to accept the resignation of the then Law Minister Zahid Hamid.

“As the dharna prolonged, the ISI managed to engage Tehreek Labaik Ya Rasoolallah (TLYR) leaders and brought them to have negotiations with political leaders; several such sessions were organised, which failed due to uncompromising stance of government on resignation of Law Minister,” says the report on the dharna staged by the TLYR, last November.

Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui of Islamabad High Court (IHC) last Monday allowed a petition seeking to make the Faizabad dharna inquiry report public. The report rejects conspiracy theories suggesting that ISI was behind the sit-in.

“Conspiracy theories were woven on the social media and were given credence by irresponsible remarks by those at influential positions. False impression was created that the ISI was behind Dharna and fake stories were created that the ISI was sustaining the protestors; in reality, the ISI made every effort to support the government in peaceful resolution of the issue.”

It adds that operation was launched on Nov 25, 2017 on the orders of IHC despite ISI's recommendations to resolve the issue politically and avoid use of force.

The report adds that failure of the operation to evict protestors from Faizabad Interchange is attributed to mysterious circumstances whereas in effect the operation failed to achieve desired results due to poor planning, coordination and live media coverage.

“The operation, however, failed due to mis-coordination between police forces of twin cities and inability of Rawalpindi Police to block reinforcements. The operation resulted in death of 6 protestors, injuries to over 277 persons (mostly minor injuries, heated and discharged immediately) and loss of property public and government property,” the report said.

It terms rumors of an organized public support to TLYR activists occupying Faizabad interchange false and fabricated.

“Monitoring revealed individual support in terms of food (Savor rice packs, biryani, naan, halwa were generously donated by individuals of Brelvi Sect) continued from across Rawalpindi and Islamabad while rich persons donated large quantities of food items, dry fruit, tents, blankets and other utility items.”

It says local police deployed on roads leading to Faizabad interchange were neither willing nor capable (in view of several unmanned streets leading to Faizabad) of obstructing or preventing the supplies.

The report severely criticised police performance during the sit-in.

“Response was inadequate due to absence of coordination and trust between Rawalpindi police and ICT Police. (2) Initially, the police only cordoned off the area, which provided sufficient space for protestors to perform dharna. (3) Police failed to check movement of tents and other logistic support including large quantities of food and electricity to sustain dharna. (4) Police was also unable to control the movement of protestors to and from dharna thereby resulting in increase in number of protestors and their sustainment for over 20 days. Protestors were free to leave Faizabad, forage for administrative as well as moral support and then return unhindered.”

The report pointed a serious lack of coordination between the administrative setups of twin cities; both sides kept blaming each other and apart from deploying the police force, did not make sufficient efforts to resolve the crisis.

It says Rawalpindi administration did not have even a single meeting with TLYR leaders; hence remained totally indifferent. The Islamabad administration also did not make serious efforts to negotiate with the TLYR leaders; the matter was deemed political and the buck was passed to political leadership.

The report says the TLYR leaders negotiated all demands with the Punjab government, which left the demand of resignation of law minister to be negotiated with the federal government for which the Punjab government allegedly encouraged TLYR leaders to approach Islamabad.

It says the federal government did not independently contact the TLYR leaders for negotiations.

“When dharna prolonged and inaction was observed, representatives of ISI engaged both sides and asked them to sit together to resolve the issue. Political leadership then engaged local Gaddi Nasheens, notably Pir of GoIra Sharif and Pir Haseen ud Din to engage TLYR but in vain. All third party efforts to reach a solution failed as none had authority to negotiate on the demand of resignation of law minister; being declared no go by the Federal Government,” says the report, adding after the failed operation of 25 November 2017, political leadership directed the situation over to armed forces.

While listing the role of intelligence agencies, the report said the Special Branch of police covered the dharna while restricting themselves to providing tactical information: strength, participation and other logistic aspects were reported as situation awareness.

It says the Intelligence Bureau (IB) remained aloof and no information/efforts were visible on part of this agency.

According to report, ISI initially restricted itself to event reporting and forecasting its likely growth/ impact since it was routine law and order issue, which had to be dealt with by police and civil administration. The ISI, however, later suggested engagement by political leadership to peacefully resolve the issue at the earliest.

“A high level meeting at the Prime Minister's Office on 26 November 2017 unanimously decided to resolve the issue peacefully: the ISI was given a lead role with complete authority to negotiate,” the report said.

It says at least 3 one-on-one meetings with minister of interior, one meeting with Raja Zafarul Haq and a meeting with Talal Chaudhary/Tariq Fazal Chaudhary were arranged.

“All along, ISI advised the political leadership to avoid use of force; squeezing the logistics support including preventing reinforcement followed by negotiations was the recommended strategy of ISI to deal with the situation.” The report reads.

Post failed operation on 25 November 2017 by police, TLYR workers and their likeminded supporters had blocked main communication arteries (Motorway, GT Road and Railways) and dharnas in 16 major cities had paralyzed the country. Residences of Chaudhary Nisar in Rawalpindi and of Rana Sanaullah in Faisalabad were attacked by a charged mob.

It says engagement with TLYR leaders at such an emotionally charged environment was an extremely challenging task; rumours abounded that dozens of TLYR workers had been killed in the operation a day before while government was quietly burying the dead at undisclosed places to avoid public backlash.

“Media blackout had given further fuel to rumour factories while social media was ruthlessly employed to create chaos and confusion. In such environment, the ISI representatives once again engaged the TLYR leaders, clarified the actual situation and started the negotiations to resolve the issue peacefully. Emboldened by the nationwide support, the TLYR leadership demanded resignation of entire government; the ISI representatives convinced them to remain restricted to their original demands that they placed before reaching Faizabad with the only additional demand of investigating the 25 November 2017 police operation that resulted in death and injuries to TLYR workers. An agreement between the government officials and TLYR leaders was thus reached by morning 27 November 2017; dharnas from across the country were dispersed same day and national communication arteries were restored.”

The report says the post failed operation environment across the country is not being given due cognizance in deliberations/ proceedings at various forums and protestors at Faizabad Interchange are continuously being viewed in isolation.

“The dangerous law and order situation across all major cities, blockade of vital communication arteries (Grand Trunk Road, Motorways and Railways) and violent attacks on government functionaries played an important and crucial role in determining the terms and tenor Of 27 November 2017 agreement,” the report concludes.

It recommends that TLYR leaders’ speeches and the manner in which they acted are to be explained by them and they ought to be summoned to explain their conduct.

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