Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who is politically and physically besieged in his official palace in Islamabad due to a massive sit-in of his political opponents, received support from forgotten allies. Pakistan’s right-wing extremist parties sympathizing with terrorists, some of which are banned by the government due to their terrorists activities, today took out a rally from the Capital’s infamous seminary, Lal Masjid to show support for Nawaz Sharif and intimidate the followers of Imran Khan and Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri. Dr Qadri is a leading scholar of Barelvi sect, non-violent Muslims having overwhelming majority in South Asia, who was the first cleric to write a voluminous Islamic decree to condemn terrorism and suicide bombing.
Both Imran Khan and Dr Qadri, in their separate sit-ins with massive followers who have braved extreme weather of Pakistan and have stayed on the roads for the last ten days, are protesting against massive rigging in polls and high-handedness of the government of Nawaz Sharif. In June this year, nearly 14 followers of Qadri, mostly innocent and unarmed and including two young women, were killed by the Police in cold blood allegedly under the orders of chief minister of Punjab province, younger brother of prime minister Sharif. This was ostensibly done to prevent Dr Qadri from coming to Pakistan to lead protests against the prevailing electoral system which, according to Qadri, only throws up corrupt and rich and gives them opportunity to further enrich themselves and their kith and kin.
In spite of all tactics and arms twisting, the protestors are not relenting. Now the government of Nawaz Sharif has enlisted support from pro-terrorists elements to pressure and intimidate Khan and Qadri into lifting the siege of Red Zone of Islamabad, an area where major constitutional offices including that of the prime minister are located. These offices are being guarded by the army but the soldiers are hesitant to use force against the protesters. The Police chief has also refused to torture the protesters and was removed by the regime.
The situation is unfolding with dramatic optics; battle lines have been drawn between the forces of moderate Islam jointly led by Dr Qadri and Imran Khan, and pro-Taliban elements showing their support for Sharif. Khan is a cricketer-turned-philanthropist-turned-politicians was branded as Taliban Khan for his opposition to military operation against the terrorists. Will it deem proper for Sharif to be branded a Taliban choice for Pakistan when the US has already put its weight behind him? Will he lose support at home where a large majority of Pakistanis has turned against Taliban after start of a successful military operation code-named Zarb-e-Azb by Pakistan Army?