Government, PTM moving toward 'short-term arrangement,' experts say

In this file photo, Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) leaders Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir call on Prime Minister Imran Khan at the premier's office in Islamabad on Nov. 7, 2018. (PID)
Short Url
Updated 11 July 2020

Government, PTM moving toward 'short-term arrangement,' experts say

  • The group’s leaders were booked in May last year for allegedly attacking a military checkpoint in North Waziristan
  • Analysts say PTM can emerge as a political force in tribal region if it shuns policy of confrontation with state institutions

ISLAMABAD: Two lawmakers from the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) are going to approach the Peshawar High Court next week to have a criminal case against them quashed, following recent moves by the government which experts say indicate attempts at a “short-term arrangement” to end confrontation with PTM.
Last month, Defense Minister Pervaiz Khattak invited PTM to discuss “all the contentious issues” for the sake of the development of Pashtun-dominated Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.A few weeks earlier, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa administration requested an antiterrorism court to withdraw the case it filed against PTM leaders Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir in May last year.
“The government has the authority to withdraw the case, after which the accused will be considered exonerated in the case,” Abdul Latif Afridi, senior lawyer representing the two members of the National Assembly, told Arab News on Saturday.
Afridi confirmed that the provincial government requested the case withdrawal in March, but the antiterrorism court in Abbottabad had yet to decide on it. In the case, Dawar and Wazir were accused of an attack at a military checkpoint at Kharqamar in North Waziristan, in which at least 13 people were killed and multiple injured.
“This is like a hanging sword to my clients … I’ve discussed the development with my clients, and we’ll be moving Peshawar High Court next week to get this case quashed,” he said, adding that the court was legally bound to exonerate his clients after the government’s application.
The PTM emerged as a rights movement for the country’s Pashtun population in February 2018. Its leaders and supporters have faced numerous police reports and court cases for allegedly inciting people against the state institutions including the armed forces.
Political analysts are of the view that the recent developments indicate that the government and PTM leaders are moving toward a “short-term arrangement” to put an end to confrontation and address concerns of Pashtuns.
“The PTM is a genuine political movement led and supported by the youth, therefore it can’t be suppressed through state force or violence,” Qamar Cheema, political and security analyst, told Arab News.
He said that Pashtun nationalism had always been a problem for the state for its unique geographical location and closeness with the troubled Afghanistan
“The PTM should focus on getting genuine grievances of the Pashtuns addressed by shunning confrontation with the state,” he said, “The group could emerge as a political force in the region, provided it broadens its canvass.”


Political parties, army chief agree military ‘intervenes’ in politics but only at government’s request — opposition 

Updated 50 min 43 sec ago

Political parties, army chief agree military ‘intervenes’ in politics but only at government’s request — opposition 

  • Opposition politicians confirm discussing army’s ‘interference’ in politics with army chief at meeting last week
  • Army intervenes because “civilians provided the military this space, sought the army’s help,” PMLN’s Khawaja Asif says 

ISLAMABAD: Opposition politicians have said this week that they discussed the issue of the all-powerful military’s interference in Pakistani politics at a meeting with the army chief last week where General Qamar Javed Bajwa and all parliamentary parties agreed that the army had intervened in the past but only when requested by civilian governments. 
The September 16 meeting with Bajwa has generated much controversy in Pakistan and was attended by at least 15 opposition leaders, including Shehbaz Sharif, Khawaja Asif and Ahsan Iqbal from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN), Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Sherry Rehman from the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), Jamaat-i-Islami chief Sirajul Haq, the Aawami National Party’s Amir Haider Hoti, and others. The head of Pakistan’s military-run ISI spy agency was also present at the meeting.
Pakistan’s powerful military has ruled the country for more than half of its history, and sets defence and security policy. It has in the past denied meddling in politics.
During the current army chief’s tenure, the military has been accused by opposition politicians of electoral manipulation, meddling in politics, suspension of civil liberties and muzzling the media. The military has denied all counts.
But at the meeting last week, Bajwa admitted that the army had meddled in politics, but only at the behest of civilian politicians and governments, at least three opposition politicians interviewed by Arab News said. 

The army's media wing did not respond to detailed queries from Arab News sent via email.
“The gist of the army chief’s entire conversation was that in Pakistan, historically … whenever the military interfered - he [the army chief] gave his point of view - it happened because civilians provided the military this space, and sought the army’s help against each other,” Khawaja Asif, a senior leader of the PMLN and a former defence minister, said in a TV interview. 
“There was consensus among all people [at the meeting] that politicians ceded territory [to the army], themselves invited the army,” he added.
Asif said the “consensus point of view” at the meeting, which the army chief agreed to and reiterated, was that in Pakistan’s history, “all components of the power structure have committed excesses, which includes politicians, establishment, the army, bureaucracy, courts, media.”
“This is a territorial dispute between different power centers and we should sit down under one roof and resolve it,” the former defence minister said, saying that the solution should be based on rule of law and the constitution. 
“The territorial boundaries, according to the constitution: it is important to determine them,” he said. 
Asif said the September 16 meeting was requested by the military to discuss the issue of the strategic Gilgit-Baltistan region in the northwest corner of disputed Kashmir to China. In recent weeks, government officials have said Pakistan plans to declare the region a fifth province, a proposal which has unnerved neighbouring India with which Pakistan has a territorial dispute over the Kashmir valley. 
Asif said it was PPP senator Sherry Rehman who raised the issue at the meeting that the prime minister should have been present at a huddle at which a “legal and constitutional” issue such as making Gilgit-Baltistan a new province was being discussed. 
“From here, the direction of the meeting, the discussion, changed, and went in the direction of why does the army have to interfere … basically politicians provide this space… the discussion went into this direction,” Asif said. “And the prime minister’s absence became a kind of testimony, that if the prime minister had been here, if prime minister had taken charge of things, then the army chief or the military would not have had to call parliamentary leaders to discuss this but the issue [of Gilgit-Baltistan] would have just been discussed in a committee room in parliament.”
Senator Sherry Rehman confirmed to Arab News that she had raised the issue of the prime minister’s absence at the meeting with the army chief. “Why was this meeting not convened at the PM House,” she said she had asked the meeting’s participants. 
PMLN politician Ahsan Iqbal also said the army chief had called the meeting because the prime minister refused to sit down with the opposition or discuss Gilgit-Baltistan in parliament. 
“The prime minister is continuously refusing to sit with the opposition,” he told Arab News. “How can the system work this way?”
Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, minister for railways, quoted the army chief at the meeting as saying the army was bound to respond “positively” when an elected government requested them for help. 
Senior journalist and head of Hum News, Mohammad Malick, said politicians often “dragged” the military leadership into political issues. 
“Why do politicians go to the military instead of using forums like parliament, media and judiciary?” he asked. “When you will take an issue to a state institution, then the institution will definitely give its viewpoint and suggest a preferred course of action.”
He said parliamentarians should have the courage to take ‘big decisions’ instead of looking towards the military for support. 
“The military does intervene in many areas, but it doesn’t mean that it intervenes in each and every issue,” Malick said. “We can’t blame them for the sins they haven’t committed.”