Political unrest brewing in Pakistan

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By : Salahuddin Haider

Pakistan is abuzz with the question, “Will the ongoing media war derail democracy in the country?”

It is rumored that the banning of a major media house and the subsequent campaign waged by its competitors is all part of a grand scheme to undermine the democratic disposition. Those rumors gained traction in the wake of the Lahore police bloody action against the followers of scholar-cum-politician Tahir-ul-Qadri. However, Qadri’s call to the army for action fell on deaf ears. His arrival and the subsequent drama that ensued were witnessed across the country with bated breath.

People were expecting some action from the army but nothing of that sort took place. In sheer frustration, Qadri called for a war against corruption and finally agreed to the advice of Sindh Governor Dr. Ishrat-ul-Ibad and his Punjab counterpart Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar with whom he alighted from the plane.

Throughout this grueling drama, rumors about an army takeover were doing the rounds. The situation was really worse and some areas of Pakistan’s second largest city, Lahore, looked like warzones with Qadri’s followers locking horns with the security personnel. Fortunately, the police was not allowed to retaliate so as to avoid the bloody scenes that had jolted the country just three days ago.

To the utter surprise of many, the army chose to remain silent, fuming though in its bases over the rapidly deteriorating situation, and disapproving, according to insiders, of the Sharif brothers to come out of their houses to deal with the situation themselves.

The past few days have been tumultuous for the country — the attack on Karachi airport, the clash of Qadri’s supporter with the police that turned bloody, the start of the military offensive against the militants in North Waziristan and the apparent government’s inability to deal with the issues. The consequences of these events will soon be felt, perhaps after Ramadan or after 10-12 weeks of the ongoing military operation.

Political pundits believe that the worsening situation in the country might force the army to break its silence. According to experts, the civilian administration has to take concrete measures to pull the country out of the current mess. Failure to do so might not turn the tables against the Sharif-led government.

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