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A politically unstable Pakistan is a threat to global peace

What magnifies the threat to democracy in Pakistan is the role the Pakistan army played in brokering peace between the fringe group Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan and the government

editorials Updated: Nov 29, 2017 17:01 IST
Hindustan Times
PML(N),Atlantic Council,Rawalpindi
Supporters of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan listen to their Khadim Hussain Rizvi announces the end of the protest, Islamabad, November 27, 2017(AFP)

Monday showed yet again why Pakistan is dangerously poised.

The Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) government genuflected to the demands of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, a little-known, radical Islamist group, which agreed to call off its three-week long protests across Pakistan after law minister Zahid Hamid resigned. The fringe group, headed by Khadim Hussain Rizvi, demanded the head of Mr Hamid after he released a new version of the electoral oath which it saw as blasphemous. The government blinked, tried to pass off the change as a clerical error, and restored the original version, but that was not enough for the radicals.

The PML(N) government has been on the back foot ever since Nawaz Sharif was disqualified on corruption charges. Last week, a court ordered proceedings to declare finance minister Ishaq Dar a proclaimed offender in a graft case. Mr Hamid’s resignation is the latest, and clear sign of the civilian government losing its grip on power. Meanwhile, in an all-too-familiar scenario, the army is tightening its grip.

The government, now headed by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, also failed to present in court a credible case against 26/11 Mumbai terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed. Islamabad has come under international censure for Saeed’s release from house arrest. The general elections in Pakistan are to be held next year, and given the army’s proclivity for toppling civilian governments, the recent developments are disturbing.

What magnifies the threat to democracy manifold in Pakistan is the role the army played in brokering peace between the fringe group and the government. Rizvi, while calling off the protests, appreciated the efforts of army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, who played go-between. The judiciary and media in Pakistan criticised the army and government for “surrendering to radicals”, but that is likely to change nothing, especially given the disproportionate power army GHQ Rawalpindi enjoys.

In its recently-released report, Asia in the Second Nuclear Age, US think-tank Atlantic Council, noted how Pakistan’s nuclear-weapons programme was a security threat to the world and “the surest route to escalating conventional war to the nuclear level”.

The think-tank’s report shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. India has long maintained that a politically-unstable Pakistan is not only a threat to it, but also a threat to regional and global peace. The rise of radical voices, such as Rizvi’s, should be causing alarm bells to go off everywhere.

First Published: Nov 29, 2017 10:35 IST