Whoever thought of it, or did not, has gravely erred. The genie of religious fanaticism, that was practically bottled with great courage by the State, once in the Lal Masjid operation and again when the killer of late Governor Salman Taseer was hanged, has been let loose, needlessly once again.
The creator of the currently raging issue of the Finality of Prophethood has done a great disservice to all. To unleash this genie for political gains has been a monstrously foolish mistake.
There are two current theories about why this issue was created, how it was handled, and how many interested parties were involved.
The first is that the beleaguered party in power (PML-N), having lost its corruption cases in the superior courts, was looking to divert attention and appease foreign powers and supporters. Its whizz kids thought of improving its liberal credentials by tweaking with the oath to earn brownie points.
That these tweakers under-estimated the reaction of political opponents and the religious lobby, is hard to digest. They did everything in a calculated manner but had to beat a speedy retreat when things started turning hot and unmanageable. They gifted all their opponents penalty kicks to score as many goals as they wanted.
The second theory is about how this was handled or used by the opponents of the government, including the establishment, the opposition politicians and the overjoyed religious lobby.
That the establishment had no interest or strategy on this issue would again be hard to believe. So what was it?
It is clear that the judicial-security establishment combine, after feeling helpless for years in front of parliamentary thugs, quickly made up its mind and decided how to handle it when the Panama Papers came down as a gift of God.
This unwritten and undeclared strategy was not just right but superbly implemented as the Panama hurricane gathered speed and those hit felt helpless, clueless and finally desperate. They attacked the State repeatedly finding no other counter strategy.
It was thus wise not to react to the atrocious blitzkrieg against the judiciary and the tongue-in-cheek assaults against the military as the cases proceeded and results started coming.
The corrupt ones tried every trick in their political bag to slow down the raging freight train coming their way.
Once mafias and godfathers are cut to size, the fanatic lobby will not find it easy to use settled religious issues against anyone. The genie needs to be bottled again, and soon
Though their fate looked imminent, the establishment’s strategy helped them slow the train a bit. They tried to politicise the judgements, the judges and the generals. They took to the streets, used their parliamentary numbers in a way that astounded the world and made a mockery of democratic norms by making a convicted leader its party chairman.
Yet in the end nothing seemed to work as the personnel in the judicio-military combine were incorruptible this time.
One factor was that the scale of corruption that created threats and challenges for the State was so massive no one could risk being an accomplice. The desperation mounted.
The establishment’s strategy also did not change. The judges did not speak but spoke through their judgements. Every word of their remarkable verdicts was well considered and anticipated and countered the political attacks.
The difference in the strategy of the two sides was thus evident. One was fighting like a cornered cat. The other side remained cool and calm, yet firm and resolute as well, achieving its goal through restraint and, thus, gaining support of the people and respect all around.
Then it appears something started going wrong on both sides.
The leniency shown to the Sharifs was duly exploited by similarly corrupt accused of other provinces and charges of provincialism and discrimination started flying, some sticking.
The political balance that was needed to avert this sort of slogan mongering was not there. Either, the velvet gloves for the Sharifs should have been made available to others or the long rope given to the Sharifs should have been cut short at many stages.
The courts had already committed to a long time-frame for ending the Sharifs’ cases. The Sharifs were allowed to receive unprecedented concessions from their party government in shape of facilitation, protocols, security, not available to others, although others also had their governments in place.
This disparity caused some concern and panic in anti-Sharif circles and that was the time when the issue of Khatam-e-Nabuwat came up, gifted by the stupidity of the Nawaz camp.
It has now been established that a faction of the Sharif family wanted to use the mullahs against its own Islamabad government. Shehbaz Sharif demanded resignations, and facilitated the protesters in marching towards the federal capital, as admitted publicly by Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal.
The establishment should not have jumped into this mess as already there were so many good reasons the Sharifs were going to meet their doomed fate anyway.
With the army becoming a party to mediate between warring sides at Faizabad, the mullahs got back in the saddle and are now threatening to become political grand masters, calling the shots, asking for resignations and threatening more dharnas. The government also got points to score against Rawalpindi on the media.
This trend has to be stopped quickly as a tiny fanatic minority, led by pirs and managers of ‘darbars and aastanas’ holding a religious ticking bomb, a flammable veto, that was in fact non-existent for years, is being allowed to dictate terms.
Other political parties are also falling victim or joining the chorus, probably in a hurry to bring the Sharifs fall. That this needlessly empowered mullah brigade will haunt them in future is not being taken into consideration, as of now, at least.
But some sense is now visible.
The courts have realised that they have gone too far in allowing overly misused judicial desecration. The first check has come on reporting of SC proceedings. This should have come at the start of the cases. Nowhere else are merits discussed so openly and if this is not interfering with the judicial process, or obstruction of justice in a way, what else would be?
The next immediate judicial order should come that no one will henceforth be allowed to insult or attack judges and the armed forces, as provided in the Constitution. Violators will be stopped, period.
Criminals must be treated as such, no matter what high political position they hold or held. There is no justification for keeping an absconder as finance minister on leave.
Once mafias and godfathers are cut to size, the fanatic lobby will not find it easy to use settled religious issues against anyone. The genie needs to be bottled again, and soon.
The writer is a senior journalist
Published in Daily Times, December 14th 2017.