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EDITORIAL: What the JUI-F did at the Parliamentary Lodges on Thursday is a highly cognizable offence, designed, apparently, to accuse the government of playing foul in the event the opposition’s no-trust move against the prime minister fails. In blatant violation of the sanctity of the place, JUI-F legislator Salahuddin Ayubi arrived at the lodges accompanied by some 70 members of the party militia, Ansarul Islam.

Some of them went inside with him while others camped at the gate. Alarmed at the situation, a large police force reached the scene. For five long hours they tried to persuade the intruders to come out, albeit without success. Left with no choice they broke down the door to Ayubi’s flat and arrested two dozen members of the militia, banned by the interior ministry in 2019 for being “capable of functioning as a military organisation.”

With its uniformed, club wielding ‘volunteers’ trained to use force, by definition Ansarul Islam is a private militia that has no place in a civilised society. Only the state has monopoly over use of force, that too within the legitimate boundaries of law and democratic norms.

The Maulana rushed to the scene with a large number of party workers in tow. Soon some prominent PML-N leaders joined him to show support, implying thereby that they are okay with private militias. PPP leaders Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also deemed it fit to strongly condemn the police action rather than the intruders.

Describing it as a proof of Imran Khan getting panicked, they advised the police and Islamabad administration not to follow “illegal” orders. Unfortunately, transient political interests take precedence over principles. The opposition parties surely would not be so accepting if the shoe were on the other foot. For his part, the Maulana railed against the government calling for immediate release of his musclemen, failing which he said he would also court arrest. Furthermore, he asked his party workers across the country to come out and block roads to protest against government “high-handedness”. Justifying the presence of his militiamen in the Parliamentary Lodges, he told reporters that they were called in to provide security for fear the government might “kidnap” some of the opposition lawmakers to beat the no-trust move against the Prime Minister.

Sadly, a section of the print media also reported the arrest of some MNAs which turned out to be fake news. Later in the night, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid explained that only 19 members of the Ansarul Islam militia were in police custody and that the MNAs in police station were there of their own volition.

Regarding the security issue, he said, if the opposition parties were not satisfied with police protection he could assign Rangers and FC men to each legislator. But then they must not complain about the presence of these forces.

As for the JUI-F leader’s call on his supporters to block roads all over the country, he warned, they would be dealt with an iron hand. The opposition parties need to realise that by resorting to strong-arm tactics they are only damaging their own case. Bringing no-confidence motion against the PM is their democratic, constitutional right, but there is no justification to threaten use of force for whatever reason.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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