Pakistan Reader# 144, 3 January 2021
This week highlighted the fault lines within the PDM over the resignation issue. However, the 1 January meeting also underlines, the effort to build a consensus and buy more time. As of now, the PDM has got that, until 31 January.D. Suba Chandran
The PDM differences: on resigning from the assemblies and taking on the Establishment
One of the new year plans of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) got shattered. It gets increasingly clear that the PPP is unlikely to resign from the Parliament and Sindh Provincial Council. Mass resignations of the PDM components in 2021 were one of the primary plans; it is engineered to be the final culmination, following the Islamabad march, forcing Imran Khan to resign.
It may be easier for the JUI-F and PML-N; though both have seats in the Parliament, they are not ruling any provinces. PPP is, as in the case of Sindh. Even within the JUI-F and the PML-N, there are reservations in pursuing the resignation course. There is support for the final march to Islamabad, and even a long dharna there, as the PTI did against Nawaz Sharif government. However, the idea of mass resignations does not have complete consensus within the PDM components. The PPP has a reservation against the idea, though Maryam Nawaz and Maulana Fazlur Rehman insist on it. Both have nothing to lose; they are not a part of the Parliament now; but others from the party, have a different position on the issue.
The last meeting of the PDM leaders on 1 January 2021, though could not have a breakthrough in getting a consensus on the resignation issue, has avoided any breakup. After the meeting, Maulana Fazlur Rahman has stated that the final decision on resignation and taking part in the Senate elections would be taken after 31 January (the deadline from the PDM to Imran Khan to resign).
Maulana also made another statement, after the above meeting. Dawn, quoted him saying: "Our target of criticism will now be the establishment which set up a fake government. We respect the army and generals, but now they have to decide to step back and focus on their constitutional responsibilities." Is this a rhetoric aimed at the PDM audience, or applying pressure against the Establishment?
There are strong reservations not only on resignations, even on pursuing the "State above the State" narrative. The statement that the march would move towards Islamabad and Rawalpindi is seen as casting a wide net for the PDM. A section within the PDM, especially the PML-N, would want to go slow in targeting the Establishment. They would want to go after only Imran Khan.
What this week highlighted is the fault lines within the PDM over the resignation issue. However, the 1 January meeting also underlines, the effort to build a consensus and buy more time. As of now, the PDM has got that, until 31 January.
Fencing Gwadar: Technically feasible, Politically disastrous
Early this week, a jirga comprising of the elders from different parts of Gwadar district held a meeting and rejected the government's latest initiative to fence the city. The provincial government of Balochistan recently started to erect a barbed fence surrounding the city, with limited entries into Gwadar. The stated objective is to make Gwadar "safe" and "smart", allowing people only with permits to enter into the city from outside. Gwadar would then become a like a garrison city.
Technically, it would be feasible to fence the city. With the Arabian Sea on one side, the fencing would cover rest of the city; with Gwadar being one of the small cities or a large town, the fencing should not cover more than 25 square km. Fencing would also make guarding it easier, with limited entry and exit points, perhaps a couple of them.
Politically, it would be a disaster. It would increase the distance between the Baloch people and the government – both provincial and federal. Besides the anti-government sentiments, it would also increase the anger against the Chinese. There is already an anti-Chinese sentiment in Balochistan over the CPEC projects. This would only increase it; it is obvious that the government is attempting to fence the city, to protect the Chinese, their interests and their investments.
Later this week, the provincial government has made a conciliatory statement on stopping the fencing and addressing the local people's concerns. According to the Home Minister of Balochistan, the fencing is being undertaken to protect the port city, and increase the city's investments. An interesting statement. Port cities in the rest of the world should take a cue from Balochistan; fence them, protect the city, and increase the investment!
Lakhvi arrested on terror financing charges
On Saturday, one of the top leaders of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) – Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi was arrested for terror financing, based on a case registered in Lahore during early December. There have been multiple cases and charges against Lakhvi; India considers him as a mastermind of the terrorist attack in Mumbai in 2008.
According to a UN Security Council sanction, "Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi is the chief of operations and military commander of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT)" and in that capacity, "Lakhvi has directed LeT operations, including in Chechnya Republic in Russian Federation, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iraq, and South-East Asia." The UNSC summary provides a detailed profile of Lakhvi. It reads: "In 2003, Lakhvi instructed LeT operatives to conduct attacks in densely-populated areas. In the same year, he directed a LeT operative to travel to Iraq to assess the situation there. In 2004, Lakhvi sent operatives and funds in order to mount attacks on the forces of United States of America in Iraq. In 2006, Lakhvi instructed LeT associates to train operatives for suicide bombings. In past years, Lakhvi has played an important role in LeT fundraising activities, receiving donations from Al-Qaida (QDe.004) affiliates on behalf of LeT. He has also managed a training camp in Afghanistan."
This is not the first time Lakhvi is getting arrested. There have been multiple arrests earlier, and the courts have provided bail. The investigation on charges against him and the cases built was never strong enough for a conviction.
Why did Pakistan arrest him? And will it be different this time?
During 2020, there have been a series of legislations passed in the Parliament to satisfy the FATF conditions, so that the latter would remove Pakistan from the Grey list. Unfortunately for Pakistan, it did not happen. One of the primary concerns of the FATF is over terror financing and the lack of adequate legal action over the issue within Pakistan. In October 2020, the FATF met and decided to keep Pakistan in the grey list until February 2021. It wants not only legislations but also actions to prove Pakistan is serious. The case filed against Lakhvi in December 2020 and the arrest in January 2021 should be aimed at providing evidence to the FATF that Pakistan is serious. Islamabad has a February deadline on this
So Lakhvi would remain in prison, at least until the next FATF meeting.