Faizabad dharna commission report bereft of ‘authenticity and credibility’: Defence Minister Asif

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif on Tuesday said that the report compiled by the Faizabad dharna commission was bereft of any “authenticity” or “credibility”, adding that its authors needed to reflect on whether they had done justice to the duty assigned to them.

The commission constituted to probe the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan’s (TLP) 2017 sit-in at Faizabad has submitted its report to the federal government recommending, among other things, legislation and drafting of rules and standard operating procedures to regulate the working of intelligence agencies.

Sources had told Dawn that the report also noted that the involvement of the army or its affiliated agency in civilian matters adversely affects the fair image of the institution.

The three-member body, headed by retired police officer Syed Akhtar Ali Shah and consisting of former IGP Islamabad Tahir Alam Khan and Additional Interior Secretary Khushal Khan, was constituted under the Pakistan Commission of Inquiry Act 2017 to ensure compliance with the February 6, 2019, apex court verdict, authored by then-Justice Qazi Faez Isa.

The commission noted that since no one from among the then-prime minister, former ministers for law and interior and the former Punjab chief minister had accused intelligence agencies of facilitating the protesters, nor was any evidence furnished to this effect, the commission could not connect any organisation or state official with the TLP dharna.

In an interview with Hum News show Faisla Aap Ka with Asma Sherazi, the defence minister commented on the report, saying: “This report has no authenticity or credibility … this report has no value and its authors should reflect and question themselves if they have fulfilled their duty or not.”

Asif explained his rationale by saying that both “main characters”, referring to former army chief Gen (rtd) Qamar Javed Bajwa and ex-spymaster Lt Gen (rtd) Faiz Hameed, did not appear in front of the commission to answer its questions for the report.

“How can this report be complete when two main characters are not presented,” he questioned.

“In the end, only a political worker was presented,” he added.

“Why were these people not presented? Their absence makes this report incomplete,” Asif said, adding that the pair had “all sorts of power” during the period under investigation by the commission.

The minister questioned what could be the mandate of the commission if the two retired generals did not appear before it, adding that there were no answers available.

“I think that when you are appointed at big designations then you should have moral courage that when your accountability is under question then you yourself volunteer” for proceedings, he said, terming the incident a “very important case” in the country’s history.

“I got up there with a bad taste,” Asif said of his experience with the commission, adding that he had thought the inquiry proceedings would be a “serious exercise” but were instead “chit-chat”.

Commission report
The report said that the fallout from the Faizabad dharna was “more due to lack of courage of conviction of the leader handling the issue and in particular the government of Punjab”.

It recalled that while there was an agreement on the part of the government and official institutions to resolve the matter through negotiations and avoidance of the use of force. Initially, the federal government took the stance that the Punjab government should deal with the issue within its jurisdiction, but the government of Punjab maintained that since they had accepted 11 out of the 12 demands of the protesters.

Since the demonstrators’ final grievance pertained to the Centre, the provincial government argued that they should be allowed to proceed to Islamabad. The Punjab government reportedly assured the Centre that the demonstrators would peacefully disperse after registering their protest.

The report also compared the agreement with the TLP with those signed with militant groups in the 2000s. “Without analysing the dynamics of religious militancy, government, as always, is only trying a quick fix rather than addressing the root cause and such a tendency has never worked in the past and will not work in the future … the inking of agreement on the terms of protesters and similar agreements in the past with other militant groups might have found a temporary solution to a deep-rooted problem,” the report said while calling for a review of approach in dealing with violent extremism. It also called for an effective system to curb terror financing.

According to the report, there should be coordination among law enforcement agencies, Pemra, and the interior ministry to surveil social media against “injurious material in violation of law”.

The commission also observed omissions in implementing the National Action Plan and sought to “strengthen the anti-terror agencies through basic reforms in the criminal justice system”.

It also called for action against those involved in terrorism and other crimes during the 21-day sit-in and said that cases “may be re-opened and investigated and taken to a logical conclusion”.

The report also noted that the Mustafa Impex case ruling, which diluted the executive authority of the prime minister, may be revisited.

The Islamabad Capital Territory may be given the status of a province with full administrative and financial authority and the Police Order 2002 may be implemented in the capital, it added.


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