Culmination of the London plan

Daily: Weekly Cutting Edge
Date: 15.10.18

The authenticity of what was known in the past has been confirmed now: the London plan
was a reality. On 28 September, 2018, a leader of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT)
Khurram Nawaz Gandapur revealed on a TV talk show hosted by Moeed Pirzada that, in the
first week of June 2014, the plan was hatched in London to launch a street agitation against
the then sitting elected government of Mian Nawaz Sharif. Gandapur revealed that, Allama
Tahir-ul Qadri reached London and to call on him Imran Khan, Chairman Pakistan Tehrik-e-
Insaf (PTI), and Chaudhry Pervez Elahi and Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain of the Pakistan
Muslims League-Q (PML-Q) reached London from Pakistan.

In the consequent meeting, it was agreed that the ruse of alleged rigging of general
elections of 2013 would be used and the venue would be Islamabad, where Dr. Qadri had
already staged a four days’ sit-in in January 2013. Reportedly, there had taken place
rounds of meetings discussing multiple ways, and there were more people than the four
leaders. Zulfi Bukhari was also a part of these meetings.

Back home, in his talk show, anchorperson Hamid Mir revealed that the real target of the
London plan was to help General Pervez Musharraf escape the clutches of Article 6. A
street agitation would be launched to weaken the then sitting government and an effort
would be made to weaken the government’s moral authority. The PAT wanted to launch its
part of the agitation as a revolution to replace the whole system with a new system.
Somehow, the then sitting government got a whiff of the plan and, consequently, on 17
June, 2014, the Punjab police conducted a crackdown on the PAT workers at the party’s
headquarters (called the Model Town massacre) in Lahore taking the lives of a dozen of
PAT workers.

The whole development was in the background that, on 31 March, 2014, General (retired)
Pervez Musharraf was indicted for high treason by a special court for abrogating the
Constitution of Pakistan on 3 November, 2007. Nevertheless, political commentators were
surprised at the conjoining of the PAT and PTI which otherwise shared nothing in common.
The PAT was not a political party; however, the PTI offered the PAT a political cover.

In July, in Lahore, both Khan and Dr. Qadri reiterated their resolve to launch a
synchronized march towards Islamabad. There were certain background contacts including
Sheikh Rashid of the Awami Muslim League (AML). On 14 August, 2014, the Azadi
(independence) march towards Islamabad began. In Gujranwala, on their way to Islamabad
(from Lahore), from atop the truck, Rashid pleaded publicly to the army to intervene. In
Islamabad, Khan repeatedly referred to the “third umpire” to raise its finger in the favour of
the PAT-PTI duo. The then sitting government leaked certain reports revealing the tapped
recordings of the telephone calls of the then DG ISI chief Lt. General Zaheer ul Islam giving
instructions to the agitators on how to act. There were also reports that the former DG ISI
Lt. General (retired) Shuja Pasha was also active in meetings with the PTI leaders.
Nevertheless, the major strategy of the plan was to stop the sitting government from
performing its day-to-day functions.

On August 30, to the street agitation, the Islamabad police responded coercively. On 31
August, 2014, a corps commander’s conference was convened in a hurry at the conclusion
of which the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) issued a press release asking the then
sitting government to be lenient towards the agitators. On 1 September, 2014, while
hearing the plea against the extra-constitutional act, the bench of the Supreme Court asked
advocate Hamid Khan to apprise the court “what kind of suo motu should be taken” to
resolve the crisis after the full court could become the “final mediator”. This was the time
when a veteran politician Javed Hashmi (who was the president of the PTI) became sure of
the beginning of the end of the then sitting government. Consequently, in the evening of
the same day (September 1), Hashmi conducted a press conference in front of the
parliament and said that there was a nexus between the army and the higher judiciary to
introduce a judicial martial law in Pakistan. Hashmi also said that the PAT-PTI movement
was a “hijacked movement” by “non-democratic forces” who wanted to meet their own
objective. Interestingly, in response to his widely reported press conference, neither did the
ISPR issue any denial statement nor the Supreme Court took any suo motu notice. Hashmi
denigrated both the higher judiciary and the army, which are still struggling to exonerate
their names from political maneuvering.

Hashmi’s press conference alerted all the parties concerned. The parliament was in session
(to forestall any judicial martial law) and became grateful to Hashmi for uttering the words
for its life and legitimacy. In the wake of Hashmi’s press conference, leaders of both PTI and
PAT refrained from mentioning the “third umpire” publicly, whereas leaders of the PML-Q
issued statements against the army. The main players of the London plan became
defensive and tried to prove their disassociation from both the higher judiciary and the
army even by condemning these institutions publicly.

Though the Peshawar school massacre on 16 December, 2014, forced the PTI to end its
agitation, the London Plan became successful in weakening the then sitting government
and consequently getting General (retired) Musharraf released from the clutches of the
judiciary on 18 March, 2016. Nevertheless, whatever premonition Hashmi uttered in his
press conference (on September 1) proved true later on, though under a different context
called the Panama leaks.

From the academic perspective, the whole episode is a case study, which reveals the way
politicians make compromises on democratic principles and get ready to play in the hands
of non-democratic forces just for the sake of getting their share in power. Secondly, the
whole episode also indicates that the dream of seeing democracy in full swing in Pakistan
still stands frustrated.

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