| Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) activists clash with the police during a demonstration in Lahore. (AFP)
Islamabad, Oct. 31: Opposition MPs threatened to launch a “go Musharraf” campaign after Ramazan if the government continued the siege of “suspected areas” in the border region as part of its war against terror.
They also demanded the immediate release and the withdrawal of the treason case against Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) leader Makhdoom Javed Hashmi.
The Opposition MPs first held a demonstration inside the National Assembly and then walked out en bloc to protest outside the parliament premises.
Leaders from the alliance of religious parties, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), and the Alliance for Restoration of Democracy (ARD), of which Hashmi is the president, warned the military-backed government of Prime Minister Zafarullah Jamali of a political crisis if it failed to stop the “unjust” military operation in Wana, the administrative headquarters of South Waziristan.
At least a dozen foreign militants were killed and another 19 arrested in an operation launched on October 2.
The authorities have since demolished at least 35 houses, impounded dozens of vehicles and arrested hundreds the government believes have been supporting or sheltering Taliban and al Qaida suspects.
The tribals have refused to allow suspected terrorists to use the border regions as a safety haven and have so far withstood the blockade by the military.
“With every passing day, the tension is mounting and the people are getting angrier,” Abdul Sattar Wazir, an MP from South Waziristan, said in Islamabad.
The resentment is growing in the region and the people are becoming increasingly anti-army because of their heavy presence and high-handedness, he said.
Aware of the explosive situation in the tribal regions, Wazir added, all political parties have called for the army’s pullout from the South Waziristan. The Afghan authorities allege that most attacks against their forces and the American troops are being organised and conducted through the tribal belt between the two countries.
However, Pakistan denies this charge, saying that they have done everything they can to stop illegal cross-border movement by “undesirable elements.”
The MPs also demanded the release of Javed Hashmi, a close aide of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who had been picked up late on Wednesday from his residence and charged with treason for “using provocative language against the armed forces and fanning hatred against them.”
Vice-president of the MMA Qazi Hussain Ahmad described Hashmi’s arrest as a “political tactic” of the government aimed at diverting the peoples’ attention from the real issues and to deter the Opposition from planning for national demonstrations against the army and the government.
Condemning Musharraf as the “mother of all evils”, Ahmad said the entire parliament had “literally become hostage to the dictatorial mindset of General Musharraf.”
Ahmed said the government should produce Javed Hashmi at least in the parliament and he should be given a chance to defend himself.
Hashmi has in recent weeks also been critical of the army’s role and the Legal Framework Order (LFO) that gives sweeping powers to the President.
Musharraf says the order is part of the constitution. However, Opposition parties demand it be put before the National Assembly for debate and approval.
Chief of the Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians (PPPP), Makhdoom Amin Fahim, said Javed Hashmi’s arrest was “illegal and urged the speaker of the National Assembly, Chaudhry Amir Hussain, to immediately issue the order to produce Hashmi during the next session of the Assembly.
Memuna Hashmi, a PML () MP and elder daugther of Javed Hashmi, said: “We don’t know where he has been taken.”
She added that the Jamali government was involved in serious human rights violations — be it in Islamabad or South Waziristan. “Musharraf treats the entire Opposition as members of the al-Qaida and wants to deal with them at gun point,” she said, adding: “We will frustrate his evil designs”.