A timely intervention by Pak Army, made possible by its intelligence tentacles, enabled aborting of a commando like operation aimed at arresting the chief of the Tehrik Minhajul Quran. Highly-placed sources revealed that as the stand-off stiffened, certain elements in the govt planned for a dangerous operation to arrest the leader of the long march on January 16 or 17. Intelligence sources quoting credible inputs revealed that a federal law enforcing agency, on the advice of the interior ministry, had been tasked to carry out the “sting operation” to arrest Dr Qadri, a liberal Pakistani-Canadian cleric who has a strong stance against terrorism.
The possibilities of casualties among those protecting the march’s leader were accepted as an ‘unavoidable collateral damage’. “But the army and the intelligence agency leadership diffused the tension,” an intelligence official told this reporter during a brief chat. “Rather than exploiting the situation and playing the role of a grabber, the military leadership did their best to bring down the temperature on the political sphere,” he explained. The official straightforwardly rejected the allegations levelled by some opposition parties that the security establishment supported the marchers. He said the security forces had nothing to do with the political developments taking place during the last some days in the country.
About the ‘sting operation’ the sources further revealed that the details of the risky plan were picked up by the intelligence agencies. “The planned operation envisaged use of water cannons to disperse the protective cordon around Qadri and then sending in a team using shock-tactics to grab their target,” sources explained. On the directives of the government, the machinery had been installed close to the long march near the Parliament House in the federal capital to use water cannons to hit the marchers. Referring to interior minister, an intelligence source said, “Mr Malik had given go-ahead to a civilian (law enforcement) agency to launch the operation telling them that even five to six killings doesn’t matter.”
A quick response by the army and intelligence leadership, who advised against such a reckless adventure and its pernicious fall-out, made the government high ups block the potentially disastrous operation.
A military official said that the army and intelligence leadership took constructive steps to ease tension though some circles were propagating that the long march had been plotted to derail the otherwise fragile democratic set-up.
He also termed the coup rumours amid long march “absurd and based on disinformation”, stating that the security forces had nothing to do with the political developments. He said there was no link or contact between Qadri and the security agencies prior to the march, clearly dispelling the impression that the cleric was staging a stunt on their behest.
Pak Army or ISI had nothing to do with the recent developments – from sit-in of Shias mourning Quetta killings to the long march. “Even if we suppose that some quarters in the security establishment were backing the long march, then what have they achieved through all this?” questioned the official.
Had there been any plan for military takeover, the situation was obviously ripe for it and the planners would have exploited this opportunity, he commented with a smile on his face. According to some other well-informed sources, the top leadership of army and the ISI is focusing on the internal and external security challenges at a time when the country is aggressively fighting against militancy and India has adopted an aggressive posture at the Line of Control. Hence, military has no space for any political adventure and the conspiracy theories ahead of polls must not be given any serious consideration.