The abrupt and unexpected ending of the long march after unprecedented hype was most disappointing for the people following the developments on this end. As the whole show fizzled out, it ended up adding more confusion and uncertainty in the country. Imagine hundreds of thousands of people, pouring in from all parts of the country, a great thing to watch, gathered in front of parliament to press for their demand to reinstate deposed judges. Aim was to continue sitting there till the objectives are achieved. But in the wee hours of Saturday, Aitzaz Ahsan who was a bit worried and concerned at the start of the march made an unusual announcement, calling off the protest march right in the middle. All he said was that the movement lacked resources to continue the sit-in, as promised at the beginning of the long march The announcement was a rude shock for the young lawyers who had come to the federal capital in the hope of getting the judges reinstated, highly emotional and charged. The young lawyers as such burst into anger, seen shouting slogans against Aitzaz Ahsan, the hero of the lawyers’ movement. Most people following the historic show when turned on their TV sets next morning were surprised to find the Parade Avenue deserted. They kept asking each other if the judges have been restored.
Most interestingly, the long march was abandoned without any assurance from the government. During the whole show which ran from June 10 to June 12, we hardly heard anything from the top functionaries of the government. There was an eerie silence in the PPP camp. We hardly heard anything consoling from Asif Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, and Law Minister Farooq Naek throughout the Long March. They were even not accessible to the TV channels. The people kept waiting for some important announcement from National Assembly, debating the federal budget these days. But on the contrary, we hardly find any sign of urgency in the power corridors, nor there is any realisation that a huge march was taken out to press the issue of judges. By Saturday evening it was business as usual even for the parliamentarians with Long March almost a forgotten issue for many. The government officials, the bureaucracy would have been happy to find the crowd dispersing so quickly without posing any trouble for the federal government. It is true for the provincial government in the Punjab as well to see the last of March before their expectations. No word of consolation or hope came from them even after the march was abandoned in the middle.
The political circles, especially from PTI and JI too were taken by surprise to see the anti-climax of the whole show. JI leadership while expressing its disappointment said the decision to abandon the long march should have been taken in mutual consultation with other political parties. In reaction and sheer disappointment APDM has convened a conference towards the end of this week to debate judges issue. It appeared now they will adopt a new strategy on the judges” issue.
Most lawyers and political folks are of the view that the March or sit-in was called off after an understanding between Nawaz Sharif and Aitzaz Ahsan. One could gather the same impression from Nawaz’s speech before the participants of long march. He advised the leaders and crowds to take all the important decision now onwards in mutual consultation.
It is not clear at this stage if Asif Zardari too was in the loop. Some indications are there to suggest that PPP’s top leadership was very much on board. First, on the orders of Zardari all the barricades and blockades put by the administration to stop the marchers were removed. Second, came the announcement in the federal budget that judges’ strength has been revised from 16 to 29. Before the start of the long march even judges were paid their salaries.
But abandoning of the long march without reinstatement of judges, or without clinching any assurance from the authorities have raised many question in the minds of the people. They rightfully contended that if it was to be abandoned in such haste then what was the fun of taking out the long march in the first place.
First of all the people want to know why the march was called off so suddenly without achieving the objectives. Was there an understanding between the lawyers and PML (N) that led to its sudden end?
Again, what is the future of lawyers’ movement now? Will the lawyers come on the roads and boycott the courts every week. More importantly, has the lawyers’ movement, which brought about far-reaching changes in the country, has come to its end.
Source: The Nation, 16/6/2008