Why was Pakistan general giving money to protesters?

A video showing a senior Pakistani army officer distributing money to anti-government protesters in Islamabad has prompted a fierce reaction on social media.

The footage is being interpreted by some as rare evidence of the “soft spot” the military is believed to have for religious groups, whose support can be mobilised against mainstream political parties.

The demonstrators blocked a main road in Islamabad for three weeks until the military brokered an end to the protest on Monday after a botched police operation. The law minister then resigned, meeting a key demand of the protesters who had accused him of blasphemy.

The deal was seen as capitulation by the civilian authorities under pressure from the military.

In the video, director-general of the Punjab Rangers Maj-Gen Azhar Navid Hayat is seen giving envelopes containing 1,000-rupee ($9.50; £7) notes to participants in the protests, who were described as having no money to pay their bus fare home.

“This is a gift from us to you,” the general is heard telling one bearded man. “Aren’t we with you too?”

He then goes on to pat another protester on the cheek and offers a reassurance that, “God willing, we’ll get all of them released” – presumably a reference to arrested protesters.

“This is all we had in one bag. There’s some more [money] in the other,” Gen Hayat says, before the footage ends.

Pakistan protests: The political tensions behind the scenes
The video was shot by Dawn News TV reporter Shakil Qarar on his mobile phone. He says it was run on the Dawn News website but has no idea how footage without the Dawn News logo ended up on social media.

There was no immediate reaction from the military, which has long played a prominent role in the country’s politics.

The protests turned violent over the weekend before the civilian government gave in
No politicians from the governing party or the opposition have commented and TV channels have refrained from running the footage, perhaps reluctant to antagonise the powerful military.

The Nation and Dawn newspapers did cover the story but did not headline it, and it got a back-page mention in the Urdu-language daily Jang.

However, there has been fierce reaction from some Pakistanis on social media.

November 29 2017

Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-42149535

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