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A dismal state of affairs


April 4, 2016

They came, they saw and, contrary to what the government will have you believe, they conquered. Immense damage to public property and vitriol-filled speeches were just some of the problems they caused. Their punishment: the government scrambling to avoid confrontation, implicitly begging them to walk away because it did not have the will or the capacity to fight back against those who had terrorised the federal capital.

While much criticism has been levied against Imran Khan and the PTI for setting the wrong precedent through their very own dharna, the fact remains that the government’s reaction to both has set the most head-spinning precedent. Isn’t it strange that the prime minister, who came in with a heavy mandate, felt the need to fire at unarmed PTI and PAT workers as they marched towards parliament, whereas those who left a trail of destruction from when they began to move towards parliament were not even given a taste of rubber bullets?

Not that one can, in a rational state of mind, ask for violence, even against radicals like those who had taken over D-Chowk. But if the state chose to exercise a monopoly of violence against political protests, why was it frozen with fear when it came to exercising that same monopoly in the case of radicals glorifying a self-confessed murderer? The only logical conclusion that comes to mind is that the government was elected with their support and could not fire at them – and that is an alarming thought.

The ‘agreement’ between the radicals and the PML-N government is another strange development. The question that comes to mind is: since no signatures can be seen anywhere on the text of the ‘agreement’, does that imply that the government intended for these points to be unenforceable? If so, a high-five to the legal mind behind the idea and if not, luck worked in their favour as they are, in either case, not legally bound by the terms of that ‘agreement’.

Going back to the use of force, despite our nation suffering from severe amnesia, it is doubtful whether we will ever be able to erase from our minds the images of radicals repelling the police. Not that the police are at fault, of course – their failure to guarantee our safety is just one of the many manifestations of the fact that this government has done nothing to enhance the capacity of our law-enforcement agencies (LEAs).

So if our LEAs cannot function properly and our interior minister surfaces at a time of his convenience, while the federal capital is on tenterhooks, what exactly has the government done to address the law and order situation? If the tragedy at Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park had not transpired on Easter Sunday, one could say that they were busy putting in place stringent security measures.

Even more puzzling is the fact that despite the acknowledgment of the civilian and military leadership that the terrorists are attacking ‘soft targets’, little to no security arrangements are made for schools, public parks and other public places. In light of this, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to say that the state is negligently, if not knowingly, allowing its citizenry to be massacred. Maybe this is their twisted version of a population control strategy.

In the meantime, we have yet to see a single government in Pakistan that has genuinely worked towards revamping the severely flawed bureaucratic system in the country, which is another problem associated with law and order. There was once a time when Pakistan functioned pretty well, owing in large part to the quality of officers working in the bureaucracy.

What we have seen over the last many years is incompetence flourishing in the bureaucracy, causing frustration amongst the population. While red-tape is associated with bureaucracies all over the world, corruption, inefficiency and severely lacking capacity are now known (and, to a large degree, accepted) characteristics of the Pakistani bureaucracy.

Instead of working on the areas identified above, the government is focusing on cosmetic changes. That is not to say that no one in this current setup is competent or sincere – there are many – but the general policy of the government has been to throw some glitter on top of an open wound. Of course, they fail to realise that the glitter will burn the wound more than it will hide it.

The writer is a lawyer.

Email: [email protected]




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