Friday June 09, 2023

Scenes of chaos

By Editorial Board
May 26, 2022

When the country’s interior minister says the government is embarrassed about deploying the security apparatus since the numbers of protesters on the roads were underwhelming, the question that comes to mind is: why then was there a need for such an overzealous reaction? Wednesday’s dystopian scenes on TV will hardly be forgotten any time soon – resembling anything but serious politics or efforts to build a stable Pakistan by either of the sides involved. In the first place, there are not enough words to condemn the government’s overreaction to the PTI’s ‘long march’ to Islamabad. Not only was this an undemocratic move, it also made zero sense if only looked at it from a calculated optics lens. The unnecessary raids, the tear gas, the arrest and then release of Dr Yasmin Rashid seemed to be the work of a scared coalition rather than a government on strong footing. If the government had intelligence about illegal weapons at any leader’s house, targeted action could have been taken instead of whimsically harassing the whole party. Per most analysts, the long march had in any case not attracted the sort of numbers Imran had been hoping for. Why then the panic in the government ranks?

The government may have been looking at Imran Khan’s past lack of predictability and untrustworthiness. But all the government’s effort ended up doing was create even more chaos, with scuffles and fighting between police and PTI protesters and no call from Imran to ask his people to at least keep the peace and respect the state. Around Wednesday afternoon, there were some reports of PTI-government talks – which too seemed to have failed to reach a conclusion. The Supreme Court had by late afternoon worked out a plan, putting out a verdict under which the PTI would be allowed to gather in a ground between the H-9 and G-9 areas of Islamabad while the government would free those who had been detained and allow the protestors to disperse peacefully after their rally. It is still uncertain if all this is to happen, especially since Imran Khan decided to still ask his workers to reach D-Chowk. That and the fact that PTI workers decided to set fires to trees at various sites in Islamabad for unknown reasons does not suggest a willingness to adhere fully to the SC proposal.

What is needed right now is maturity rather than this scuffle between schoolboys that politics stands reduced to. The state always has the upper hand in any faceoff with protesters. As we have repeatedly said, protest is a democratic right. No government should take away this constitutional right from any citizen of the country. The parameters have been set by the highest court of the land. It is for both sides not to respect them. The government needs to stop these unnecessary arrests and raids, and the PTI needs to tell its workers to curb their violent tendencies, attend a rally and go home. This is all the drama this country can afford right now. Anything more and we are spiraling down into darker times.