A perspective

May 21, 2023

On how power politics affect the public at large

A perspective


rrespective of the popular narrative, I find it difficult to comprehend how one can resort to violence and take up arms while claiming to pursue peace. It should be apparent to all that vandalising motorway facilities, army installations, schools, hospitals and ambulances only exacerbate a bad situation.

Pakistan has witnessed several episodes of particularly violent political activities in its history. Some of those have been triggered by political turmoil, revelations about corruption scandals or sectarian tensions. Recently, the arrest of former prime minister Imran Khan in connection with an accountability investigation led to widespread outrage shown by his supporters. Some of them clashed with the police, stormed army offices, set fire to a corpse commander’s official residence and looted a paramilitary school. At least six people were killed and hundreds injured in the unrest, which prompted the government to call in the army to restore order. Khan then accused the military and his successor, Shahbaz Sharif, of plotting against him and his political movement. He also reiterated his demand for early elections and vowed to continue his struggle for democracy.

It appears that the root of the problem lies in the cult-like following of certain leaders. Some of their admirers consider them above reproach on all counts and immune to temptation, mistakes and human weaknesses. Such fans cannot tolerate any allegation against their hero or any suggestion that they might be subject to the rule of law like other citizens.

Once it is claimed and agreed that somebody is above the law on account of being so important to the society that the country would cease to exist if they were treated like others, there can be no business as usual. It is important to recognise that the country and national institutions are bigger than any individual. In fact they have functioned, thrived and will continue to do so, with or without any particular individual.

The cult of personality, particularly in politics, has been a source of division, violence, and extremism. Some of the people around whom such problems have occurred have been religious leaders of various persuasions. In some instances lethal violence has resulted from their speeches or words attributed to them. Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), a populist party led by Imran Khan that claims to represent a new vision of change and accountability has in recent days come to resemble similar mobs. Various groups of the kind have mobilised large enough crowds now and then through emotional appeals, propaganda and intimidation. Many have then clashed with the state and their various rivals, political or otherwise. Cult-based politics poses a serious challenge to Pakistan’s democracy, pluralism and stability. Besides, cult-based parties tend to be dynastic.

It is worth pointing out that the same National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had arrested several opposition leaders under Khan’s government. In fact, Khan and several other leaders of his party had taken great pleasure and pride in the phenomenon and asserted that such harsh treatment of all suspected of wrongdoing was good for the society.

It is important to recognise that when powerful politicians resist or evade arrest, create obstacles and exploit vulnerable neighbours as shields for their protection, they contribute to the problems at hand and risk many innocent lives.

Considering that the protesters claim to be motivated by a sense of patriotic duty, why are they engaging in acts that actually contribute to the destruction of the country? Their willingness to destroy private property and public infrastructure contradicts the supposed purpose of their protests. It is disheartening to witness such actions, to say the least. True patriotism lies in conscious efforts to build and strengthen the nation, not in participating in its destruction.

Peaceful protest is a fundamental right of every citizen in a democratic country. It provides individuals with a way to express their opinions and draw attention to their grievances. Sometimes, it leads to desired change. However, it is essential to recognise that protest cannot be an excuse or justification for inflicting harm on others or destroying public or private property.

That the arrest of a political leader should result in widespread protests throughout the country shows that he is popular. However, the methods employed in the recent agitation are deeply troubling. The violent nature of these protests has resulted in significant damage to public and private infrastructure, including educational institutions, healthcare facilities and residential properties. Such behaviour is unacceptable.

It is imperative to exercise our right to protest responsibly, ensuring that it does not cause harm to others or result in the destruction of public and private property. Engaging in violence is likely to beget more violence. Responsible citizens have a duty to protest peacefully, respecting the rights of others. Progress can only be achieved through peaceful means, not acts of violence and wanton destruction.

The writer is a student and an aspiring journalist

A perspective