The right of peaceful assembly to lodge protest is not absolute. It stems from fundamental right of freedom of assembly, freedom of association and freedom of speech/expression guaranteed by Article 16, 17 and 19 of constitution. Protesters cannot fringe the fundamental rights of other citizens, nor can they indulge in arson, burning and destroying public or private property, including public transport, trees and symbols of state like Radio/TV stations, parliament, sensitive security installations etc. The Rule of Law can only be enforced through fear and deterrence of punishments. For this it is important that state institutions tasked to maintain law and order, and national security must be strictly apolitical and work within their confined constitutional corridors. Failing to do so, can implode a state from within and its very existence as a sovereign country be at stake. No individual should be allowed to damage Pakistan. The only Red Line that should matter is the institutional sovereignty.
We as a nation, must understand, that such excesses are not tolerated in any democratic country, including USA. On 6 January 2021, over 2000 agitated supporters of President Trump, who were made to believe that he was a victim of conspiracy through rigged and manipulated 2020 elections, marched to attack the Capitol Hill building in Washington. Some of them vandalised and marched the house Speaker’s office and locked down both chambers of Congress. Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives within a week. More than 1000 protesters who entered Capitol Building were charged with federal crimes and as of January 2023, over 476 pleaded guilty. Stewart Rhodes, founder of Oath Keepers, who was not present but was accused of inciting them was sentenced to 18 years, whilst a 63-year-old who sat on Speaker’s chair was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison.
MALIK TARIQ ALI,