Recently, there have been demonstrations in France over certain issues. The police were called to control the demonstrations. Following those demonstrations, another huge demonstration, with thousands of people, was held in Paris on May 1. There were disturbances, including vandalism by the demonstrators, such as broken windows, a few vehicles set on fire, and skirmishes with the law enforcement authorities. Some law enforcement personnel were wounded, but the police did not react with excessive force. Activists delivered speeches both on the streets and in the media. However, there was no internet blockade, no mass arrests of protestors, and no silencing of critics. Nonetheless, the police received criticism for being heavy-handed, as some protesters were injured, and there were even complaints about abusive language used by the police.
This behavior reflects a civilized society, where citizens have rights, freedom of speech is upheld, and institutions are accountable to the public.
On the other extreme, there is once again a flare-up of violence between Israel and the Palestinians, where Palestinians are being subjected to brutal treatment by the Israeli government. Palestinians are resisting, but they are being demonized for their resistance. Israeli soldiers are using high-caliber and deadly munitions against innocent civilians, resulting in the killing and maiming of children, women, and men, without any fear of international condemnation.
Currently, we are experiencing political disturbances that have led to demonstrations, some of which turned violent and caused damage to infrastructure and property. It is indeed regrettable what has happened, but it is commendable that no reactive measures were taken when certain sensitive buildings were attacked. A Joint Investigation Team (JIT) has been formed to identify and apprehend the troublemakers. However, many innocent individuals lost their lives due to the use of live ammunition by law enforcement agencies.
It appears that our agencies resort to live ammunition and disproportionate tear gas shelling, rather than using water cannons, to disperse demonstrators, treating them as if they are the state’s mortal enemies.
While visits are being made to law enforcement personnel who were injured during these demonstrations, there is no mention of the crimes committed against the citizens who were slaughtered like sheep by the state machinery. Furthermore, hundreds of people have been rounded up like cattle, but no information about the crimes of those arrested has been made available to the media and citizens, apart from the act of demonstrating, which is everyone’s right in a democratic society.
Unfortunately, the killing of innocent demonstrators is not an isolated incident but has been a tool used by successive governments in Pakistan. A few years ago, during demonstrations by the TLP, many innocent workers were killed, and to this day, no JIT has been formed to bring justice to the perpetrators. Before that, we had the Model Town killings, and the victims are still seeking justice, ultimately leaving their fate to a higher power, perhaps justifying the phrase: “Religion is the opium of the masses.” There are videos showing women being dragged by law enforcement agencies, which brings shame upon any honorable person and paints a negative image at the international level. Adding to the misery, many human rights organizations and international monitoring agencies have failed to condemn this systematic suppression of freedom of speech by the state and the killing of innocent citizens with impunity.
All of these violent operations and actions reflect a natural tendency in our society: we tend to resolve our issues through force rather than through discussion and negotiation. Furthermore, the dragging of women, children, and the elderly by law enforcement agencies demonstrates the training they have received as well as their propensity for violence, which may also manifest in their personal lives, with many potentially guilty of domestic abuse.
Therefore, the need of the hour is for citizens, regardless of their political affiliations and opinions, to unite against the state’s modus operandi and raise their voices for fellow citizens who were slaughtered. This way, no government, present or future, would dare to kill and maim its own people.