In the present charged political atmosphere, accusations, slurs and abuses are flying everywhere. The State is churning out statements and proposing ways and means of teaching a lesson to the opposition and its supporters in the public. Taking the cue, much is being written in print and electronic media to further suggest ways to suppress opposition and any dissenting voices, even if they are of the ordinary public. However, beating the drums of war, the politicians are not realizing that their words and actions may later come back to haunt them.
Hundreds of opposition activists have been arrested along with their first and second-tier leadership by the state, which is simply unprecedented in the recent political history of Pakistan. However, would such violent actions of arbitrary arrests, and baton charging, and tear gassing the protestors help to ease the charged atmosphere in the country? Similarly, houses of opposition leaders are being raided, thus setting another dangerous precedent in politics. Also, protesting families are manhandled in front of cameras with impunity, without realizing that local media may be influenced but not the foreign media which is continuously beaming ground realities to the international viewers.
Further, taking the State’s cue and molding public opinion, ideas are being floated in the print and media to repress the opposition—an essential ingredient of democracy. It has been suggested to set up ‘rioter courts’ to punish the rioters, giving the example of the UK, which is the cradle of democracy and citizens’ rights are jealously guarded and the judiciary is independent and impermeable to any influence-hostile or condescending. To try the demonstrators, words like ‘terrorism’ and ‘terrorists’ are being thrown around like spaghetti, and everything is being painted as black or white: you are either with us or against us. In the UK, judges of the ‘rioter courts’ handed sentences for vandalism, theft and arson only upon the provision of solid evidence provided by the law enforcement agencies, not at the whims and egos of a few. Similarly, it is being suggested to conduct trials by army courts. Such undemocratic steps would only weaken the institutions and democracy.
Among the political parties, PPP and its workers have suffered the most for democracy: the execution of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the assassination of Benazir Bhutto (BB), the incarceration of former Pres Zardari and the flogging of PPP activists. BB was subjected to misogynistic slurs and faced a slew of cases. There are still iconic pictures of BB visiting her incarcerated husband with young children in tow. Therefore, PPP was always at the forefront to save democracy and give space to opposition. However, the torch of leadership has passed to a new generation: which, probably, has neither the experience nor memories of past political victimization, because of this no fire control measures are being initiated by the most mature political party in Pakistan.
There is a general glee over the victimization and abuse of the protesting public. However, keeping in view the political history of Pakistan, what goes around, comes around. Therefore, the petty and brutal tactics might come back to haunt everyone. The egos of a few have put the entire country in a spin and suddenly personal vendettas over the country’s interests have taken center stage. Political parties have probably forgotten the slogan: Democracy is the best revenge. So let sanity and saner minds prevail, lest everybody will lose what was hard won by BB—democracy.