Protests and panic buying

Mr Qadri’s solution is akin to sending in the bull to break everything that remains, leaves the city in chaos.

Vaqas January 14, 2013
Another day, another rally, another series of problems for the capital’s administration and residents.

The first mass protest of the year is on the cards, and the track record of our devoted patriots — those who throw rocks, bricks and shrapnel at everything in sight to show their love for the country — has left the city in panic.

Rumours of fuel and food shortages have led to long queues at petrol pumps, despite assurances from the big oil companies that there are no supply problems. In fact, when I asked a staff member at a petrol pump in F-7 why they ran out of fuel if there is no shortage, his straight-faced reply was,
“Sir, you come here regularly, you should realise we have enough fuel at the pump for normal demand, but if everyone and their uncle comes for a fill up thinking there will be no fuel next week, what will happen?”  (The response sounded much better in Punjabi.)

While the pump operator poignantly summed up the root of the ‘shortages’, there is one angle that he missed. Past government assurances — mostly from a frizzy-haired gentleman — that rallies in the capital would have minimal effect on everyday life, were followed up by brigades of police and paramilitary officials being called in to maintain security, often unsuccessfully. The end result is that people’s confidence in such statements is slightly higher than absolute zero.

That leaves us with the traffic mess that will invariably follow the siege on the city. The government has been nothing if not consistent in bringing colour to the vocabularies of motorists unfortunate enough to be stuck in various traffic bottlenecks created by the number of detours set up to help avoid protesters.

Even though there is a supposed bar on access to the city for anyone tied to the rally, past history shows that it’s not too hard — or expensive — to sneak past the barriers. With road closures already on the cards, if rally participants manage to enter the city, hell will break loose on the highways. Try to stay away from the roads if you want to avoid washing your mouth out with soap.

Tahirul Qadri rally will probably be another flash in the pan. He is just one in a long line of leaders whose interpretation of good governance seems to be no government, which might have worked if he was a libertarian or an anarchist, but he is neither.

Mr Qadri has filled up airtime by repeating the same old “everything is broken” narrative, but instead of sending in the election commission to oversee repairs via the upcoming general elections, Mr Qadri’s solution is akin to sending in the bull to break everything that remains.

To top it off, calling for military involvement in the elections or caretaker set up only further hinders the maturation of democracy, keeping in mind that the military is a sub branch of the executive and thus falls under the control of that branch, unlike the judiciary which is supposed to be independent to maintain checks and balances.

Read more by Vaqas here or follow him on Twitter @vasghar
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

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