Are sit-ins and protests the only way to be heard?

In protests motorists and pedestrians are often attacked with rocks; vehicles are damaged and innocent people injured.

Sarfaraz Memon March 06, 2013
Sit-ins, it seems, are the only solutions to all the problems people are facing in this country. Workers demanding the regularisation of jobs, people protesting prolonged power outages, villagers demanding justice against the high-handedness by the police or influential persons, families of the dead demanding the arrest of the killers, people protesting attacks on high-profile personalities.

All these people stage sit-ins to pressure the government into accepting their demands.

Here, I would like to refer to two of the biggest sit-ins in the country, which paralysed road and rail traffic throughout Pakistan. These sit-ins were staged by the Wahdatul Muslimeen in January and February against the mass killing of Hazaras in Quetta.

There is no doubt that the anger and demands of the protesters were genuine because the Hazaras lost scoress of their loved ones in bomb blasts that were seen as the failure of the government and its spy agencies to control the situation.

As a citizen of Pakistan and a journalist, I respect the sentiments of the protesters and even feel their pain, but the situation took an ugly turn with the blockade of national highways and all the main roads in the big cities, due to which hundreds of thousands people were affected.

Schoolchildren, office workers, transporters, especially rickshaw drivers and daily wage earners were among the worst affected.

In Karachi, for example, many main roads were blocked. People couldn't leave their homes to go to work. Moreover, ambulances did not have space to pass. This created a lot of trouble for the ordinary citizen.

Recently, many ugly scenes unfolded when the national highways and other main roads were blocked after the attacks on Saen Hussain Shah of Qamber and Saen Hajan Shah of Shikarpur. Both men are apolitical and believe in spreading love, peace and brotherhood.

Would it not be safer for both, the protestors and the by-passers, that the protest takes place in a locality where their voice can be heard, their discipline commended and their cause highlighted even more? Wouldn’t Bagh Ibne Qasim have been a more suitable place for a sit-in, with ample amount of space, security and coverage?

Causing trouble to the common man only sparks feelings of detestation and frustration in the public, whereas, this same ordinary citizen would, on a more peaceful occasion, have taken part in the sit-ins. The inconvenience caused by the protest does in fact overshadow the cause being fought for.

Why lose the public’s support when the cause is great enough but only the approach is flawed.

When people block roads in protest, they treat all motorists and pedestrians as though they were the ones responsible for the crime. Motorists and pedestrians are often attacked with sticks and rocks, vehicles are damaged and innocent people injured. Such protesters don’t even respect schoolchildren, women and patients.

In a democracy, every citizen has the right to protest, but any protest or sit-in should not deprive others of their rights.

Read more by Sarfaraz here
Sarfaraz Memon
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


bigsaf | 11 years ago | Reply @another ordinary citizen: You are entitled to your opinion, however I respectfully disagree with it due to history, facts and the lives lost over the decades on motive of sectarianism and sectarian terrorism alone. Karachi has been a hotbed for sect violence and objective of cleansing by Wahhabi/Salafi/Deoband/Sunni extremist militants that has cost thousands of lives, mostly the Shia minority, in the pre-2000's alone. While it may have gotten worse for everyone now, like many majority Sunni victims, due to blowback of us harbouring these local and foreign extremist militants, every statistic and neutral observer will tell you it is still disproportionately worse for Shia minorities who are still ideologically targeted frequently in the grand scheme of overall terrorism. Just because it has not reached the sickening levels of Quetta or Parachinar, does not mean it hasn't been particularly horrible for minorities in Karachi. It absolutely has. I don't understand why downplaying their plight helps in forging unity. Of course there are Muslims, Pakistanis who are all dying...and no one should deny Sunnis aren't dying...but the risks increases significantly for non-Sunnis and we should absolutely acknowledge the reality of this sectarian crisis instead of sanitizing it for a faux narrative of unity, when there's a clear disparity even in motives of attacks and victimhood.
Ahsan Raza | 11 years ago | Reply these arguments will continue on and on and believe me there is no result.let us all be on one page keeping aside all the differences. a)we are first all humans and then shias or sunnis b)hazara people died and that was a cruelty so we all as humans condemn it. c)hazaras had been harassed for a long tome now (any body can research on it) and this time it was the destruction of their hundred families. d)We all .as humans ,are sad on what happened to hazara "humans" e)some humans did not like what happened to hazaras and as these humans live in pakistan so to be heard they couldnt protest in a garden ,they had to come on roads to make the prime minister fly to quetta and even that took 2 days. f)these humans who came on roads do not have the hobby of coming to roads with their families leaving their jobs. g)the sit in in some way paid off and the govt. took action because of these sit ins and u ll agree to it. h)some humans were thoroughly disturbed by the traffic jams and inconveniences so the sit in humans are very sorry. if we all agree on these points then there should be no other further arguments and if we do then we are wasting our precious times....
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