The cost of sit-ins

But one injustice cannot be compensated through another injustice

Editorial July 19, 2020

The interior ministry has disclosed to the parliament that sit-ins across the country over the past seven years have cost the country around Rs1.5 billion. In the estimates gathered by the ministry from the district administration and the home departments of the provinces, the 2014 sit-in by the PTI and the PAT in the federal capital had cost the exchequer Rs755.979 million. The Punjab government had suffered a loss of Rs2.5 million as their rally hurtled from Lahore to Islamabad.

As per the figures presented in the parliament, it was the tiny territory of the federal capital that had lost the most due to the myriad sit-ins there, suffering a whopping loss of Rs1.161 billion. By contrast, sit-ins caused losses worth Rs316.559 million to Punjab and Rs29.383 million to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. No losses were reported from Sindh and Balochistan.

What makes these figures even more troubling is that the interior ministry says that quantification losses to the economy in financial terms essentially fall under the domains of the Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs departments as well as the Planning, Development and Special Initiatives divisions. This suggests that the actual financial impact of these sit-ins, particularly in the federal capital, to the country could be far higher.

The right to protests is inalienable under democracies. However, as certain court rulings have asserted, they cannot come at the cost of a paralysis of the state apparatus. The money lost by the federal capital due to sit-ins could have been spent on solving a host of civic issues in the city, starting from the acute shortage of water there. We are a country with limited resources. However, we continue to see gross injustices in many different formats. But one injustice cannot be compensated through another injustice as this cyclical spiral will only lead to greater misery.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 20th, 2020.

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