Political tension in the country continues to mount. The tones being used are harsh and contribute to the deepening sense of unease we encounter everywhere. While Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) have every right to stage their march and rally, Imran’s threats of “shutting down” the country go against the grain of democracy. So do the calls from Tahirul Qadri, with the two anti-government forces having agreed to link up in Islamabad. Inflammatory talk will help no one. The PTI chief should also take note of the fact that his allies have rejected any move to dissolve the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Assembly. There is a need to think a little harder about the risks involved in destabilising democracy in any way, especially in the light of our recent history, and focus more on providing the people of K-P with the good governance that they were promised.
It must also be noted, however, that the government’s response to the situation also leaves much to be desired. Various ministers continue to make provocative statements, with talk of arrests and plans to prevent the marchers from entering Islamabad. This does not help matters at all. The right to peaceful protest must be respected as a fundamental one. The venue for this within the capital can be discussed. Political parties, after all, need to be able to talk to each other, whether they sit on government or opposition benches. In the overall context of what we see, the deployment of troops in Islamabad under Article 245 of the Constitution, ostensibly to deal with any backlash from the military operation in North Waziristan, is also an ominous step and entirely unnecessary.
Essentially, the air is too heavy. It is becoming harder and harder to breathe, with the mounting acrimony consuming the oxygen we all need. There is an urgent need to cleanse the environment, to defuse the brewing tension, and this can happen only if both, the PTI and more importantly the government, put the welfare of the nation and of democracy within it first. To do this, they must talk or at the very least stop making inflammatory statements, which can so easily lead to things boiling over and out of control. This is not something we can risk.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 5th, 2014.
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