It is difficult to understand how and where we are heading given the events of the weekend and the past fourteen days. One can only hope that whatever transpires, as a country we return to some sort of normality some time soon. This may, however, be wishful thinking.
Political violence is not a good thing, neither is state repression. Pakistan has seen its share of both in adequate quantity over the past decades. We have again been reminded of this in the past week or so. We have seen people being lathi-charged. Also tear gassed.
Party supporters have tried to cross forbidden lines. They have tried to cross what are described as state institutions like the parliament and PM house. They have tested the limits of the state. For its part, the state has conceded ground. But it has also come down hard, as if releasing its bottled-up anger.
One of the receipants of this anger was our reporter Azam Khan, who was not attacked when he was covering the police action in front of parliament but trashed when he was making his way back. On that fateful Saturday night, he made the mistake of showing his press card to the policemen standing at the periphery of the spectacle as he made his way back.
It seems the police don’t know who they are more angry with. The protestors, because of whom they have been unable to get a decent nights sleep over the past three weeks, or the media which they see as helping prolong the situation.
People inside the country as well as abroad have condemned the uncertain situation that has plagued our country over the past month. We are aware that what is happening is not good for the country. Or is it? Is it one of those passing phases in an emerging democracy that have to be endured, just like a child had to suffer certain infections to be able to develop an immunity to them. Will this exercise make democracy stronger, I wonder.
The state of affairs we have been in has affected the state of the economy, of the working of the state as well as general sentiments. It takes firm conviction for people to stand out and camp in the rain and the heat, in trying circumstances, for a cause they believe in.
People have prayed, sung and danced. They have faith in their cause. They have also been part of the longest-running such political demonstration in the history of our country. What made it more distinct was that it by and large peaceful. The workers behaved themselves in most instances. What made the demonstration even more unique was the large participation of women, and also people from the middle class of society.
These are the same people who have generally stayed away from politics, being brought up in the Zia years where it was ingrained in their minds that politics is a bad thing.
At the same time, one must also acknowledge the resolve of the prime minister not to step down on the principle of democracy. With the support of the major parties in parliament (with the possible exception now of the MQM), he has been able to hold his own. This comes from experience – learning from past mistakes.
The first time Sharif stepped down on his own accord was when a deal was brokered between him and President Ghulam Ishaq Khan by General Kakar, the then COAS.
The second time he was forced out by General Musharraf, who somehow is also relevant in today’s politics. This time he seems to be holding his ground. It his rigid stance that has also forced both the PAT and PTI to stick to their demands. There is no give and take.
As is usually the case, there are many spoilers who want the situation to be prolonged. Or for it to go one way or another.
At the end of the day, people want good governance. We want honest leaders and we want to see development in our country. That should be the underlying theme of any move for change. Sometimes in the midst of the chaos, we forget what the ultimate goal should be.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 1st, 2014.