The strike call to get the death sentence awarded to Mumtaz Qadri reversed was aimed at pressurising the court where an appeal against the verdict has been filed. The move tries to abridge the courts’ independence, gained after a prolonged struggle, through threats of violence. Conscious of their isolation and unable to gather large crowds, four religious outfits took recourse to intimidation to enforce a shutter down strike in a number of cities. Traders’ associations have pointed out that they did not support the call for strike. Small groups, mostly comprising madrassah students, went on the rampage in a number of cities and attacked or torched private vehicles and public transport in display of lawlessness.
The religious parties’ performance differed from province to province depending on the administrations’ attitude toward these outfits. In Karachi, the administration arrested the potential trouble makers ahead of the strike, recovering heavy weapons during raids on the offices of a religious party. The strike therefore remained partial. As Punjab administration took no measures to provide security to the business community, the helpless traders in Lahore and elsewhere had no option but to yield to the pressure despite their unwillingness to go on strike.
The government has to act firmly to nip the evil in the bud. Any individual or group who threatens a judge is to be proceeded against immediately. Moves aimed at the reversal of courts’ judgments through recourse to public violence have to be dealt with an iron hand. The business community has to be provided protection, in line with the directives of the SC, against threats and coercion. The mainstream parties irrespective of whether they are in the ruling coalition or in opposition have to realise the hazards of encouraging the monster of extremism through spineless acquiescence or tactical connivance for short term gains. The PML(N)government in Punjab would be shooting itself in the foot in case it left the public at the mercy of the extremist outfits. The policy of the appeasement that it has adopted would be ruinous for the province and the country.