A rude shock for the nation


Protests have gone way out of hand



I was still in a state of shock having watched live the PAT and PTI workers ransacking the PTV and disrupting its telecasts to the internal and external audience, when a friend of mine called from Berlin, Germany, to ask what was going on and why the government had failed to protect the state symbols. In a trembling and emotional voice he gave vent to his feelings in these words: “The Pakistani community in Berlin condemns in the strongest possible words what the PAT and PTI are doing and their unconstitutional demands for sending the government packing, but after watching the occupation of PTV by the protestors, we feel that if not for any other reason, the government should go home for not defending the state symbols and establishing the writ of the state”. I can very well understand and appreciate the anguish and agony implied in his words but would not go to the extent of joining my voice with the expatriate community to see the back of the government for the reason that they think demanded such a course.

However I do agree that the government has shown an excessive patience and tolerance in the face of a blatant attack on the writ of the state and the state symbols and that it lacked a proper strategy to ensure fool-proof security for the state structures. Our eyes are quite familiar with the sight of the khakis scaling the walls of PTV during the military coups, but never, even in our wildest dreams any one of us would have remotely conjured a scenario of the state symbols being ransacked by the followers of a fanatic without being challenged. It has certainly come as a rude shock to the nation and irretrievably damaged our image in the comity of nations.

After what transpired on the night of 30th August and the next day, the government should have had a fair idea of what was coming and revised its security plan accordingly. The Army has been deployed in Islamabad under article 245 to ensure security of the red zone. It should have straight away been ordered to form the first line of defence and to ensure security of all the state buildings in the Red Zone. That would have saved the situation from further deterioration, prevented the despicable incident at PTV and saved the state of Pakistan from the embarrassment that it has endured due to this episode.

Under the prevailing circumstances, it is the view of the overwhelming majority of the people that due to the machinations of Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri, democracy and the present constitutional arrangement was under serious threat. It was therefore the constitutional obligation of the armed forces to assist the government in preserving that system and removing the threats faced by it.

It is hard to take an issue with their desire for resolution of the crisis immediately without resort to violent means but in the prevailing situation it would probably not be possible for the government without abdicating its role as a custodian of the writ of the state. The PAT and PTI through their conduct have amply shown their intentions of achieving their objectives, whatever they really are, through violent means by challenging the writ of the state. Desiring and preaching non-violence and sanity sounds pleasant to the ears and is certainly a desirable option. However, it is only possible when the parties to a dispute or a crisis are flexible and honest in finding a negotiated solution, with a spirit of give and take. What do you do in a situation where one of the parties is not prepared to budge from their demands and thinks that the only possible solution to the impasse was meeting their demands?

Both these leaders have repeatedly expressed their faith in the army, which in the given circumstances can play a decisive role in ending the crisis as a facilitator within the defined parameters of the constitution. A clear message must go to them that the army would not support any unconstitutional arrangement in the country or allow anybody to attack the state symbols or the writ of the state, if the commanders really mean what they have said.


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