With the November 2 shut down call of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf getting closer, political temperature is rising in the country particularly in the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad. The past two days have seen strict action by police against workers of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and the Sheikh Rasheed led Awami Muslim League. The manhandling of women coming to attend Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s youth convention by Islamabad police was also an unfortunate event.
Imran Khan, the Chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has given the date of November 2 to protest against the government’s lack of interest and delay tactics in investigating the Panama Paper leaks. Other parties that include the Jamaat-e-Islami and the Pakistan People’s Party have also demanded the government to investigate the Panama Papers leaks that revealed that children of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif own properties worth billions in London purchased through off-shore companies. Pakistan Peoples’ Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has also given government a deadline of December 27 to accept his demands; one of them being the passage of the Panama Papers Bill presented by opposition parties. The government’s resistance in the wake of Panama Papers Leaks only strengthens the impression that the ruling party fears that investigation into the matter will be bad news for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
The ruling Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN) has lead many protests in the past, during the tenure of Pakistan Peoples Party. The 2009 long march is a good example in this case; the ruling party may have forgotten but during the long march workers of the party were not so ‘peaceful’. The government has now imposed section 144 in Islamabad but speeches of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif are available on record where he categorically called the section 144 as a tool of political victimization in the past. The ruling party should realize that protest is the democratic right of every citizen and using state power against protesting citizens is not very ‘democratic’. However, judging by the tone of government Minister’s the government has no plan to give people the right to protest and are determined to deal with Imran Khan and his allies with full force.
The government is probably unaware but on Friday a rally was held in Islamabad where speakers openly vowed that no ‘National Action Plan’ can stop them. Political pundits and citizens have every right to ask the government as to why these people were allowed to gather in Islamabad despite the imposition of section 144 and openly challenge the government’s writ by mocking the National Action Plan.
If the government indeed wants to ‘establish its writ’ than law must be equally applied to everyone; on one hand political workers are being dealt with force and on the other hand some are openly challenging the government regarding the National Action Plan. Has the government got any answer? So far it appear that they haven’t.
It is hoped that the government and opposition will both show flexibility and come to the dialogue table, opposition parties are justified in demanding investigation of Panama Papers and the government is right in claiming that blocking cities is no way to demand accountability. However both sides need to be civil in their arguments and must show seriousness to resolve the issues.
Dialogue is still the way forward; the soon government, opposition parties realize it, the better.