If The Marchers Were Tribesmen – Ayaz Wazir

Although unfair and untrue Fata has been and still is considered a place where the government has no writ, nor any capacity to bring about peace in the area or develop the area enough so that it is at par with the rest of the country.

Karachi has become a late addition to the list of lawless ungovernable areas because of the targeted killings in the city that have been taking place on a daily basis for the last so many years and which the authorities have been unable to curb despite their best efforts. But nobody ever thought that the holiest of holies, the federal capital along with its much vaunted red zone, would also join the list one day.

The lone gunman who kept Islamabad on tenterhooks for five hours and focused the attention of the world on the capital through live unwarranted intensive media coverage, one thought, would have taught some lessons to those responsible for security in the capital. But the government refused to take off its blinkers and devise proper security plans to forestall possible security breaches in the future and preserve the safety and sanctity of the most important governmental buildings in the country.

What has been happening in the capital these days is something that could easily be compared to a farce from a Terry-Thomas comedy were the thoughts of consequences of actual takeovers or action against protesters with a firm hand not been so serious.

Even before the dharna life had been made miserable for the residents of Pindi and Islamabad because of the metro bus project – with roads being torn apart and pillars constructed everywhere.

Anyone with any doubts about that only needed to visit the Blue Area, travel on Agha Shahi Avenue or from Faizabad to Rawalpindi Cantt on Murree Road to experience the difficulties faced by commuters. There were traffic jams all over with traffic rules being flouted with impunity and with more bravado than anywhere else in the country as the efficient Punjab police who are supposed to regulate the system were always found missing and the best of detectives would not have been able to find trace of a single policeman.

As if that were not enough now we find a mob encamped in the heart of Islamabad demanding the resignation of the prime minister with the government completely at their (the mob’s) mercy. The main road linking the most important and powerful offices/buildings in the capital with the rest of the country throughConstitution Avenue is blocked by the crowd. They control that road, checking people entering the area. Roads leading to the secretariat buildings are also controlled with identity cards of government servants turning up for work being checked.

At will protesters took over the PTV centre and vacated it after a nod from the unseen ones. As for Geo it has become a nightly ritual – right after Imran Khan rants and raves against the channel charged PTI activists start stoning it. Despite court orders Geo TV’s transmissions remain blocked in innumerable places. I guess neither will the stoning stop nor will the transmissions be telecast all around till the unseen ones give their assent.

What does all this prove? I leave it to the readers to draw their conclusions. But one thing is crystal clear – something is seriously wrong somewhere. It could either be the system of governance (democracy) or the people at the top, the so-called democrats; either democracy is at fault or the democrats wrong but both cannot be right at the same time.

Democracy as a system of governance functions well in other countries and delivers according to public aspirations but it has failed to do the same in Pakistan. This shows that something is wrong with us and not democracy as a system of governance. We have to do some soul searching for remedial measures if we want to set the country on the right course. We have to put a stop to the malaise of greed which ruthlessly consumes the resources of the nation without the perpetrators being held accountable.

In Pakistan we need to ensure that all principles of democracy are scrupulously followed in letter and spirit and rules not bent for any person no matter how high s/he may be or whatever the consideration. Unfortunately this has never happened here.

In the west personal wishes are made subservient to democracy whereas in our country we make democracy subservient to the personal desires of those who wield power or carry influence. That is the difference between us and accountable democracies and that is what must be corrected.

Imran khan asks for clear-cut rules for the conduct of future elections. We may have other differences with him or may not agree with the way he conducts his ‘dharna’ in Islamabad but much of what he demands of the government cannot be disputed if we believe in democracy. If we presume that is not the case, then why don’t the prime minister and his representatives come out in the open against his allegations and challenge him in court? Instead, with each passing day the PM’s control over state machinery becomes weaker. The longer he sits quietly, not taking bold decisions, the more his government suffers.

With the ‘dharna’ entering its second month the government’s inability to exercise control over its institutions has become even more obvious. The police, which are supposed to maintain law and order, are not visible anywhere near the dharna. Over time the writ of the government is weakening more and more if not missing altogether.

Had the tribesmen in Fata resorted to a dharna or blocked a road in support of a claim or to protest an injustice, as has been done in the capital, our jet fighters would have scrambled into action instantly and long range artillery put to use without a second thought. But nobody bothers here because it is a different world; it is Punjab and not Fata.

Where had the police disappeared off to when the capital was besieged or the state run TV station attacked? Where are they every night even now when Geo offices are subjected to stoning and the workers inside fear for their lives? What has happened to the Protection of Pakistan Ordinance with all its powers vested in security agencies for protection of the people and what purpose has the invoking of Article 245 of the constitution served when state properties were attacked? These are questions that everyone asks.

Never in the history of the country have people protested for so long but the government is disregarding it. This is not the way protests are handled in democracies in the west. Proper notice is taken of protests there and efforts made to address genuine grievances. And in case the demands are wrong or unjustified the protesters are confronted with logic and reason to make them disperse.

Here in Islamabad we do not bother to do any such thing. The government does nothing to sort out the problem but only seems to show that it it is doing all that is required of it. It says one thing and does quite the opposite. It accuses Imran Khan of doing something wrong and at the same time engages in negotiations with him. If five out of six points are accepted as being right does it not mean that the ‘dharna’ was justified and has achieved what could not be obtained through the defined procedure?

The essence of democracy is that a wrong is a wrong, whosoever commits it, and must be addressed. Until that lesson is learnt and acted upon we will keep on travelling on the wrong path bringing nothing but bad name and ruin to the country.