Raiding Sit-in Protests

Source: Pakistan Today

Right ahead of the launching ceremony of Khadim-e-Aala’s brilliant Metro Bus Service in Lahore, the hunger strike and sit-in protest camp of the Young Doctor’s Association was raided by Punjab police. They used violence and injured dissenting doctors in a very “fascist” manner, though the adjective is usually reserved for liberals in Pakistan. Even orders of arrresting doctors at sight were issued.

I am not talking about the YDA protest march to disrupt the launching ceremony over here, even though violence on those protestors is as wrong and horrid, even if we assume that these protests are politically motivated as alleged by the ruling party. The protesting doctors later made peace with the CM after breaking the fast, though I don’t expect it to last for long.

I would just like to ask if the people of the province would remain as calm had even a fraction of such a police raid been made on the sit-in protest organized by Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri in Islamabad. This is something that everyone of us must ask ourselves and get our priorities straight, because a spectator would expect people to support a protest demanding better healthcare. No messages here for the Punjab government when some of our leaders think that this is the kind of treatment that our citizens deserve. Anyway.

I know a lot of friends would have supported action against the Islamabad sit-in protests calling for electoral reforms, regardless of who organized it and who did not, genuine or staged or whatever, because they did not agree with it, as neither did I. But I would have still strongly oppossed any violent action against the protestors, though there was talk of planning for carrying it out.

Because I knew that a lot more sit-in protests will be held all across the country in the future, whether they are about things you agree with or not. Yes, in a democracy, you never always get what you want, especially when you are living in a state as turbulent as Pakistan. And let’s talk about only those sit-in protests which remain peaceful and don’t become destructive in terms of damage to property.

And there will be more necessary sit-in protests as the ones carried out by the Shia and Hazara community. Because apparently our current PM Raja Pervez Ashraf sb needs a few corpses on the road every now and then to be inspired to get to work.

Before you are outraged at the post, I am not comparing the causes here, just the form of protest. Because you see, traditionally, our protests as a nation and a people are wild and violent, involving a lot of fire and gunshots, and that is what the world knows us for. Sit-in protests can really suck sometimes, especially when they disrupt life (though that is what they are meant for).

It is irritating but if Pakistanis have started to protest peacefully for a change, why force them to become violent? This is why the raid on the doctors’ camp, especially if it wasn’t even causing a road blockade, was wrong on so many levels.

But another part of me, though not strongly, doesn’t really want to put up with all the road blockades and traffic jams for too long. Though I know that there is no choice but to be stuck with a social and political system that is content with putting up with all the injustice and violence.

The Perseverance of the Hazara

Source: Pakistan Youth Alliance Facebook Page

Irfan Ali – Source: Pakistan Youth Alliance Facebook Page

The January 10 Alamdar Road bombings in Quetta targeting the Hazara and Shia community has worked somewhat like the last straw for both these troubled people and our troubled nation. The Hazara community held a sit-in protest for three days with the corpses of the victim on the road. Similar sit-in protests were also held in other major Pakistani cities in solidarity. The protests triggered the Prime Minister to fly over to Quetta and confirm Governor’s rule in Baluchistan, dismissing the Raisani regime.

Even though I am not sure what good would the Governor’s rule do and if the community could feel safer with increased military security, it is encouraging to see that the protest had its effect. It was surely not a wasted exercise but I am not sure if I agreed with every demand of theirs. But I do hope it works whatever they are. I mean at least words were not falling on deaf years this time around, as has largely been the case with Shia killings in Pakistan in general.

Vigil for Irfan - Source: Shiraz Hassan

Vigil for Irfan Ali in Islamabad – Source: Shiraz Hassan

Sadly for Pakistani twitterati and human rights groups, peace activist Irfan Ali ( @khudiali ) also lost his life in the incident. He was one of the most energetic activists around in Pakistan and was the face of the struggle of the Hazara in many ways.  I am sure that he will be missed greatly by those on the forefront of fighting for the rights of the community and it is simply heartbreaking to even think of all the precious lives lost in this incident. All we can do is just write words on blogs and on twitter.

Even Irfan’s last tweets are reflective of how painful the situation is on ground in Quetta for the Hazara community.

 

I met a couple of my friends in the Hazara community who were also actively staging the protests. What I loved about not only them but almost all the members of the Hazara community in the Islamabad protests was that they were smiling and were in high spirits despite all what was happening to them. They were welcoming everyone with open arms. It is not easy to do that when you are going through hell and staring death in the face.

But apart from any one particular sit-in, the entire Hazara community has remained remarkably calm and peaceful. Given the viciousness of the people of this region, their peaceful behavior has restored some of my long lost faith in humanity. Even though all people like me can offer is moral support, I really hope that the people killing them stop doing it. Because I don’t really see the Pakistani government taking any action against them whatsoever.

All the rest of the communities in Pakistan need to break our silence about it. While we can all hope that the madness of the targeted killing of the Shia community in general and Hazara in particular comes to an end, simply increasing the military security will do no good. Baluchistan is already virtually under military control, so what they need to do is take proactive action against terrorist groups such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan.

If they are serious to stop this genocide, that is.