State Violence, Democracy and the Illusion of Liberty

Source: Dawn

Source: Dawn

A comment on the latest incident of carnage in Lahore.

Ahead of the arrival of Pakistan Awami Tehreek leader Maulana Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri, the Punjab Police supposedly wanted to remove a barrier outside his residence.

They were met with supposedly violent resistance and the police ended up firing on them, apart from violently beating them for not letting them do their jobs. The incident resulted in 8 deaths and counting and several critical injuries.

A needless, needless loss of lives. I really respect people who give their lives for democracy, but wonder what the cause was here.

In any case, this surely has been the greatest mistake to date of the Punjab government and one that could have been avoided. There was bait for state violence and Punjab government took it. Needless and disastrous.

But it is pretty much mission accomplished for PAT leader Tahir-ul-Qadri who had prepared supporters for martyrdom and has asked the government to step down as lex talionis.

I know it’s better to shut up about it if you don’t know the facts, but a few occurrences are unmistakable.

The Punjab police actively confronted the protesters this time around.

zI support aggressively curbing violent protesters damaging private property, but don’t forget, the Punjab Police were arguably infringing on private property themselves. Unless they had a judicial warrant.

However, if the guards fired first, as the government claims, they suffered the consequences. With liberty to bear arms, comes responsibility for actions.

But the Punjab police is traditionally very lenient when it comes to violent protesters, rioting religious mobs burning Christian colonies and women being stoned to death.

They usually witness the incidents and lodge a report afterward. Hell, they could not even protect vehicle-damaging Gullu Butt to be beaten up by an angry mob near, if not inside, the Lahore court.

So what happened that day?

It can be safely said that the police were ordered by some high officials to crack down on the protesters in such a violent way, some of them unarmed women. It could either be the responsibility of the police chief, the Punjab law and home minister Rana Sanaullah or the Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif himself.

At the moment, the Chief Minister is playing safe and has ordered an inquiry into the incident. But it is clear that what happened was undemocratic, unconstitutional and dictatorial. It was not only an excessive overreach, but criminal on the part of the government.

Rana Sanaullah - Source: Dawn

Rana Sanaullah – Source: Dawn

In my opinion, at least the Punjab law and home minister Rana Sanaullah should step down to offer reasonable closure to the incidence, if not someone higher in the hierarchy. For now, only police officials have been suspended.

Who would regard the Constitution, if not a democratic government?

But to add insult to injury, PML-N has now handed over tremendous political leverage to the Pakistan Awami Tehreek, who would rightfully play martyrs now. Well, and guess who is saying the same about the PML-N government. The opposition is rightful in reminding the provincial government that it’s a democracy.

PML-N must pay a price for its disregard of democratic principles, and especially more for its idiocy and political naivety.

But make no mistake about it. Dr. Qadri is on a mission here, and has way too many brainwashed pawns at his disposal. And he made a fool out of the PML-N, if not a criminal.

The likes of Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri, as reasonable as they may sound in their criticism of a faulty democratic system, represent a mindset against democracy in Pakistan. This mindset has been particularly promoted and nurtured by the State bureaucracy in Pakistan, which involves holding democracy and the Constitution in contempt.

They are doing it for the right reasons alright, but all the parties lining up for the government to step down are the ones who are always standing for pro-establishment campaigns. Why is the PPP largely silent at this point and only resorted to issuing a warning before the incident?

In front of our very eyes, we are witnessing pro-establishment parties building a coalition against the elected federal government. And everyone who was not happy with the result of the last election stand behind them. Apparently except the PPP.

The demands of the government to resign due to the violation of democratic principles are fair. The demands of suspending democracy are not.

The most idiotic part is that people call for or expect the martial law whenever a civilian government violates democratic principles. More oppression as a remedy for oppression. How ironic.

Has anyone ever asked for our state bureaucracy to step down? Yes, and don’t ask what happened to them in the 1980s.

Sadly, many in this coalition do not understand that a dictator has no reason or interest to reform a democracy. They can wish for a dictator like General Musharraf again, but that’s just wishful thinking. But a democratic government, no matter how terrible it is, can be voted out.

I agree that the current democratic apparatus does not offer true liberty, since its foundation lies in authoritarianism and Islamic principles, but the perceived liberty offered by military dictatorships is an even greater illusion.

Don’t forget, right now at least people have the option to ask, and are asking, for government officials to step down.

Wonder if that would be the case if a Pakistan Army General were in power.

The Politics of Entertainment

Source: Dawn

Source: Dawn

It might sound a bit insulting, though it really should not be, but the politics of populism and perpetual revolution is very much the politics of entertainment. With or without the bloodshed.

Now that is what gets people going for an otherwise very boring and very repulsive subject matter. But it really is no laughing matter, is it? This really is about raising your voice against oppression.

A lot of people do that actually, in a very serious and effective manner. They even end up paying for it with their lives.

A great example has been the Arab Spring and the continuous protests in Egypt, the Ukrainian protests, the Venezuelan protests, the Bahrain protests and protests against the Shah. Another recent one has been the Iranian opposition protests, in which people were killed by the state police.

A seemingly similar campaign but nowhere near to the Iranian moderate protests has that been of the PTI protests against the results of the last elections. This is because the Iranians protested the oppressing regime of the Ruhollahs, who would rule with an iron fist regardless of elections, because a lot of people think Iran is a democracy.

However, in this case the PTI is protesting against their perceived primary oppressors, the PML-N federal government, while their main grievance of unfair elections in a few constituencies should actually be addressed to the Election Commission that it apparently just rejected.

Oh, and speaking of oppression, I never saw people bothering to leave their homes to protest against the military and civil bureaucracy who have been effectively oppressing them for six decades. But sorry for the mandatory red herring…

However, as Imran Khan very aptly put it and it really explains it all pretty perfectly. He and the youth were getting bored by the break in the revolutionary movement. A complete year after the elections. It was exciting to see them back in action.

And the protest rally disbursed after demanding the formation of a new election commission, which is an indirect way of saying that they don’t really accept the results of the previous one, but still accept the results and keep the seats.

However, while the formation of a new election commission would only be encouraging, but doesn’t that happen every time?

And don’t even get me started on the “neutral” caretaker administrations.

But there is some progress after the protest, alright. But who cares in the end anyway.

The people were not out there to protest against oppression.

The people wanted a good night out, which they cannot otherwise get in a dull town.

The people wanted, well, entertainment.