By Mati Ullah Khan
It’s been over 48 hours since the entire Country was once again pushed into turbulence and strife, leaving the already inflation-stricken masses in further suffering.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t happened in the Country for the first time except a few unprecedented occurrences witnessed in last few days i.e., attacks on military properties as in the past, political parties merely resorted to hurl verbal allegations and lambast the military.
Whether it was Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Pakistan Muslim Nawaz (PML-N), Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) or other political parties, their activists time to time resort to vandalism and damage the public properties – whenever their respective top leadership have to face prosecutions – as tactics to ward off the legal proceedings against them. But each time it is the Country and the masses who are the ultimate affectees.
Over the years, the Country has suffered billion of rupees worth of losses in violent protests, and the pubic and private properties having been damaged, endorsing the notion that the Country remains under a fragile and vulnerable system and has miserably failed to ensure political and economic stability even after 75 years.
Soon after the former Prime Minister Imran Khan was arrested from the Islamabad High Court (IHC) in the Al-Qadir University Case on May 09, 2023, violent protests and clashes between the PTI workers and security personnel broke out across the Country, and apparently both sides used their muscles to the fullest extent for overpowering each other.
The ruling Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) government – an alliance of nearly dozen parties – suspended/restricted the internet and social media services in the Country, causing billion of rupees losses to the telecom sector. They also blocked roads to avert the congregation of PTI workers, making the life miserable for the people.
The authorities also extensively fired shells of tear gas and used baton charge to disperse the infuriated protestors. In the meantime, most of the top PTI leadership was apprehended by the law enforcement agencies for allegedly inciting the violence.
Even the PTI protesters resorted to an act of unjustifiable vandalism as they damaged numerous public and private properties including, metro stations, police vehicles and ambulances, and set them on fire. They torched Peshawar’s Radio Pakistan building and set ablaze a monument of the Chaghi Mountain.
The protesters also set on fire the Office of the SP Industrial Area in Islamabad and damaged the Ramna Police Station. They also damaged a Railways Track in Tarnol.
They also attacked the Lahore’s Corps Commander’s House in Cantonment and ransacked the Rawalpindi’s Army General Headquarters (GHQ).
Meanwhile, audios of some PTI leaders were also leaked to media in which they were heard inciting the party workers to violence; though they – including the PTI leader Yasmin Rashid and later she was arrested – maintained that those audios were doctored.
In the hours long fierce fighting, both sides claimed to suffer several casualties while thousands of PTI protesters were rounded up and detained.
Thus, the authorities failed to rein the miscreant elements and eventually called the army to halt the hooliganism of PTI workers.
Apart from PTI workers attacking the military properties and installations, the entire event was a replica of four-day long PPP-led violent demonstrations in the County especially in Sindh and Karachi following the assassination of the former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto on December 27, 2007 in Rawalpindi.
The assassination of Benazir Bhutto sparked extreme outrage across Pakistan and resultantly riots and violence erupted especially in Sindh. The enraged PPP activists targeted and torched or set ablaze scores of private as well as state-owned properties including banks, police stations, petrol stations, railway stations, trains, telephone exchanges, foreign food outlets, and vehicles etc.
The PPP activists also vandalized buildings and ambulances run by the Edhi Foundation.
Even homes and properties of former ministers including the two former Chief Ministers of Sindh Arbab Ghulam Rahim and Syed Ali Bux alias Papu Shah among others were burnt down.
In Karachi, police and paramilitary forces were forced to patrol the streets to prevent violence and looting while the entire City wore a deserted look.
The violence and businesses closure following Benazir’s assassination cost the Country approximately US$ 2 billion whereas the damage to the railways was estimated at Rs 12.3 billion and Rs 20 billion was lost in bank looting & destruction. Additionally, dozens of people lost their lives in violence related incidents.
The day of November 28, 1997 is probably one of the unfortunate and darkest days of Pakistan’s history when two Supreme Courts under two separate Chief Justices were operating simultaneously in the Country after serious rifts among the top judges had developed while the workers of the ruling PML-N government stormed the Supreme Court of Pakistan when a Contempt of Court hearing was underway against the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
The relations between the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the Chief Justice Syed Sajjad Ali Shah turned sour and with times further deteriorated over the establishment of Anti-Terrorism Courts, the appointment of judges of the Apex Court, and the 14th Constitutional Amendment.
The tug of war between the two top executive and judicial authorities of the Country ended in the Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah initiating the Contempt of Court proceedings against Nawaz Sharif.
The crises further aggravated when the PML-N activists while chanting derogatory slogans against the Chief Justice stormed the Supreme Court – the final arbiter of the law and the Constitution – on November 28, 1997 to halt the Contempt of Court proceedings against the prime minister.
The PML-N activists jumped over the wall of the Supreme Court building and entered the premises while the Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah had to flee the Court Room under the guard of security personnel.
In August 2020, the PML-N workers once again resorted to hooliganism and attacked the NAB Lahore Office wherein the Party’s Vice President Maryam Nawaz arrived to record her statement in an Illegal Land Requisition Case.
The PML-N workers reached the scene in several vehicles laden with bags full of stones, as shown in several TV Channels footage and pictures. They ran berserk and clashed with riot police, pelting stones at law enforcers and smashing the windows of NAB Office.
In response, the police used batons, water cannons and tear gas on the rioters, and also apprehended a few of them.
Provoking the party workers to violence on the part of political leaders for their vested interest has surely been a sad affair for decades in the Country. The responsibility lies on all political parties to demonstrate restrain in difficult hours, and learn to coexist in a peaceful and harmonious environment; otherwise, the Country would continue to suffer and the dream of prosperous and stable Pakistan would never be materialized.
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The views and opinions expressed in this article/Opinion/Comment are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the DND Thought Center and Dispatch News Desk (DND). Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of the DND Thought Center and Dispatch News Desk News Agency.