I strongly condemn the public gathering that took place at Teen Talwar on May 12 initiated by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf not because I think rigging did not happen but because I feel the PTI put hundreds of lives at risk, and because one cannot claim to be for the democratic process while disrespecting the systems that are already in place.
From evidence being circulated on the internet including both newspaper articles and video clips, it seems that rigging has taken place on an extremely large scale all over Pakistan. Owing to ECP shortfalls, whoever that could rig, rigged, regardless of political affiliation. In such cases, there are protocols in place to resolve issues with electoral results.
All that needs to be done is that evidence needs to be gathered and then taken to court, leaving it to the judiciary to make the final decision as far as reelections altogether or from specific polling stations is concerned.
It is important to mention here also that this protocol was even tried and tested because re-polling had already been declared with regard to NA-250 polling stations that witnessed unfair and unforeseen circumstances.
There is absolutely no need for a public display of numbers or any sort of political gesture because that would have no bearing on whether or not reelections of any sort take place.
There is especially no need to have a large number of your supporters (including a large number of women and children and even senior citizens) rallying in public space when you are blatantly blaming another political party, which has its own tainted history of political violence. Chaos is bound to ensue when such a confrontation is taking place.
If the violence that took place leading up to the elections was not sufficient, what took place exactly 6 years ago from May 12 should be testament enough to how unsafe political conflicts can be in Karachi. The vile speech that was made by MQM Chief Altaf Hussain as a retort to the Teen Talwar gathering further proves this point.
These public protests are dangerous and risk a lot of lives. The costs clearly outweigh the benefits of such political statements and logic needs to be given precedence over emotion. How did PTI not take this into account? Everyone definitely has the right to peaceful assembly and protest but if those protests risk the safety of its participants and a judicial alternative and route is available, there is no need for any such public gathering.
It was no surprise that as the night progressed, aerial gunshots were heard, probably fired by the same individuals who shut down Karachi in broad daylight and still somehow fail to be identified or reprimanded.
If the potential danger from such unknown assailants was not enough, riot police was also on scene and ready to disperse the crowd which was still present at Teen Talwar without any clear leadership using batons or even water cannons and teargas.
The imposition of Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure in Karachi banning any gathering of more than four people at one place for rallies and protests adds to how grave a situation could have been created.
It is also important though to mention that it would have been a far more welcome step if it was the civic society and their political leadership that had ascertained the dangers and discouraged public sit-ins. The government’s attempt to curb the citizen’s right to public assembly and protest will do far more negative damage than good and further fuel this need for public political gestures.
It was later brought to attention that PTI leadership had actually left including Dr. Arif Alvi (Candidate NA-250) and Mr. Samar Ali Khan (Candidate PS-113) without declaring that the protest had been recorded and over. Did they expect their supporters to continue without them? Did they expect their supporters to blindly sit in at a roundabout while they were not even present?
If it was not for Mr. Jibran Nasir, an independent NA-250/PS-113 candidate, who returned to the scene to make sure supporters went home once he heard reports that the situation was about to deteriorate, one can only imagine what might have happened. Jibran had earlier also joined the call to protest and had left after recording his objections.
Listen to Jibran summarising his experience here.
Even if this protest was necessary, the crowd should have been dispersed after the protest was recorded or if the protest was to continue, key leaders should have been constantly present.
To conclude, I would like to urge all political parties, not just PTI, to take serious notice of what happened day before yesterday and to act responsibly in the future before it might be too late. When political parties expect supporters and workers to show up during these grand political gestures, it is them who are responsible for their security and wellbeing as well.
Also, the idea of standing up to injustice might sound novel and heroic but is pointless until all avenues seeking justice have been exhausted.————————————————————————————————————————————————
The writer is a student at Ohio Wesleyan University, currently on sabbatical back home in Karachi. ———————————————————————————————————————————————— The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.