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Wazirabad scuffle

Updated October 03, 2014

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.—AFP file photo
.—AFP file photo

THE anti-government ‘go Nawaz go’ slogan seems to have gone viral, thanks largely to the campaign being run by the PTI and PAT in Islamabad.

Over the past few days, we have come across numerous reports of the slogan being raised in different forums, usually where members of the PML-N are present.

Understandably, the N-League is extremely displeased with the frequent repetition of the stinging phrase. Patience in the party’s ranks is wearing thin and matters came to a head at an event in Wazirabad in Punjab’s Gujranwala district, where the prime minister had come to distribute cheques to flood victims.

The situation turned ugly when PML-N workers, reportedly led by a provincial lawmaker, thrashed PTI supporters for raising the slogan after Nawaz Sharif had left the venue.

As per remarks on television, Taufeeq Butt, the MPA in question, said similar treatment would be meted out to protesters who raised the dreaded slogan again.

Deplorable as the violence is, what is totally unacceptable is the PML-N leadership’s apparent defence of the brutal tactics its activists applied to silence their opponents. Tweeting after the incident, Maryam Nawaz appeared to gloat over the ‘performance’ in Wazirabad, warning PTI supporters “not to mess with lions”.

Political dissent is an essential ingredient of democracy. Yet what has been observed about both sides — the government as well as those in Islamabad calling for its departure — is that there is a visible lack of tolerance.

We can question the timing and occasion where slogans are raised, but stamping out dissent through brute force smacks of authoritarianism. A few days ago, another protester raising the ‘go Nawaz go’ slogan was beaten up at a function in Lahore.

Instead of using such methods, protesters can firmly but in a non-violent manner be asked to take their demonstration elsewhere. Meanwhile, party leaders would do well not to encourage any hooliganism in the lower cadres, which could worsen matters. All sides need to use democratic methods to express dissent, as well as to counter it.

Published in Dawn, October 3rd, 2014