THE past few years have been one long political stretch — hectic, stressful and frustrating for some. The protest of PTI chief Imran Khan has assumed various forms at different times— but, ultimately, all have focused on the ouster of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. With a general election scheduled to take place approximately a year from now, Mr Khan may feel he has reason to keep up the momentum. He is targeting the prime minister with greater vigour than before, visibly encouraged by the split Supreme Court verdict on the Panama case. And while his may be a more vociferous call for Mr Sharif to step down and allow a fair probe in the light of the top court’s ruling he certainly enjoys the support of other politicians in his aim. In the search for a resolution to the general political tension, much advice has been offered to both sides over the last few years. Mr Sharif, who has decided to respond aggressively to Mr Khan’s new round of public protest, has repeatedly been asked to move towards reforms that are at the centre of the PTI’s charter for change. On the other hand, the PTI chief has been besieged with requests to conduct himself in a way that does not upset the effort to strengthen the country’s fledgling democracy.

Given a past where clashes between two political parties have blocked the system and life generally for the people of Pakistan, there is merit in reminding both the government and the opposition party leading the charge of the dangers of taking confrontation beyond a certain point. Once again, the prime responsibility of dealing fairly with protesters rests with the government, but that obviously does not mean that the opposition in demonstration mode can be totally free of all blame in case the life of Pakistanis is paralysed once more. Imran Khan has to maintain that fine balance if he wants to be looked upon as a politician who may be looking to protest but not disrupt come what may.

Published in Dawn, April 30th, 2017

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