Innocence lost

Published March 17, 2023

WITH the uneasy ‘ceasefire’ in Lahore appearing to hold, we finally have time to catch our breath and make sense of the political developments that have happened so far this week. Matters have taken a turn after the PTI — perhaps for the first time in its history — demonstrated that if push comes to shove, it can also assert itself on the streets.

The party has certainly come a long way from that unforgettable day in 2011, when one of its supporters, in his youthful innocence and naiveté, gave a statement to television media beseeching the police not to beat up PTI workers as they had only come out on the streets to start a ‘revolution’.

By comparison, the young men and women who fought back against riot police outside Zaman Park this week seemed much more hardened in their resolve.

To be clear, the PTI workers’ long stand-off with police personnel is no cause for celebration — indeed, it is quite regretful that a large subsection of our youth seems to have turned so hostile to the state. It is impossible, in so limited a space, to go over the timeline of events that have brought us to a state of near anarchy.

Yet, it wouldn’t be wrong to surmise that, for yet another episode in our country’s brief history, its youth have started to believe that they must fight to regain the spaces being denied to them.

The democratic electoral process, which is supposed to act as the safety valve for the public’s pent-up emotions, remains in limbo, and this may be why more people are feeling the need to act violently to assert their wishes in front of the state.

It is a shame that there are powerful people on both sides of the current political divide who would see matters continue on this same trajectory. They either wish to or are willing to risk radicalising the youth rather than reconsidering the inflexible positions they have taken.

In their war of narratives, they have already polarised society to the point where it has become difficult for ordinary people to extend common courtesies to people whose political views are opposed to theirs. Now, they would have them perpetrate violence against each other as well. Is it all worth it? Do our leaders want a nation to rule or a mob?

Published in Dawn, March 17th, 2023

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