IT is quite clear that the state has decided to show no mercy to the PTI or its cadres after the violent events following Imran Khan’s short lived arrest last week. Many hundreds of the party’s supporters have been rounded up, as the nationwide crackdown against the PTI continues.
Mr Khan has likened the state’s reaction to the “Mongolian phase”, a reference to the brutal methods applied by the Mongol Empire of antiquity against all those that stood in its way.
Though this may be an exaggeration, the PDM government and the establishment indeed want to teach the PTI a lesson; whereas Genghis Khan and his hordes put their opponents to the sword, the state wants to effectively cancel the PTI through arrests, intimidation and political engineering.
The same tired old methods are being used to strike fear into the hearts of PTI supporters. Party leaders Asad Umar and Shah Mahmood Qureshi were arrested earlier, while Shehryar Afridi and his wife were picked up from their Islamabad home on Tuesday. Shireen Mazari and Falak Naz were re-arrested after being freed by the IHC.
Both were discharged on Wednesday before Ms Mazari was arrested again. Also, pro-PTI anchor Imran Riaz Khan’s whereabouts remain unknown after he was whisked away by masked men in Sialkot some days ago.
Meanwhile in Sindh, provincial lawmaker Khurram Sher Zaman says his restaurant has been sealed by the authorities due to ‘sanitation’ issues while there are rumours circulating that former minister Ali Zaidi has decided to quit the party.
Mr Zaidi has denied that he is parting ways with the PTI. However, MNA Mahmood Moulvi has announced his departure from the PTI, citing the targeting of defence installations as the reason.
While the violent rampage by PTI supporters in the aftermath of Mr Khan’s arrest is indefensible, and the perpetrators involved should be punished as per the law, efforts to eliminate the PTI must be abandoned.
Both the PML-N and the PPP have been at the receiving end of state-sponsored high-handedness under military rule as well as civilian regimes, while the PTI hounded its opponents when it was in power.
Yet mass arrests, midnight raids and ‘disappearing’ critics will only perpetuate the politics of vengeance and further erode Pakistan’s fragile democracy. Sanity should prevail on all sides and attempts to beat the PTI into submission need to be reconsidered.
Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2023