ISLAMABAD - The recent scuffle on the Constitution Avenue between policemen and charged marchers of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), after the protesters started marching towards the Prime Minister House, has initiated a debate over what the government should have done to force the protesters to retreat peacefully.
Besides, it has also stirred those residents of the capital who, otherwise, mostly remained unconcerned about the developments at D-Chowk since August 15. This time various segments of society including shopkeepers, students, public and private sector employees and traders seemed more vocal and expressive in their opinions over the confrontation.
Talking to The Nation, an elderly resident of Sector G-6/3, Mehmood Nasir, stated that the government couldn’t control the situation. “The government has been taking all these developments very lightly and police authorities have shown unprofessionalism,” Nasir said. “Only one thing is appreciated that live bullets were not given to police which has reduced the quantum of casualties.”
Seemingly depressed and annoyed over the situation in the capital, Hmmad Ahmad, owner of a general store in G-6/2, said that the extended protests at D-Chowk had not only disturbed the logistics but also the social and environmental conditions of the neighbourhoods. “All responsibility for creating such chaos rests with PAT and PTI supporters. It was their initiative to shift the sit-ins in front of the sensitive buildings,” said Hammad demanding of the government to accelerate its efforts to end the crisis.
Javed Iqbal, a student of Muslim Societies and Civilisation at the University of London, said that it was constitutional and administrative responsibility of a sitting government to uphold the supremacy of law and protect crucial state installations.
“In this backdrop, if the protesters took the lead in crossing the limits, the government is justified in what it did. Obviously, in such a case, the action of forces may cause casualties,” Iqbal said, adding that the government underestimated the crowd put together by the protesting parties. Iqbal was of the view that the government in many ways lost its credibility gradually as the events unfolded. Unproductive dialogue and overstatements by the government leaders in the parliament gave the protesters courage to remain adamant on their demands, some of which were obviously unreasonable (the premier’s resignation).
When asked how the government could have avoided causalities, Iqbal replied, “It could be avoided by handling the situation carefully like using water canon and tear gas instead of rubber bullets. On the side lines, the government must engage the parties in meaningful dialogue and give whatever concessions that may be lawful.”
A young graduate, Tooba Niazi, held use of force against people as wrong saying that in the power struggle between the political aristocracy, lives of hundreds of poor children had been ruined with no one left for their care. “We have a generation of homeless people. Nobody is at loss except the common man.”
The energetic graduate who is resident of G-10/2 held that sovereignty of the state came through its people. Both the sides had played their role in effecting the impasse. “The policemen were greater in number and they could have easily tamed the protesters without using force. We succeeded in maintaining the sacredness of the state institutions at the cost of human lives,” she said.