The events of the last few days have shown us that it is high time that our protest culture evolves into one where people’s democratic rights are accepted instead of thwarted. Not only the federal capital, but all highways leading to it have become a maze of containers and blockades, presenting a gross inconvenience to not only the protestors trying to get to their destination but thousands of other commuters all over the country who want nothing to with the unsavoury politics of the two parties and just wish to go about their business as usual.

All roads from KP leading to Islamabad were blocked, with 5,000 stick-wielding party workers trying to remove the barricades put in place by police using cranes near the Swabi Interchange, while law enforcement personnel used tear gas shelling and rubber bullets to stop the protesters. This is plain and simple police brutality, which was entirely avoidable and unnecessary considering the two parties have now come to an understanding.

PTI leaders Arif Alvi, Imran Ismail and Andaleeb Abbas were arrested and detained briefly by Islamabad police for trying to reach Bani Gala, while protestors gathered there were shelled with tear gas on multiple occasions. Videos of the leaders being hauled away in police vans and physically removing barricades (as in the case of the feisty Shireen Mazari) make for great PR for the party and mobilised many to join the ‘movement’. The government has come out of this entire episode as an oppressive regime, one that even international organisations like Amnesty International have condemned. The human rights watchdog declared the crackdown as a violation of the freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and termed Section 144 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) as a “draconian colonial-era law”.

Security along the Peshawar Motorway and Grand Trunk Road was also ramped up in anticipation of PTI protesters marching to Islamabad on Monday. Barricades three layers deep were placed along these roads as a result of which several ambulances carrying patients and bodies of the dead were stranded on GT Road. The Punjab police on the other hand, launched a crackdown on PTI, PML-Q and PAT workers across the province to prevent them from leaving for the Islamabad protest. Hundreds of workers including MNAs were arrested and detained.

Peaceful protest should not be disruptive the way this fiasco has played out. Both parties are to be blamed equally for this disruption.