The letter of the law is not as cut and dry as it seems and things only get murkier when those interpretations are mixed with politics. The government and the law enforcement agencies, faced with an unending array of events it can prosecute, must choose the right places to exercise its authority. As such, the government cannot enforce each law, yet the ones it chooses to enforce reveal a lot about its priorities.

These latest revelations are not all too surprising, although they continue to be extremely disappointing. The Kot Lakhpat police recently lodged a case against 1,500 workers of the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) for staging a rally and blocking the railway track and traffic as they accompanied their leader, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, to the Kot Lakhpat Jail. The police went beyond the call of duty to dig up the colonial era Railways Act of 1890 to frame charges against the PML-N workers.

Rallies have come and gone, all with a fair few inconveniences for the public, yet they are seldom charged this way for “creating nuisance”. The legal gymnastics performed by the police, coupled with the selective way the law has been applied, makes for a grim reading. Another front of attack has been opened on the opposition and fresh ammunition has been supplied to a schism that has ground the legislature to a halt.

The government has previously denied, loudly and often, that it is directing law enforcement agencies and accountability bodies to target the opposition. While one would like to take the words of our elected representatives at their face value, their actions do not back them. As the facts stand no one can deny that these bodies have prioritized actions against the opposition above everyone else. It similarly cannot be denied – it is part of public record in fact – that government politicians, from the Prime Minister, his Cabinet, and down, have all urged these bodies to prosecute the opposition without delay or quarter.  

This outlook ill suits a government that is secure in several provinces and governs unchallenged in the center. There is nothing to be gained by charging political workers who accompanied Nawaz Sharif to Kot Lakhpat – only more antagonism, only a greater sense of tyranny. The popular opinion remains that the government is hell bent on opposing the opposition, rather than governing or building consensus. The government has done nothing but rub salt into wounds that should have been healed since it came into power – it is about time it changes that policy.