Booking the top tier leadership of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) gives the impression that some powers in the province want to create maximum hurdles for the party before the polling day. There are a plethora of charges levelled in the first information report (FIR) against senior leaders of the party including Shahid Khaqan Abbasi the former prime minister, Punjab’s former chief minister Shahbaz Sharif and his son Hamza.

The actions of caretaker setup from the day of Nawaz Sharif’s return to the recent moves of initiating legal actions of caretaker administration against PML-N are problematic. It is not unsafe to argue that the caretaker administration deliberately wanted to entrap the PML-N leaders and supporters by forcing them to resist so that it could later take legal actions against them. Reliance on the law suggests that the caretaker setup wants to hinder the performance of PML-N in the coming elections.

What is troubling is the fact that instead of facilitating the gatherings and rallies, that were only organised to see the party’s de facto leader, the caretaker state machinery tried to disrupt the demonstrations. If there is any truth in the official account of what happened on Friday, then the caretaker governments’ reliance on the force was the reason for any skirmishes or resistance that PML-N workers had shown. Then the bar of responsibility for what happened lies on the shoulders of the caretaker setup.

Furthermore, the decision to initiate legal proceedings against leaders of the party also implies that the caretaker setup is not fulfilling its foremost duty that is ensuring no political party is discriminated against. Nonetheless, the actions of the present government have already made people suspicious if the elections will be held free and fair.

Even politicians not agreeing to the policies of the PML-N have criticised the caretaker Punjab government for the overreaction it is showing. Protests, rallies, corner meetings beautify any democracy. Dissent is the foundation upon which the idea of democracy stands tall. If the government suppresses the dissent, it suppresses democratic process and culture.

The FIRs, which are in the continuation of the caretaker Punjab government’s anti-PML-N measures, are unjust, to put it mildly. Punjab’s caretaker setup decision to book the PML-N leaders is nothing short of intimidation tactics and creation of hurdles for the party to contest elections. Initiating legal proceedings against PML-N leaders exercising their constitutional right to hold rallies has already snatched the level playing field from PML-N on the polling day.