In an unprecedented show of solidarity, former president Asif Ali Zardari has condemned the initiation of alleged terrorism cases against Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz workers, asserting the irrefutable fact that every citizen has the democratic right to hold rallies and public meetings. It has to be averred that where the ire and remonstration by PML-N stalwarts was anticipated, the reaction by the establishment entailing booking Shahbaz Sharif, his son Hamza Shahbaz, former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and 50 other leaders of the party under the hyper-bole of terrorism and “inciting” the crowd was beyond just a cautious overreaction and should be addressed for all its oppressive underpinnings.
It stands unquestionable that political activists are the voice of a true democratic process. Suppressing the democratic right of the people to voice their support or dissent is tantamount to a dictatorial crackdown. Where the preamble to the 2018 has been marked with more than a few inconsistencies, the obstruction of many mainstream political parties has been one of the more glaring ones. PPP itself has been surreptitiously buffeted by disruptive elements during a beleaguered election campaign. Where the party has faced more than a few impediments in salvaging even a portion of the election limelight, with Bilawal Bhutto being attacked and PPP rallies being thwarted, it has been strategically side-lined, while PTI has been curiously sailing through with the lion’s share of media exposure and assent. Adding such discrepancies to an escalating security situation, it becomes quite dubious that the establishment has foregone reinforcing security measures to instead discouraging political parties - save a few- from campaigning.
So is former president Zardari’s assertion just a routine bid to call foul at an election result that might not see PPP gain an effectual majority? With the recent discerning pattern of events that have left the acridest of PML-N critic questioning the rules applied, one can say with conviction that PPP and most of the other mainstream parties are genuinely calling for the right of democratic representation against the status-quo. Where the move is heartening, such evidence of political parties abandoning their political and personal opposition to each other, in a move to defend the institution of democracy signals a palpable shift in the dynamic between the de facto and de jure establishment. Ultimately what is belatedly being recognised -and cautiously rallied against- is that all the political parties – including the current blue-eyed PTI- are sailing in the same commandeered boat, with democracy at half mast.