Hearing conflicting opinions and contrasting worldviews with dignity and tolerance are some of the essential characteristics of any democratic society. In Pakistan, the ruling parties rarely, if ever, regard difference of opinion an acceptable thing. And if that difference of opinion is expressed through rallies, it means that one is inviting the wrath of the government. Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) is under fire at the moment. The government machinery has already come in motion by booking leaders and workers of PML-N in the aftermath of Faisalabad rally. The FIRs are spurious ones, and the police should not take them seriously.

It seems that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) does not want to learn from the experiences of the past governments that wanted to curb dissent, in whatever form, through force and coercion. The charges that the police have pressed against the PML-N leaders and workers are not serious ones. Examining the charges against the leadership of the former ruling party reveal that the state could not bring forward any serious violation of law and order against Maryam Nawaz and her fellows.

Unfortunately, the state wants to take legal action against the opposition party on most bizarre and ludicrous excuses. What does opposition do other than staging rallies and protests within and without the parliament against the government’s actions and policies that it thinks are not justified? Can someone from the ruling party answer this question? One still remembers the good old days when PTI took to streets now and then protesting the wrongs of the PML-N government. Do the leaders of PTI have such short memories?

And how do people communicate with a crowd of thousands of people if not through loudspeakers? Because, if the use of the speakers is against the law and order situation, then PTI should have been brought to justice when it was occupying the opposition benches. Does the incumbent government think that the norms of democracy change according to its sweet will?

Let the political parties hold rallies. Let the opposition protest against what they perceive to be the wrongs of the government. The government should not give the opposition a chance to say that the state is busy in political victimisation. If taking action becomes necessary, the state goes after opposition parties on substantive grounds, not on whimsical ones the PML-N leaders are booked under. Attempts to restrict the opposition from holding rallies, protests and demonstrations weaken the process of public accountability that is vital for a democracy.