The right to protest is apparently only reserved for mainstream political parties with popular support, and not the poor farmers that are struggling to get their voices heard. While the Punjab government has given the go-ahead to PTI’s Ehtisab March in Lahore for September 30, the Pakistan Kissan Ittehad’s (PKI) legitimate protest was marred by the provincial government’s decision to hold roughly 600 farmers in custody.

The government’s official number for the arrests made stands at 70, and even if we choose to believe their version of events, no reason has been given as to why even this small number of protesters was apprehended. The government had already relented to the demands of the protesters previously; reducing electricity rates through subsidies and decreasing the sales tax on basic produce items such as rice and potatoes, and its failure to keep its promises brought the farmers to this point once more. There were no threats of violence made by the farmers, no damage to public property and still the government treated them as if they were the most pressing threat to Lahore’s security.

And it’s not like the demands of the farmers are too unreasonable. The agricultural sector of Pakistan contributes an estimated 24 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Punjab is the largest contributing province to the country’s GDP, and is responsible for at least 50 percent of the country’s total produce. Incentivising farmers and increasing their sales and income will also benefit the country as a whole.

The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) is currently the only party to have responded to the call of the farmers – that too to appeal to them when they are estranged from the ruling PML-N – and its inclusion into the protest on Wednesday might just sway the government into keeping its promises. What this tells us that the only sort of pressure the government responds to is political, which is indicative of a desire to retain political power, instead of looking to serve the people while in government.

But why must the farmers have to rely on a political party – which may look to hijack an important struggle for political point scoring – for the government to look their way? If not as individual citizens, the valid concerns of one of the largest workforces in the country must be addressed, regardless of whether or not an opposition party chooses to join the cause.