There was chaos at the Press Club in Karachi on Thursday, when the Sindh Police had a strong reaction to the protests held outside. The Police made use of tear gas shelling and water cannons against a group of teachers, who had gathered at the Press Club to protest for a host of legitimate demands.

In the face of condemnation against the use of force against teachers, the Police are attempting to justify its actions by claiming that the use of force was proportional considering the fact that the protesters were moving on to the Red Zone, where protesting has apparently been banned for the meanwhile. According to the Police, they tried to reason with the protestors and asked them to restrict their protest to the Press Club but due to non-compliance, the Police had to reduce to tear-gas, water cannons and baton-charge to prevent the protest from escalating.

This justification should not be accepted by the Sindh administration, which is reported to be investigating this incident. The teachers who had gathered at the Karachi Press Club were peaceful protesters, whose organisation has not had a history of violence, who were not espousing any kind of rhetoric that could be construed as so big a threat by the Police that they would need to resort to using methods which could cause injury to protestors. Use of force needs to be necessary and proportional- in this case, there was little fear of the protestors causing harm to the Police or inciting a major disruption.

Secondly, this reasoning, of having to use violent methods against protestors to deter them from extending their protests into banned vicinities, does not hold after the events of the past year, where protests, which did espouse violent rhetoric and encourage vandalism, were tolerated by law enforcement agencies. Why is it that the Police do not hesitate to dole out immediate punishments against civil rights protests like marches organised for labourers or disability rights, yet protests by extremist factions, which threaten the civil order of cities, are given a softer treatment? This selective treatment only discourages protesters from being peaceful and compliant to the law.

While the Police should definitely not shirk away from enforcing the law, the use of forceful methods like tear-gas being meted out to peaceful protesters is disturbing. This is not the first time the Sindh Police has participated in excessive force; let us hope it is the last such incident.