The arrests of workers of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) – who had gathered at D-Chowk to support Bilawal Bhutto Zardari – in Islamabad and police’s mishandling of them, by baton charging, tear gas and water cannons, goes against the spirit of democracy. While preventing supporters from approaching the premises of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is fine, however, forcibly dispersing and attempting to obstruct a peaceful protest from taking place is against the law, and the spirit of democracy.

The unjustified apprehensions of the capital administration led the police to the abuse of the PPP’s workers. Given that the PPP workers have no record of taking up law in their hands to obstruct the proceedings and job of the NAB, the action of the police against the gathering goes against the fundamental freedom of assembly that constitution grants to the citizens and political parties.

The authorities had issued no notifications regarding the imposition of emergency measures or Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPc) that curtails the freedom of assembly and movement. In the absence of such a situation, the use of force against workers of opposition parties is damaging for the democratic culture in the country. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the ruling party, needs to understand this. The leadership of PTI should not repeat the mistakes of the earlier governments. Bringing people accountable for their actions is one thing, and victimising them is another thing. The mishandling of the PPP workers by police was wrong as the party workers were not protesting against the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) investigating Bilawal Bhutto in connection with fake accounts case. The party had not given an official call to protest; the workers gathered in support of their party chairman. Why is the present government going back to the old tactics of victimising its political opponents?

Bilawal Bhutto found support from Maryam Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) and Aimal Wali Khan of Awami National Party (ANP) as well who condemned the torture on the workers of the PPP. Both leaders criticised the behaviour of the PTI government and found it ironic that the party deemed it its right to attack the parliament building when it was in opposition. The two leaders’ criticism of the government for suppressing opposition parties is not without merit.

Nevertheless, PPP and PML-N learned it the hard way that victimising each other for political reasons would take them nowhere. PTI should not learn these lessons the hard way. Instead, the ruling party should learn from the mistakes of the parties of the opposition.