Imran Khan’s long march has left Lahore and will arrive in Islamabad on November 4. On its way to Islamabad, it met a tragedy when the female reporter of a TV channel was killed accidentally. This is the first death in the long march. There should be efforts by the long march management to keep it safe and secure. On the other hand, the government and Islamabad Capital Police have made extensive plans to keep the rally from turning into riots. An anti-riot squad has been activated which will be at the frontlines in case any mishap occurs. Moreover, the interior ministry has added several more areas in the Red Zone where it will be prohibited to gather and protest. Moreover, it is being heard that hotels and rest houses in surrounding areas have been told to not give residence to any of the protestors participating in Imran Khan’s rally, and business owners have also been instructed to stay away from that crowd.
Although these precautions may work a little, as history shows, Khan’s rallies are usually there to stay for weeks and even months. During the previous tenure of the PML-N government, Imran Khan and his supporters spent months on the road and did not go back until their leader asked them to. This time around, political analysts and the government are claiming that people have much to do and will return to their homes sooner rather than later. However, this may not be the case.
The right to protest is given to everyone by the constitution of the country. Any person or party can protest against anything they feel is not correct. Therefore, the government cannot bar anyone from participating in or holding this long march. Moreover, it also seems unethical to ask businesses to not cater to any of the protestors. However, the government has to do what it has to do to save itself.
It is fine for the government to safeguard the capital as it essentially represents the whole country and is a sensitive area that needs protection. However, the better solution would be to hold talks with the PTI leadership. Instead of making efforts to disperse crowds and lose what little of its popularity is left, the government should make efforts to coerce PTI into having talks. The diplomatic way is always better. This will not only save the government’s face but will also reduce the popularity of Khan, who always has the agenda of destabilizing the government. This government must keep the situation normal in the country. If riots break out and the police are caught hurting or even killing people, it will only destabilize the government, which is the main goal of the PTI leadership. The government must act prudently and sit at the table and negotiate. Protests such as these also destabilize the economy, and Pakistan is in no position to lose whatever little credibility it has left in the global markets.
The capital should be protected at all costs but the protestors must also be heard and seen.