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Friday, July 1, 2022
EditorialScars of long march

Scars of long march

Let the country return to normalcy as now the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) long march is over and PTI Chairman Imran Khan has gone back to Bani Gala after a confrontation-laden day on Motorway, GT Road and D-Chowk of Islamabad. The government must open a channel of communication with the PTI leadership and negotiate about the election dates. The PTI must show flexibility on election dates, as both the government and the PTI need face saving in their political constituencies. Elections can be held in the early months of the next year. The PTI long march has left behind several questions, and a trail of scares, which may take time to heal. The government’s strategy to barricade cities, motorways and GT Road put the whole country on a halt, which could have been avoided. The policy of blocking the PTI supporters from reaching Islamabad through raids, arrests, and road blockades turned the whole country into a war zone, which triggered the intervention of the Supreme Court. The court ordered the government to remove blockages, release the arrested activists and impounded vehicles and let the PTI hold a rally in Islamabad. The court tried to put both sides on a dialogue table, which did not work, but at least, it calmed down the tense situation and ended the march on a peaceful note, as Imran Khan has asked the government to consider new elections or else.

Things may return to confrontational level again if the government does not show restraint in their statements and actions. The media is running the provocative statements of ministers and spokespersons that the former prime minister Imran Khan was forced to “run away”. Also, footage are doing the rounds on social media showing the brutal use of force against the protesters. Such statements and footage may act like showing a red rag to a bull. Moreover, the chaotic situation drains the government resources at a time when the country is passing through a critical economic situation. A government’s main responsibility is to normalise the order and fulfill its job to stop the chaos and unrest. As after Imran Khan’s D-Chowk speech, protesters have dispersed, the government must take things seriously, and start building up the morale of the law-enforcement agencies and the public. There should be formal standard operating procedures to handle protests. All over the world, dedicated anti-riot squads are fielded to tackle the public protests, but our police contingents, which have hardly a remote idea of handling a mob, are put in place to control the marches. The march left several protesters injured and five dead. That could have been avoided.

Difficult times are ahead for the government and the nation. A recently concluded session with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has not brought any good news for the government. The IMF delegation has asked the government to first withdraw subsidies on power and petroleum products for the resumption of the package talks. This has left the government between the deep sea and the devil, as both choices are difficult. One reasonable way was to leave the decisions to a caretaker government, as no political set up can carry such anti-public welfare measures. But the coalition government saw its defeat in accepting the PTI demand for an election. Well, if the government has decided to stay in power, it must brace itself for the tough measures, such as withdrawing subsidies, and planning a strategy to handle the forthcoming march of Imran Khan.

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