For almost an entire week, we have witnessed violent clashes between the police and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) workers in Punjab’s capital, Lahore. And on Saturday, the same visuals could be seen in both Lahore and the country’s federal capital, Islamabad. The state vs PTI Chairman Imran Khan paints a sorry picture for both politics and the writ of the state. It is as if no one cares about the consequences these clashes will lead to. The visuals on our television screens and on social media can lead one to think that no one is bothered about civility, be it the police or Khan loyalists. The past few days, we have seen lawlessness, desperation and disarray.
It could all have been avoided had Imran Khan presented himself before the court in the Toshakhana case on March 13. He had been summoned numerous times, but Khan refused to show up. After his non-bailable arrest warrants were issued by the court, the police acted on it and tried to arrest Khan. However, Khan refused to budge. Eventually, there was only chaos and mayhem. There was drama, disruption and disorder yet neither the state nor Khan and his party took a step back. We saw petrol bombs thrown at the police by PTI workers, tear gas and heavy shelling by the police. Yesterday, Khan’s non-bailable arrest warrants were finally cancelled by the court when he went to Islamabad. Though he could not go inside the court due to the clashes in the judicial complex between the PTI workers and the Islamabad Police, the court still accepted his ‘appearance’ while he was inside his car.
On the other hand, when Khan was on his way to Islamabad, the police in Lahore went to his Zaman Park residence to conduct a search operation. From bulldozing walls to throwing paintings here and there, the police claims to have allegedly recovered weapons and petrol bombs from Zaman Park. PTI will move the court for contempt proceedings against the police for alleged violence against PTI workers, Khan’s staff and for violating the sanctity of Khan’s home. Both the use of force by the police and the way that Khan resisted his arrest through violence have raised several questions.
What could have been done to avoid all the unrest that Lahore had to bear? Khan should have followed the rule of law and appeared before the court on March 13. The state’s response when its writ was challenged was shelling, rubber bullets, tear gas and breaking the gate of Khan’s residence at Zaman Park. What we have seen is that when titans collide, everything gets destroyed and no one really wins. Both ends lose and there is nothing to celebrate. We hope that after this episode, there will not be a repeat of what we saw last week. We hope that party workers and state institutions show patience, civil ways to support their leaders and not create law and order situation. We hope to see less political chaos and more stability in the coming days.
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