Last week turned out to be utterly disappointing and heart-breaking for Pakistanis all over the country who did everything to enable the government to not cave into Khadim Rizvi’s violent tactics. The people of Pakistan vehemently supported Supreme Court’s acquittal of Aasia Bibi, rooted for Prime Minister Imran Khan after his bold speech against the agitators, showed conspicuous concern for the safety of law enforcement personnel who were out on the roads containing the TLP hooligans from causing more harm and even writing to Twitter to ban Khadim Rizvi’s account in order to curb hate-speech. Pakistanis did everything they could in their capacity to stand by the government in this testing time.
However, to people’s dismay, the government failed to stand its ground and repeated the mistake of the past by negotiating a deal with the hate-mongers who kept the whole country hostage for almost three days and got away with it without any real consequences.
How many national tragedies would it take for those in the power corridors to understand that appeasing the monster will only go on to haunt the entire nation and what seems like a political opportunity today will only backfire in the future!
What has exacerbated the situation is the fact that almost every political party in Pakistan, be it PML-N, PPP or PTI have used religious fanatics to disrupt the sitting government at some point. We don’t need to explore the depths of history to substantiate this premise. It was only recently that the parliament conveniently turned a blind eye when Khurshid Shah and Saad Rafique went as far as sympathizing with the TLP goons and condemning the idea of the use of force against them following Premier’s widely lauded address to the nation. The two senior parliamentarians urged the government to go into negotiations. This was against the wishes of the majority of Pakistanis who were clamoring for action and for the state to put an end to violent extremism once and for all. All they wanted was for someone to finally bell the cat and put it where it belongs.
It doesn’t take a genius to understand the fine line between protesting and violent extremism. While the former is a fundamental right of the citizens and is a sign of patriotism as the intention involved is to register complaints and seek reforms for the betterment of the country, what we saw in the last week was something diametrically different from the definition of a patriotic protest.
Since when has inflicting violence over innocent citizens, damaging public property, stifling highways, disrupting the normal functioning of life, traumatizing people by creating an environment of uncertainty and fear and calling for the execution of key figures of the judicial and military authorities fall into the category of protest?
The legislators must understand that those who cannot tolerate disagreement without threatening violence are not protesters but EXTREMISTS and thus, they do not deserve any say in deciding the fate of the nation.
Another aspect that has tipped off many Pakistanis is the clause in the agreement that promises to compensate for the losses borne by people as a result of TLP’s violence. It has made many question as to how will monetary compensation mitigate the trauma that average citizens were put through in the last week? Who will compensate the daily wage laborer, whose personal property was perhaps not damaged but who was unable to provide a warm meal to his/her family because of the tense security environment? How will our children un-see the chaotic scenes on the roads that they should never have witnessed?
It is high time that the government understands that appeasement is like making a deal with the devil; it has never works. Our history of appeasement tactics has only mainstreamed extremism and empowered those who are exploiting religion to meet their vested interests.
Today, the violent hooligans know more than ever before that they can get away with violence and calling for murder and mutiny. It makes me shudder to think about the strength that this agreement might have given to these elements and the extent of havoc that they will unleash on common Pakistanis the next time they decide to come out on the roads!