A humanitarian crisis is unfolding inside Pakistan as thousands of citizens from every walk of life are protesting against the prime minister after his mega corruption was exposed in Panama papers. The Papers appear to have badly dented the credibility of the Prime Minister. Sharif made a couple of media appearances but failed to reply to Panama Leaks revelations. Citizens, since then, are on roads protesting and demanding his resignation.
Despite remaining peaceful on the whole, the protesters have been met with needless escalation and indiscriminate violence by taxpayer-funded, heavily militarized law enforcement protectors of lives of citizens — whose vested interests in maintaining law and order apparently trump human rights and basic decency.
On Thursday, tensions exploded when law enforcement — armed with lethal and nonlethal weaponry — implemented section 144 and declared major areas of capital a no-go zone and descended on PTI’s youth convention that were planning the strategy of their announced protest on 2nd November. Islamabad Police arrested a huge number of people who were “suspected” to join the upcoming protest.
On Friday, Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad announced to hold the rally on exact time and venue as announced. Employing teargas shells, sticks and mace against the unarmed crowd, law enforcement forcefully cleared the area — affecting hundreds in the process. Dozens of people including Salman Ahmad (a famous pop singer) were arrested, many were injured and an infant was killed due to heavy shelling. Media and other witnesses on the scene, backed by patchy live stream and recorded video, painted a horrifying picture of the incident.
Despite actively reading and commenting on police misconduct for many years, I am yet to find one major campaign by civil society of Pakistan against the misconduct by police. Let’s talk about the incidents in the past couple years; 14 people were killed and more than 100 were shot by Punjab police in 2014 during the Model Town Massacre. 2 pregnant women were violently thrown to the ground. Doctors and nurses were baton charged by police for demanding a basic pay scale. Farmers and the blind community were subjected to violence for staging a protest in front of Punjab assembly. All these incidents were shown on media and were tweeted about. Police and law enforcing agencies have made a habit of killing people and the worst, they go away with it. In almost every case, the system has exonerated the killer cops hence aiding and abetting the justification of these murders. And almost none of us cared enough to make this issue a priority!
A protester, yesterday, got a heart attack during the arrest and needed immediate medical attention. He was lucky enough to be taken to a hospital but was handcuffed all the time. People who dare to come on roads and protest against the corrupt system and thug politicians are subjected to violence and those who get arrested are subjected to conditions that amount to torture and human rights violation in prison. They are provided with substandard diets, are segregated and brutalized on the whim of prison guards, confined to cells 24-7 and denied human contact for weeks at a time. But, unfortunately, too many of us do not question the misconduct because the authorities justify it as effective in stopping crime and regulating law and order. But this is not true; it’s politically targeted mass incarceration which will end up with more chaos.
Reality is distorted and people fighting for justice, honest system and fair elections are attacked, arrested, tortured and killed by police when people with mind of a dictator rule the country. They rig the election results to come in power and after that they politicize the sacred institutions and when people protest they don’t hesitate stopping them by use of brutal and lethal force. This is wrong and upside down.
The way our law enforcement forces are being used as a tool to inflict harm and terror upon the political opponents of government and unarmed civilians is wrong. This is unjust! It’s intolerable and it must be stopped! Not reduced, but STOPPED! And it will take determined mass resistance and protest to stop it.