The events in Pakistan during last few days have proved one thing, that the rulers are terrorists, not the poor people.
The poor people are actually the victims of terrorism by the rulers. Now their real faces have been exposed to the world.
Retired judges and prominent lawyers led the protest march on the Election Commission, promising that their presence outside the EC office would be peaceful "unless provoked by government action against them". Earlier, the lawyers had clearly expressed their unhappiness over the Supreme Court verdict by rejecting the petitions filed against the re-election of President Pervez Musharraf. Most opposition politicians too had echoed their objection, saying that the Supreme Court had become "independent" in April but had now decided to become "enslaved" to the Doctrine of Necessity in September.
Their joint strategy was to challenge the papers of President Musharraf on the day of scrutiny of papers and then challenge the EC if it accepted his nomination. But the march to the EC was supposed to be peaceful. In anticipation of their attempt to forcibly enter the election commissioner's office, however, the police had cordoned the office off. But the lawyers weren't ready to accept that. Unfortunately, too, on the side of the lawyers there were clear words of provocation pronounced by some of their leaders, especially the firebrand vice chairman of the Pakistan Bar Council, Mr Ali Ahmad Kurd, who is well known in the country by now as an intemperate man. As if to confirm the police's worst apprehensions, he had pledged that the lawyers would enter the Election Commission and tear up the nomination papers of President Musharraf. Unfortunately, but not unsurprisingly, he was among those who received the brunt of the lathi-charge by an alarmed and edgy police force.
Violence amid mutual pelting of stones was also perpetrated on prominent lawyers and PPP leader, Mr Aitzaz Ahsan, and some members of other political parties. Since the media were in the thick of the action, they too got it in the neck. Several cameras were broken and some heads were opened up. The state minister of information, Tariq Azim, helped one injured journalist to the hospital but when he returned, he was attacked by angry journalists.
Meanwhile, the TV channels who "went to the people" to confirm their position on the re-election of President Musharraf encountered the following response. The people did not say that they wanted him out to regain democratic norms; nor did they pronounce on the need to transform the judiciary into an independent institution. All those interviewed in the streets wanted him out because of inflation and the spiralling prices of food items in the country. This leads us to a moral polarity that will surely be bad for the country. The government feels morally fortified by the Supreme Court verdict; the opposition is leaning for its moral support on the consensus of the political parties and an economically pressured population.
The violence seen in front of the Election Commission is bound to exacerbate the political situation in the country. When the opposition goes back to the Supreme Court to challenge the EC, the atmosphere will be greatly charged. So far the honourable court has avoided pronouncing on the merits of the cases brought before it; now it will be asked to pronounce a clear stance on the petition. Already, politicians are unfairly pointing to the Punjabi-non-Punjabi split among the 9-member bench. It is feared that "non-compliance" of the orders of the Supreme Court, initiated by the government in the matter of the return of the PMLN leader Mr Nawaz Sharif, will now spread to the opposition too.
There are "three streams" of opposition to President Musharraf in Pakistan. The political parties are arrayed against him partly because of his inability to negotiate with them. The lawyers' community wants to use his "moment of weakness" to correct the balance between the military and civilian forces in the country. The third stream is the process of Talibanisation under Al Qaeda that is gradually undermining the ability of the state to enforce its writ. Unfortunately, all three streams are feeding upon one another despite their clearly separate agendas. As the post-verdict disorder spreads, violence might take the upper hand. There are far too many elements in Pakistan today willing to resort to violence. And that doesn't bode well for governance either under the current incumbent party or any other that might follow it.