PESHAWAR: While the Tehrik-e-Minhajul Quran’s sit-in at Islamabad has raised the political temperature in the country and forced the political friends and foes on joining hands, the historical long march and sit-in have also set some positive traditions of holding protests in a civilised way.
The track record of protests and long marches in the country has not been so pleasant in the past. Not only the protesters often turn violent but the law enforcing agencies lose patience on such occasions and resort to baton-charge and teargassing.
In the mid-1990s, participants of the PPP long march were severely baton-charged by the Nawaz Sharif government and besides other leaders and workers the party co-chairperson Begum Nusrat Bhutto was beaten to the extent that the head injury she suffered paralysed the elderly lady for the whole of her life.
The PPP government adopted the same way for dispersing the Jamaat-e-Islami Dharna and police severely manhandled the party Amir Qazi Hussain Ahmad along with his supporters. The worst example of violence during protests was the recent violence by the religious parties’ activists against the blasphemous movie produced and released in the United States.
However, Dr Tahirul Qadri’s long march and sit-in set a precedent in the history of Pakistan and gave a positive message not only to the people in the country but to the world that ours is a peaceful nation and protest can be held without damaging public and private properties.
It also gave a message that Pakistanis can render any kind of sacrifice for the just cause right from facing harsh weather and bearing the expenditures of boarding and lodging on their own against the wrong perception of being beggars. The third positive message is of holding such a long and big protest in a disciplined way.
Another positive outcome of the sit-in is the union of all the political forces either in the government or opposition for defending democracy against any unconstitutional move. It was probably for the first time that the parties in power and opposition including those who always welcomed dismissal of elected government in the past put their heads together to defend democratic process at all costs.
Raising a united voice for defending democracy could be termed a good omen, but the political forces should at least learn a lesson from Qadri’s sit-in that protest can be held in a civilised way and breaking and setting on fire public and private properties was not the solution to problems. It is also a lesson for the religio-political parties, if their claim about the participants of the long march and sit-in is accepted, that how the students of seminaries could be guided to follow the instructions of their leaders and not resort to violence.