protests in pakistan

Written by Sumaira Waseem 8:15 pm Opinion, Published Content

Violent Protests in Pakistan: A Hollow Endeavour?

As Pakistanis, we’re accustomed to placing the blame on others and seeking remedies through sit-ins and protests that characteristically morph into violent and fruitless endeavours. This time, however, it won’t just stop with arrests and economic contractions as the economy is closely inching towards a catastrophic collapse.
why submit to us?
About the Author(s)
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Sumaira Waseem received her LL.B. from Bahria University. She is the Regional Coordinator for the Khyber Region at South Asia Students For Liberty. She's previously worked with the Research Society of International Law (RSIL), Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Special Technology Zones Authority (STZA).

It seems that the country is fated to face trials and tribulations that shake its foundations. Events like the Kashmir earthquake, FATF greylisting, the APS school attack, the lynching of Priyantha Kumara, the 2022 floods, and the no-confidence motion come to mind. It’s unfortunate, really, that there have been more tragedies aside from the ones that I have listed.

As if the current state of affairs wasn’t enough, must I now watch my country be convulsed by protests, havoc, and avoidable deaths?

I often think, was it my passivity and lack of understanding of the Constitution that brought all this? If that is true, what a dreadful exchange. Should I look to blame the public, the political parties, or the institutions for all this mess? While I do feel the instinctive urge to ascribe the country’s political and economic turmoil to all of them, I strongly resist that because I’m also to blame—each one of us is. It’s much easier, however, to absolve yourself from all the blame, is it not?

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In the case of the people of Pakistan, I’m reminded of what Frédéric Bastiat said, “When law and morality contradict each other, the citizen has the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense or losing his respect for the law.”

Sit-ins and violent protests will do nothing but further devastate the economic situation of Pakistan. Remember the estimated Rs 547 billion loss to the economy and Rs 5 million worth of damage to public property caused as a result of PTI’s protests in 2014, or the Rs 35 billion loss due to TLP’s protests. Other political parties in the past, too, have worsened the state of the economy by holding protests and supporting the dharna culture across the country.

Now, how would setting fire to buildings and buses benefit the people of Pakistan? Do you not know that this only encourages violence and intolerance in a country that is already painfully characterised as such?

I am not dismissing the genuine concerns and good intentions of the protesters, but the ends do not justify the means in this case or in any other. This is not how you can support political change and economic growth in the country.

Falling by $6 million from $4.46 billion on 20th April, our foreign currency reserves stand at $4.45 billion as of 28th April. This amount is clearly not sufficient to cover two months of imports, and a sovereign default awaits us if we fail to raise the forex reserves to 10 billion, costing us also the opportunity to unlock IMF’s $1.1 billion tranche.

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We haven’t even recovered from the economic strain caused by the 2022 floods, and yet, most of us find answers in protests. Tell me how you intend to maintain law and order with that, but more importantly, tell me if this protects me and my people from poverty, harm, and loss.

However, don’t misunderstand my distress and aversion to protests as submission and acceptance of the injustices being played out. I just do not see violent protests and arson as ways of bringing a semblance of stability to Pakistan. Understand this: your outward fury and lapse of judgement will not solve anything.

I have no right to stop you if you doggedly insist on protesting while knowing the consequences that such actions will have on you and your families, and I’m sure you’re prepared for the worst. But will you take responsibility for the damage and loss to others who want no part in this?

Do not expect a government that has been inflated with zero accountability for the last 75 years to uphold democracy or your individual freedoms. If you’re frustrated with the current situation, then direct your attention to the root of each problem. In my view, one of the problems would be the glaring lack of transparency by the government as well as our understanding of its powers.

To be honest, I do not have a solution for this problem yet, but I do hope to find people who can help me put parts of the puzzle together. Who knows, I may even fail miserably, but as long as I’m able to, I’ll dedicate myself not to any of these politicians, but to this country because our well-being and prosperity are tied to it.

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Pakistan’s existence is enough evidence of human effort and conviction, so I hope that the people of my country do not lose hope or require recourse to violent protests.

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