Political activists under attack

Political activists under attack

The arrest of political activists belonging to Awami Workers Party (AWP) and PTM for organising a peaceful protest is disturbing. The young left wing and progressive activists are under attack.   23 activists including AWP Punjab president Ammar Rashid have been charged with sedition and other offences. Ammar Rashid is an artist-teacher and progressive political thinker. We must honour our best minds like Ammar Rashid and if cannot honour them than they should not be humiliated and repressed.
It has become a tradition to add sedition charges and provisions of anti-terrorism act to deny the accused bail for weeks and even months.

Last month-PPP activist and young intellectual Altaf Basharat was booked under sedition charges for raising radical political slogans in Liaqat Bagh public meeting of PPP. Another young activist of Progressive Student Collective and M Phil student Mohsin Abdali was abducted from his house by plain cloth armed persons.

It seems that Pakistani state has learnt nothing from past mistakes. The use of state power and repressive measures to stifle out dissent and critical thinking never helped in the long run. It might silent few voices for time being but such repressive actions resolve nothing. It is better to listen to these young voices with sympathy. They are not enemies of Pakistan. There only crime is that they disagree with official state narrative and policies.

They want a different kind of Pakistan- a progressive- inclusive- plural and fully democratic Pakistan. They want an end to religious extremism-bigotry and violence. They want equality-economic and social justice and economic opportunities for all.

Their only crime was that they went to the National Press Club Islamabad to protest the arrest of PTM chief Manzoor Pashteen. The local court in Islamabad has rejected the bail application of all the 23 political activists including 7 students. The bail has been rejected due to the sections of anti-terrorism act in the FIR.

It is a clear attempt to suppress the dissenting voices in the country. Political activists have been treated like terrorists and criminals. Pakistani constitution gives right to its citizens to organise peaceful protests and express their political opinion and ideas. But this constitutional right has been denied and violated.

And more disturbing is the fact that this is all taking place under a civilian government who claims to strengthen the democracy in the country. PTI government is following the footsteps of previous governments without realising the consequences. This government is increasingly becoming more authoritative and repressive.  The excessive use of force never resolves political issues but make them more complicated in the long run.

There is no concept of democracy without democratic-economic and political rights and freedoms. Free media and right of protest is basic requisite of a democratic dispensation and order. Both are under attack in PTI government.  

It is better to engage with these young activists than to repress them. It is not in the national interest to alienate these young activists. State must learn from past mistakes and avoid repeating them.

                                                   The Editor

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