Handling violent protesters

This refers to the news report ‘State will make an example out of lawbreakers: Afridi’ (November 8). It is definitely reassuring to hear Minister of State Shehryar Afridi reiterate his promise to the nation that those who broke law during countrywide protests against the Supreme Court’s acquittal of Aasiya Bibi will not go unpunished. And the rounding up of the culprits is a definite, though first step, in that direction. Also praiseworthy is the calm and cool manner in which the government has succeeded in diffusing such a difficult situation which, if mishandled, could have caused massive loss of life and property. So, PTI has definitely won round one.
However, after the hearing of review petition of Aasiya’s case – which is most likely to confirm the earlier acquittal – and expected travel of Aasia Bibi out of Pakistan, round two is expected from Tehreek Labbaik, JI and their likes which, unless handled firmly, could prove to be worse than round one. I do hope the government is reasonably prepared for that. And it is here that the Minister’s following statement becomes worrying: “There will be no bullets, no sticks used against fellow Pakistanis in ‘Naya Pakistan’. [The state] cannot even imagine use of force against its own citizens.”
While the spirit in which the above statement has been made needs to be appreciated, it is a fact that at times the government has no choice but to take tough measures – even those which the Minister says the government will never take – in order to avoid a much bigger loss of life and property of the innocent citizens. It means that one cannot fight fanatic rioters and arsonists with his own hands tied behind his back. If in doubt, ask the law enforcers and the armed forces.

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