Ashraf Ansari

Amid our mournful shock caused by the continuing Modi’s lock down of Indian occupied Kashmir, there is an uproar by a religio-political figure indicating his intent of locking down Islamabad in his bid to paralyse the Government. The foremost question concerns the human rights of Islamabad ‘s residents. If an opposition leader wants to register his protest against the Government, it would be insanity on his part to punish the residents of the state capital. It is ironic that while we are justifiably raising alarm over the brutal lock down of Indian occupied Kashmir, one of our own leaders cries for a lock down of our federal capital.
The proposed lock down is to be achieved through a so called long march towards Islamabad. In real terms the long march would be a violent and ill-motivated lashkar to lay siege of Islamabad, subjecting the residents to utmost misery. Law apart, there cannot be any justification for long marches to cities, gathered from other parts of the country. It should be taken as shere aggressive act against the non involved people. But then there is also a legal aspect of such long marches that are being degenerated into lock downs. No democratic constitution and no legal system would allow any activity that might harm societal peace or trample fundamental rights of the people for whatever reasons. However there is no specific law on our statute book to address social crimes garbed in protests. Though protest is political right of the people in a democratic country , this right cannot disturb civic life of the people.
There is no doubt about rationality of protests. Protest means a spontaneous reflection of reaction against anything undesirable and to stress something urgently desirable. Pakistan has not lagged behind, perhaps most countries, in staging of political protests. What we have lacked in protests has been peace and order in the absence of some legal framework. Even protesters involved in causing destruction of infrastructure and people ‘s properties have never been convicted. They are arrested but let off soon after.There have been large scale street protests in our cities that caused utmost misery to ordinary people and even led to tragic deaths of patients stuck up in traffic jams. Leaders of such protests must have been prosecuted but they got scot free in the absence of forceful law. Ours is a country where law at times is not allowed to take its unhindered course.
Our legal system largely lacks dynamics of due process and norms of natural justice. Our laws have not kept pace with emerging needs of the society. And one example is absence of laws to address violation of people ‘s fundamental rights by the protesters. Our legislature needs to legislate to regulate protests and deter vested elements from disruption of normal life or indulging in threats of paralysing civic order. There should have been some law to take care of those who dare to disrupt civic life. Such threats may be taken as intents of committing sedition. Alas! There is no such law on our statute book. The result is that people are obliged to await such threats being carried out. And Lo and behold! Law enforcement agencies are promptly mobilised to confront the disrupters amid damage being done.
Situations at times take an amusing but in fact an ugly turn when the leaders of anti social elements are invited to negotiate at equal level with the officials of the law enforcement agencies. Our legal system has to patch up its holes. This can only be possible when our legislators would find time to legislate on issues not yet covered by law. Till that time people will be free to throw threats of locking down Islamabad for no fault of the city’s residents. Where can these people turn to for remedy? May be our exalted Supreme Court takes sou motu notice of the threat that some lashkar would occupy Islamabad to lock it down, ostensibly to topple the Government.
Expressing intent to commit some serious crime should attract legal action. And if, for the sake of our convenience we choose to fall into oblivision of law and legalities, even then we won’t be able to escape shame of an irony. We condemn and mourn Indian lock down of Kashmir and still await lock down of Islamabad by our own people.

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