Every democratic society provides its citizens the right to associate with others and gather together for a common purpose. Protests, marches and demonstrations, counter-demonstrations, press conferences, public and private meetings are a part of the democratic process, but this freedom of assembly certainly does not justify deliberately violent protests. Pakistan’s past is replete with protests, marches and demonstrations, and counter demonstrations, some gargantuan and some relatively smaller in expanse. But the shameless episode of May 9, 2023, to speak the truth, has no parallel in the country’s 75-year-old history. To term this day a “Black Day” couldn’t be more fitting. Needless to say, the unparalleled anti-state rebellion that engulfed the entire country on May 9 has abominably maculated Pakistan’s image in the comity of civilized world nations.
It wouldn’t be incorrect to say that on this profoundly sad day all bounds of civility and sanity were brazenly and outrageously breached by elements who could out-and-out be called anti-state elements. The insurrection of theses utterly anti-state elements against the state and strategic state institutions left every peace-loving citizen of this country in a state of complete shock and awe. These elements, at the behest of their mentors, ruthlessly vandalized strategic state institutions, monuments of profound national significance, and umpteen public and private properties and vehicles. Their brazen looting and arson at the places they vandalized, portrayed a horrible sight for those who remained glued, throughout the day, to the mainstream media and the social media not only across Pakistan but the entire world.
To reiterate, once again, the rebellion of the magnitude of May 9 was never seen before in the history of this country. All that happened on May 9 cannot, rather must not be condoned under any circumstances. The perpetrators and abettors of the May 9 episode vandalized public and private properties across the country in a planned manner. Both are equally responsible for the irreparable damage they have caused to the state of Pakistan and the vital state institutions.
It is indeed very unfortunate that key state institutions such as the Pakistan Army and the Election Commission of Pakistan, including the vital pillars of the state – the executive, the legislature, the judiciary, and their heads, are being fiercely castigated and defamed by a particular political force. Their audacity to engage in this contemptuous vituperation against these institutions of strategic importance actually got a fillip due to lack of adequate and appropriate response on the part of the powers that be. It wouldn’t be impertinent to conclude that the dreadful incident of May 9, 2023 occurred due to the undue liberty that this group has enjoyed, and continues to enjoy, to say or do whatever it wants to and get away with it.
The detractors of the armed forces of Pakistan somehow tend to forget the respect that the country’s armed forces command both within the country and abroad. According to Global Firepower, the Pakistan defense forces are ranked as the “9th most powerful military” in the world. No one can doubt the unparalleled professionalism and capability of the Pakistan Army. Pakistan Army has remained the most well-managed, disciplined and responsive institution of the country. In fact, it is the singular unifying power that, after religion, has so far kept this nation together. Our critics across the border also openly acknowledge this fact.
It is known to everyone, the role that Pakistan Army continues to play in securing the borders of the country, and courageously dealing with the menace of terrorism is pivotal. Needless to say, the valiant Pakistan Army has always come to the rescue of its citizens in times of natural disasters and calamities, and played a significant role in aiding the civil administration to maintain law and order in case of civil unrest. It is deemed unnecessary to discuss the role of the Army in country’s politics, in the past, as it has now been cogently stated by the military leadership that the military has decided to stay away from politics. With that, one expects, the outpouring of negativity and scathing criticism towards the valorous military of the country should cease forthwith. Unambiguously, in a democracy every citizen has the right to freedom of speech and expression. But one shouldn’t forget that this freedom is subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law, in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defense of Pakistan.
Reverting to the core issue, one has to admit that the reign of terror that was unleashed across the country, on May 9, by the anti-state elements thoroughly mentored by their leaders has hung the heads of this nation in shame. Words can’t express how deeply shattered and ashamed the entire nation felt on that sad day, when monuments of its national heroes, the country’s strategic institutions, and public / private properties and vehicles were being mindlessly vandalized and burnt by the belligerent arsonists. Indeed, the 9th of May 2023 would be penned in the annals of Pakistan history as a ‘Black Day’.
The question is, should this utterly brazen and heart-wrenching happening be confined to condemnation only? No, certainly not. Those directly involved in the Black Day vandalism, and the masterminds behind it, must, regardless of their stature, be apprehended, exposed, tried according to law, and, if found guilty of the heinous offence they committed, must be given exemplary punishment. The National Securi¬ty Committee (NSC) too in its meeting on Tues¬day, May 16, 2023 vowed “zero toler¬ance” against violence and miscreancy in the country. The referenced meeting that was presided by the Prime Minister of Pakistan, and attended by feder¬al ministers, Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, three ser¬vices chiefs, heads of the security institutions and senior officers also endorsed the de¬cision of booking and trying the miscreants, planners, in¬stigators and facilitators as per the Constitution and rele¬vant laws, including the Paki¬stan Army Act and the Official Secret Act.
While entirely concurring with the unanimous decision of the NSC regarding the issue in question, may it be suggested that every endeavor should be made to ensure that the trial of all these barbaric elements is incontrovertible and fair. If this is ensured, the possibility of concocted or speculative stories vis-à-vis the trials, expected to be generated by vested interests, will tail off. Of course, the main stream media, the social media, and human rights organizations across Pakistan, and across the globe, would be very closely monitoring these trials. Under no circumstances they should be provided an opportunity to speculate. And, this objective can be accomplished by providing them regular updates on the proceedings of these trials.
The writer is a columnist and analyst based in Islamabad-Pakistan. Email: email@example.com