Published (Edited Version) in Express Tribune Blogs on the 23rd of August, 2014.
Imran Khan’s protest began against alleged rigging in general elections, transformed into a march and sit in against the Prime Minister, and apparently has blossomed into one of the firmest stances against status quo in the history of Pakistan.
It is not just the number of people, but the kind and class of people in his sit in that speaks for the strength of his stance. People who were never seen in political gatherings or protests. The upper middle and upper class, educated people, professionals, women and children have taken over the space that was once occupied mostly by simpletons who were nothing but just another head in the crowd.
His opponents – mostly covert proponents of status quo – are labeling his protest and demands as unconstitutional. In my own personal opinion, even if the protestors clash with law enforcement agency personnel and damage the sacred State buildings, they would still be violating less provisions of the Constitution than those violated by so called democratic constitutionalists.
Our Constitution begins with the Preamble, wherein are incorporated principles of democracy, equality, freedom, justice and rule of law.
Para 4 of the Preamble states;
“Wherein the principles of democracy, freedom, equality, tolerance and social justice, as enunciated by Islam, shall be fully observed.”
Para 8 states;
“Wherein shall be guaranteed fundamental rights, including equality of status, of opportunity and before law, social, economic and political justice, and freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith, worship, and association, subject to law and public morality.”
Article 25 (1) of the Constitution states;
“All citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law”
In practice, democracy exists merely as a popular slogan used to win support in pre election campaigns. Once elected, our representatives are not accountable to us, not till the end of their tenure. In essence democracy is the exercise of public will. Here, soon after the elections, public will does not have access to the corridors of power and Parliament. In the current political turmoil, the ruling party has not once called a meeting of its elected Parliamentarians to seek advice, or assess the sentiments of those represented by these Parliamentarians.
Freedom depends on your status and nuisance value in society.
Social and political justice is made a mockery of everyday, with the powerless having to face full force of law even in fabricated cases while the powerful get away with murders and escape registration of a case despite court orders.
Where Constitution provides for rights and duties of citizens, it also puts the government under several obligations. Obedience to the Constitution is not just a citizen’s duty, but also a government’s primary obligation.
Article 5 (2)
“Obedience to the Constitution and law is the inviolable obligation of every citizen wherever he may be and of every other person for the time being within Pakistan”
Article 6 (1)
“Any person who abrogates or subverts or suspends or holds in abeyance, or attempts or conspires to abrogate, subvert, suspend or hold in abeyance, the Constitution by use of force or show of force or by any other unconstitutional means shall be guilty of high treason.”
Should the government’s failure to transfer power to grass root level, by establishing elected local governments, be taken as a Constitutional violation, subversion of the Constitution and high treason? If the government can hide behind the cover of lame excuses, why can’t a protesting citizen justify his violation with a legitimate excuse?
The Constitution declares it mandatory, in Article 140 A, the establishment of elected local governments. Whereas there is no express provision barring peaceful protest, a political demand or marching to and from any part of the country.
Pakistan is witnessing democracy right now. Political conscience of the people against status quo. The Prime Minister, Parliament and elections are merely the tip of the iceberg. Even if inadvertent, this protest seeks to crush the iceberg. It is time to rise up and beyond political and ethnic affiliations. It is the time to evaluate and understand. It is time to apply our minds and decide where we stand. Because wherever you stand, your camp needs your support.
This is not a fight against one political party or leader anymore. This is a fight against status quo. It is beyond dwarf individuals and notions, it is for the giant that is people. Take sides, but not for vested interests or without sound reasoning. Fight not for individuals, but for the future. There is no PTI or PMLN, there is just Pakistan.