May 9 Riots: People vs Powerful group


Rawalpindi: 14 May 2024: There's been a lot of talk about May 9 lately, almost as much as we hear on talk shows. As someone who writes about politics, maybe it's fair that I bore readers as much as TV viewers are bored by those shows.

The week started with the DG ISPR's press conference, emphasizing the need for trials related to May 9 and suggesting the PTI should apologize and change. This message was echoed by some government figures, like Khawaja Asif and the Prime Minister, who promised similar commitment. However, there's also talk of dialogue with the PTI, emphasizing the importance of political forces resolving issues without military involvement. This dialogue seems necessary given the past year's confrontation between the state and the people.

While the government's statements seemed harsh, they weren't entirely clear. Promising accountability while hinting at crackdowns on the PTI but also urging dialogue with political opponents sends a mixed message. After a year of crackdowns, the PTI may not be receptive anymore, especially with its supporters feeling emboldened and the crackdown widening the gap between the state and the people. Bridging this gap is crucial, especially after a controversial election and a government lacking legitimacy.

Releasing some prisoners or expediting trials might help, but the government needs to consider public opinion. Simply getting the PTI into parliament and talking with other parties won't be enough if public anger persists. The confrontational situation between the people and the state also hinders a coherent response to militancy, which continues to grow. Economic reforms are needed, but they're not just technical decisions; they're inherently political.

An unpopular government facing a popular opposition won't easily make tough decisions like taxing traders or privatizing state-owned enterprises. Talks alone won't suffice; concrete actions are needed, especially for difficult decisions to be implemented. Merely cooperating in parliament won't solve everything.

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