Editorial: Not expected of a Chief Minister

WEB DESK: In December 2007, when the body of Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in Rawalpindi in a terrorist attack, arrived in Sindh there was a huge wave of anger, and some people shouted ‘Pakistan nah khappay’ (Pakistan is unacceptable).

But within no time did her husband Asif Ali Zardari come on the stage and in unequivocal terms asserted ‘Pakistan khappay, Pakistan khappay’. That was statesmanship, and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak was then in the Pakistan People’s Party. But today he is not; he is now member of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, and part of a different political culture.

On this past Saturday, confronted by roadblocks near Swabi Interchange on the M-1 Peshawar-Islamabad Motorway, he blew off his palm the sagacity his office demanded, sounding ultimatum that KP government might stop federal government functionaries, including the prime minister to enter his province. “If I am stopped from proceeding to Islamabad Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will also be barred from entering the KP … Nawaz Sharif has challenged the Pathan.”

He also averred that “PTI is Pathan” and if “we rebel some other slogan will be raised”. Howsoever high might be the political temperature ahead of Imran Khan’s plan to lock down the nation’s capital, Chief Minister Khattak’s remark is nothing short of a threat to break off from the Federation of Pakistan. And it also smacks of racialism, something the country’s enemies love to hear. There is nothing unusual about what the federal government is doing to frustrate PTI’s attempt to lay siege to Islamabad. We have had it in the past – invariably, the roads are blocked, leaders are detained and protesters are baton-charged and tear-gassed.

But to threaten shutting out government functionaries of federal government from entering Khyber Pakhtunkhwa just because Pervez Khattak was not being allowed to join PTI sit-in, that’s not on. He is guilty of indiscretion. Both party chief Imran Khan and KPK CM should appear on screen and apologise. As the force of wind tests the strength of the grass and time reveals a person’s heart, Pervez Khattak has exposed to some extent how quickly politics takes precedence over his patriotism and that also speaks for how easily he travelled from Asif Ali Zardari’s ‘Pakistan khappay’ to Imran Khan’s mindset ‘after me the deluge’.

If we take exception to what Khattak said we are no less serious in condemning the highhandedness on the part of the federal government to frustrate Imran’s threat to lock down the capital city. What right it had to completely block the main thoroughfares traversed by tens of thousands of people having no interest whatsoever if PTI was going to stage a sit-in in Islamabad. At best the government should have augmented the manpower at the inter-provincial checkposts.

But to completely block the highways, forcing people to take U-turns or travel off the road at considerable risk – a senior army officer was killed and another was seriously hurt – blocking containers on M-1 Motorway – that’s unacceptable. Subject to reasonable restrictions, the freedom of movement and freedom of assembly are every Pakistani’s fundamental rights, as in rest of the democratic world.

Be it the 10 Downing Street in London or the D-Chowk in Islamabad, it’s the beauty of democracy that the people have the right to arrive at those places and hold protests against the sitting governments on issues of contention. With 26,000-strong police-cum-FC presence in the city the federal law-enforcing agencies should not have felt the need to block main highway connecting Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with the federal capital.

Of course there have been clashes between the PTI workers and the police force, but then that’s part of the game.

Source: Business Recorder