Closing roads during demonstrations with the help of containers or using water cannons to stop a demonstration or to disperse a gathering have all become a part of life in Pakistan. It does not who matter who is taking out the procession and who is trying to stop it, this is one of those rare things that enjoy absolute consensus among political and religious parties of all shades of opinion. Even trade unionists, who claim to be an integral part of the ‘civil’ society, are no different in this regard. What all these people end up doing is to deprive the common man of the right to move freely. Just note the timing of such demonstrations and processions. Demonstrators love evening rush hours like toddlers love candy.
The funny thing is that while taking out rallies and holding demonstrations are claimed to be part of the democratic rights, blocking roads and shutting down thoroughfares are unlawful acts even if governments present them as legal remedies.
The political parties, in order to achieve their objectives and to serve their vested interests, hold demonstrations and long marches, forcing the government to take illegal steps, like blockades. This only causes misery to the man on the street who has a constitutional right to move freely around and across the country.
Whether the government blocks roads, or the political parties do, it is nothing but illegal. This is abuse of power, be it street power or state power. Blocking roads means misery for the helpless. Their rights are violated. Patients are deprived of timely treatment. Academic activities of students are affected. Hired workers are unable to deliver services. Only the criminals love the traffic logjams because they have a chance to go on a snatching, mugging spree.
The only actual remedy is to reserve places for demonstrations, sit-ins or protests so that the gatherings may not lead to unnecessary disturbances for the community of commuters at large.
No law allows disturbing routine life. Sensible people are the ones who care about others. Else, there is no rule of law and there is nothing but chaos and anarchy.
Human dignity and freedom of movement are fundamental rights of every citizen. It is everyone’s right to reach the intended destination with ease. The right to freedom of expression cannot be used by affecting the fundamental rights of the rest of the population. Roads cannot be and should not be used for gatherings, especially when one is planning something for an indefinite period. Those who obstruct the right of people to use roads deserve to be punished regardless of who they happen to be.
Instead of demonstrations, rallies and long marches, the political parties should adopt some other methods to express their opposition and to show their popularity. And, by the way, the government should also reconsider its options in terms of managing the so-called ‘VIP movement’. There can be any number of ways if the intention is there.
Human dignity and freedom of movement are part of the basic rights. Violation of such rights, whether by the government, the opposition, or any group of people, is immoral and illegal. Let us agree on at least this much.