Who Is To Blame For May 9?

Who Is To Blame For May 9?
There is no place for violence in a democracy. Irrespective of the circumstances, democratic parties should avoid resorting to violent means. The mayhem of May 9, 2023 thus, demands condemnation without any qualifications. But are only those who resorted to these acts of violence and vandalism worthy of the blame?

Three major actors aside from those who were involved in the May 9 protests should carry the burden for the violence which occurred that day.

Firstly, it was the narrative and events which led up to the attack of May 9 that shoulders the blame. The PTI's dominant narrative was that Imran Khan is some sort of red line which is not to be crossed, even if lawful arrest warrants were issued. The idea that Imran Khan is immune from corrupt practices and is a sacred cow, made the May 9 protestors believe that what happened in the Islamabad High Court premises on that unfortunate day was something utterly incomprehensible.

Secondly, the judiciary shares some of the blame along with the PTI and Imran Khan. The superior judiciary has given PTI (il)legal protections, when it should have used its constitutional powers to uphold the rule of law. Imran Khan blatantly violated the 25 May 2022 Supreme Court orders, when he led the participants of Azadi March to D-Chowk. This is not to argue that the superior courts should use their contempt powers often, but there should have been some repercussions. Instead, the Supreme Court judge observed in contempt proceedings that it may be possible that the court's orders have not reached the party head. This gave the party a reasonable degree of confidence that violations of the law carried no legal consequences for them.

Lastly, and most importantly, the establishment itself is to blame for the May 9 protests. For the past seventy-seven years, the establishment has ruled through a mix of fear and love. It has created and dismantled political parties at will. It has maligned the judiciary and national institutions. It has blatantly violated the fundamental rights of the Baloch and the Pashtuns. It has forcibly intervened into every political and civil domain which falls outside of its constitutional role. It has brought foreign wars to its home soil. Yet, the establishment still lives in the dream that ordinary citizens will continue to cherish them and remain fond of their scarce victories. The mushroom growth of social media, the youth bulge in the population and the politics post-2018 elections have lifted the cover off the establishment’s designs. Thus, those including the families of shuhada, who are rightly disheartened by the May 9 attacks, should first question the very institute which paved the way for May 9 attacks with their long history of mis(chiefs).

The events of the last few weeks exhibit that the establishment now aims to rule through fear and hatred, now that the public's love for them is on a decline, even in Punjab. But, as Machiavelli pointed out, a ruler must endeavor only to avoid hatred, as hatred leads to a loss of control.

The author is a graduate of the Lahore University of Management Sciences, and an advocate of the lower courts.