As Pakistan Democratic Movement prepares for its sixth and final power show in Lahore, the accused Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf government has been anxiously trying to stop PDM. Many believe that the lockdown 2.0 due to the second wave of Coronavirus outbreak, flooding the lawns of Minar-e-Pakistan and arresting DJ Butt were all excuses for halting the Jalsa. The real question that arises from the current tussle between PDM and the government is, whether gathering thousands of people during a pandemic is morally and politically correct or not?
Ever since the start of the pandemic the world has seen many such protests, which were larger and more intense. After the unjustified killing of George Floyd on 25th May, protests started initially in Minneapolis and later in other states. Over the course of protests, 40% of the counties in the United States were actively protesting. Polls suggest 15 million to 26 million people participated, making it the largest protest in the history of the United States, that too when the virus cases were peaking. Millions of Americans made a conscious choice of kneeling on racism’s neck instead of staying in during the pandemic. Black Lives Matter protests were seen all over the western world. Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in the United Kingdom where the statue of Edward Colston, a slave trader, was toppled and pushed into the Bristol Harbour by the protestors. At that time the UK had almost 500-1000 new cases of the Corona Virus every day.
At the same time, as of the Black lives matter protests, ‘Anti-Cockroach Revolution’ occurred in Belarus against ‘The Last Dictator of Europe’, President Alexander Lukashenko, who had been ruling since ‘94. Lukashenko had a landslide win in the 2020 election, by gaining 80.23% of the total votes while the other candidate only got 9.9% of the votes. The unrealistic margin caused an immediate reaction from the opposition. “National March for Freedom” was organised in mid-August all over the country which demanded the release of all political prisoners, justice to the protestors who were killed and harmed and the resignation of the president. Organizers reported that just the Minsk demonstration had a turnout of 100,000-200,000 protestors.
Moreover, on the 6th of September, the biggest protest during the 2019-2020 Hong Kong protests occurred. The government of Hong Kong delayed the elections due to the pandemic. The justification for the delay was doubted by the most. Hundreds of anti-government protestors gathered in Kowloon to denounce the postponing of the election. 2000 riot police officers were deployed, and 300 protestors were imprisoned. Currently, thousands of farmers have also been protesting in India against Modi’s Farm laws.
It is not just in 2020 that the world has seen rising riots during a pandemic, pandemics are known to be a reason for the uprisings. For example, the Bubonic Plague contributed to the English Peasant Revolt of 1381. This is due to the reason that people already suffer because of the pandemic financially, mentally and health-wise and the ruling body fails to cater to the people’s need. The failure aggravates the public and the chances of revolt increase.
The PTI government has so far made negligible progress. Prime Minister, Imran Khan failed to fulfil the promise of 10 million jobs and on top of that many lost their jobs due to the pandemic. Khan’s idea of choosing economy over the lives of many did not work out as well, as even after avoiding the complete lockdown Pakistan’s economy has been in a constant decline with the inflation rate of 11%, highest in South Asia.
Coming back to the initial question, one can look at two aspects; moral and political. Politically, most would say protests during a pandemic are hundred per cent justified as politics do not stop or pause for anyone or any event. It is a constant brutal on-going process. Especially in a country like Pakistan where the threat of the military’s intervention in public affairs always exists. Secondly, most will also agree that it is morally correct as well, as in many cases future is given a priority over the present. One might not particularly resonate with PDM, but most will agree that democracy is as vital as oxygen for Pakistan to thrive. Morality is also very subjective to the cause and in this case, the cause of sustaining democracy in Pakistan is bigger than life. The fate of nations only changes when a few sacrifice for the majority and the coming generations.
If PDM works selflessly and succeeds in making Pakistan more democratic, people who risked their wellbeing for greater good might become a reason behind Pakistan’s version of the French Revolution. But the only question left to be answered is whether PDM is the correct entity towards sustaining democracy?