Throughout the entirety of Balochistan province, and particularly within its capital city of Quetta, Section 144 has been implemented, but its effective implementation remains a matter of concern. While this legal provision is meant to maintain law and order, its application, or rather the lack thereof has become a topic of debate and concern. Against this backdrop, the people of Quetta have recently been gathering at the Press Club, holding demonstrations to express their solidarity with Palestine. This surge in political activity has brought to light the complex interplay between freedom of expression and the state’s responsibility to maintain public order.
Maulana Fazlur Rehman, a prominent political figure, seized the opportunity presented by the Palestine cause to stage a political show at Quetta’s Ayub Stadium. Earlier, Mehmood Khan Achakzai, the leader of the Pashtun Khawa Milli Awami Party, had also convened a demonstration at the press club, mobilizing party workers. In both instances, the application of Article 144 remained elusive, raising questions about its effectiveness.
The Balochistan National Party’s (BNP) rally faced criticism from Babar Yousafzai, the caretaker information minister and former chief minister’s spokesperson, John Achakzai. This criticism highlights the need for a level playing field in political discourse, ensuring that pressure tactics and open exemptions are eliminated to maintain the impartiality of the supervisory setup.
The right to protest for Palestine, while constitutionally valid, draws attention to the broader issue of freedom of speech as a fundamental right for all citizens. Democracy upholds the principle that the majority’s opinion prevails, but it also recognizes the rights of the minority. Non-Muslims, too, enjoy various religious, political, and democratic freedoms in Pakistan, emphasizing the need to promote equality for all, transcending contradictions.
Justice is not a mere utterance; it should be visible in action. While the right to take a stance and express an opinion on the Palestine issue is undeniable, it is essential to learn from the lessons of Afghanistan. The challenge of evacuating refugees, exacerbated by the prevalence of the Kalashnikov and heroin culture following the Afghan war, necessitates the redirection of resources and attention towards the development and welfare of the youth.
China provides a pertinent example in this regard. Understanding the secrets of China’s development underscores the importance of striving towards developmental goals. It is common to critique the cricket team, but little thought is given to the direction in which the youth of the nation are being steered. While our cricket team may face criticism for their performance, the youth often remain underutilized, lacking a clear direction.
The Nawabzada Shaheed Siraj Raisani Sports Festival, a commendable initiative, began recently at Ayub Stadium. In the media briefing for this event, the Sports Minister emphasized the importance of keeping sports fields free from politics. However, questions arise regarding the appropriateness of using Ayub Stadium, a sports arena, for political rallies. Quetta is already grappling with various challenges, and the pressure stemming from such activities raises concerns about the city’s ability to withstand it all.
Balochistan and Quetta, in particular, find themselves at a crossroads, balancing the rights of citizens to express their political views and the government’s responsibility to ensure order and security. It is essential to strike a delicate balance between these often conflicting imperatives, working towards a future where freedom of expression coexists harmoniously with law and order. In the process, the welfare and development of the youth, who hold the key to a brighter future, must remain a top priority.