Protests are possibly the most visible representation and the manifestation of anger of the public and are usually viewed as the last resort when it comes to jolting regimes and governments into action.
Ever since its independence, Pakistan has seen a lot of political upheavals and unrest. Coups, assassinations and protests have been a regular and recurring feature of the political life and trajectory of the country. Zooming in and narrowing down on such developments is never easy, especially in a country like Pakistan with its highly complex society and politics that has been a witness to several interesting and unpredictable political changes and developments over the course of its history. Nevertheless, the Anti-Government Protests against Imran Khan and his government and the very recent protests against the murder of 11 Shia Hazara coal miners in Baluchistan province early Sunday (January 3) by the Sunni extremist terrorist organisation, ISIS are the two major and the most recent socio-political developments that have kept the entire country engaged for some time now.
Imran Khan & Protests
Imran Khan, former cricketer turned political turned Prime Minister is no stranger to the art and practice of protests. From protesting against the then government of the day under the leadership of Nawaz Sharif in 2014 to being protested against, tables do seem to have turned on Mr Khan with opposition parties joining hands and forming the ‘Pakistan Democratic Movement’ and accusing him and the Pakistani Army of rigging the election in his and his party's favour. Misgovernance, a weakening economy, increased censorship and crackdown on dissent, are some of the major issues that the opposition parties have raised.
The opposition parties have also been targeting the Pakistan Army for undue interference and political partisanship. Of all the issues, the alleged rigging of elections by the military that brought Imran Khan to power were the dominant factors in these protests. Pakistan has had a long and infamous history of military interference and intervention in politics with successive generals staking a claim to the leadership of the country, resulting in both coups starting in 1958 with General Ayub Khan appointing himself the president and followed by coups in 1977 and 1999 by General Zia-ul-Haq and General Pervez Musharraf respectively and assassination of former Prime Ministers such as Benazir Bhutto. The army is the most powerful institution in Pakistan and the COAS (Chief of Army Staff) being the most important, influential and powerful figure in the country.
For someone who came to power riding on his personal popularity and the wave of a big anti-corruption protest, it will be interesting to see as to how Mr Khan deals with the challenge in front of him and his country. One of the primary demands of the protesters, the ouster of Imran Khan and his government may be a little far fetched but taking into account the rather troubled political history of Pakistan, it cannot be dismissed as well.
The Killing Of 11 Shia Hazara Coal Miners
The killing of 11 coal miners belonging to the minority Shia Hazara community by terrorists belonging to the ISIS sparked off protests in Baluchistan which then spread to various other cities in Pakistan. Meanwhile, as the protests gathered momentum, the protestors refused to bury the dead bodies of the slain miners, later on agreeing only after the assurance by the Pakistan Prime Minister to meet with the members of the community and families of the slain miners.
Shia Hazaras have borne the brunt of sectarian violence since a very long time. The Hazaras are a Persian speaking ethnic group that is native to, and primarily residing in, the mountainous region of Hazarajat, in central Afghanistan. They are a significant minority group in Pakistan. Hazaras are considered to be one of the most oppressed groups in Afghanistan with their persecution going back decades.
The Pakistan Prime Minister also blamed India for instigating such incidents of sectarian violence to destabilise and create unrest in the country. "No premier of any country should be blackmailed liked this," this particular statement by Mr Khan drew a lot of criticism with rallies being carried out in the national capital, Islamabad by Shiites for referring to mourners as 'blackmailers'. The mourners eventually buried the bodies of the slain miners after days of protests.
Imran Khan: Not the national hero anymore?
When viewed in the larger perspective, these two seemingly separate instances of protests can be directly and indirectly linked to Imran Khan losing the plot, his popularity and his grip over the politics of the country he was elected to lead. From being a national hero to a controversial figure sans any ‘heroic qualities’, Mr Khan’s image has indeed taken a beating and it is up to the Pakistan Premier if he wishes to revive his fortunes and glory and should also take into consideration several examples from the history of glorified and celebrated individuals who ended up becoming one time wonders.