Last week, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan had organized Consultation on the 2014 Dharna. Speakers talked about PTI’s and PAT marathon sit-in, which lasted 126 days, and believed it was part of a conspiracy and that the sit-ins were being orchestrated by other players. Senator Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo said: “It was a protest that started from the GHQ and ended at Parliament House. The protesters marched into PTV offices but came out when an army officer told them to.” He added that Dr. Tahirul Qadri had come in as a representative of the GHQ and that his demands were not made with the people of the country in mind. Analysts, politicians and civil society members supported the constitutional right to freedom of peaceful assembly for all segments of the society without any discrimination, but criticized 2014 ‘Dharna’ for violating some basic rights of the general public.
In fact, PTI had started dharna because the government did not address its grievances vis-à-vis rigging of elections. Chairman PTI Imran Khan had been running from pillar to post for 15 months, but neither the Election Commission of Pakistan nor the courts took any notice. After dhrna started, all status quo forces and political parties ganged up; joint session of the Parliament was called wherein the speakers saw a conspiracy to destabilize the government. HRCP has been critical of the military and its agencies be it a matter of missing persons or any action against insurgents in Balochistan. In 2009, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) had stated that human rights violations had taken place during the military operation against militants and extremists in Swat. Earlier, HRCP had been critical of the government for not taking any action against the extremists and militants.
Two major political parties PPP and the PML-N with their allies had condemned the dharna, but great majority of the people had appreciated Imran Khan’s stance. As a matter of fact, PTI dharna had created awareness among the masses about the failure of the Election Commission of Pakistan in holding free, fair and transparent elections. Addressing a big rally at D-Chowk Islamabad, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan had said that the nation had lost confidence and trust in the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), because mandate of the people had been stolen. He had demanded dissolution of the ECP, sought resignations of all its members and reconstitution of a new independent and strong electoral body. He had criticized the PML-N government’s fiscal policies and its failure to overcome load shedding and to control the ever-rising prices of essential commodities.
For the government and its allies, the dharna was a failure, but it had exposed the electoral system. It was because of the pressure built up by the PTI that the government agreed to bring about electoral reforms to hold free and fair elections. It was interesting to watch speeches of PPP Senator Aitzaz Ahsan and others during the joint session of the Parliament, who were critical of the government for its failure to deliver; yet they had chosen to stand by the government. Recently, Aitzaz Ahsan has said that Sharif brothers have become proud and arrogant, and government corruption has also increased due to, what he said, failure of PTI dharna. Even if one believes that dharna had failed, the PPP and other parties that stood by the government to against dharna are to blame in equal measure. And it is no use to cry over the spilt milk.