ISLAMABAD - Fascism of the worst kind was in evidence as the Pakistani government moved to counter the lawyers’ Long March that began Thursday, taking the country ‘downwards in the direction of totalitarianism’, a leading English daily said as another warned of the inevitability of violence during the protest.
‘Even in Pakistan’s troubled history of democratic governance, it is rare to find examples of the kind of open fascism we are seeing today,’ The News said in an editorial headlined ‘Fascism in action’.
‘We spiral downwards in the direction of totalitarianism, of the destruction of democratic process and institutions,’ the editorial lamented.
‘The Zardari administration has laid aside all pretence of following democratic practice or even the mere norms of civilized conduct and has reacted in a manner that would make many bloodthirsty dictators proud,’ it said.
In this context, it noted that ‘whatever good’ had been ‘glimpsed’ in the aftermath of last year’s election had ‘died, sacrificed on the altar of ambition and selfishness that sadly grips the minds of those who govern’.
Warning of violence during the Long March, the Daily Times said: ‘Some people will be killed along the way and this will raise the temperature of confrontation and start a roller-coaster of action-reaction till both sides are deadlocked and a ‘third force’ is compelled to try and pry them apart.’
At the same time, ‘it is a contradiction in terms to say that the Long March will be peaceful’, the editorial, headlined ‘Long March and violence’, maintained.
‘The truth of the matter is that if it stays peaceful no change will take place. And it is change the Long Marchers want. The lawyers want change in the top judiciary; and the PMLN wants a change of government.
‘The last time the Long March was peaceful. Nothing changed,’ Daily Times noted ominously.
The Long March has its genesis in an agreement the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had reached after the general elections, where they emerged the two largest parties, to restore the Supreme Court and High Court judges who had been sacked after an emergency was imposed in 2007.
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari’s PPP later reneged on this, prompting the PML-N of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to walk out of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s ruling coalition.
Sacked Supreme Court chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhury had last year led a similar Long March, onto whose bandwagon Sharif had climbed when the protesters reached Islamabad.
This time around, with the government unrelenting in its stance on restoring the judges, Sharif himself is leading the march, which began simultaneously from Sindh and Balochistan Thursday and will culminate with a sit-in at Islamabad March 15.
The Punjab provincial government Tuesday launched a crackdown against the PML-N, arresting hundreds of its workers and issued orders banning the assembly of five or more people - a directive that will be observed more in its breach.
The News said it was ‘Pakistan’s tragedy that we have once more been betrayed’.
‘The forces that claimed to stand for judicial independence and democratic principle have turned brutally on people.’
Holding that under its present leadership, the PPP ‘has lost all right to be called a party of the people’, The News said: ‘Those who head it have been completely exposed. Their actions have plunged a struggling nation into still greater turmoil.
‘History will not absolve them for what they have done,’ the editorial maintained.