The events of May 9 shocked all Pakistanis, but the strong-arm tactics of the state apparatus show a desire for revenge, not law and order.
The way in which commentators on social media are being targeted is condemnable. The tactic is an old playbook: random citizens suddenly come forth to accuse various individuals, whom the state sees as ‘undesirables’, of serious crimes. FIRs are lodged and the complaint is vague enough to create significant difficulties for the people accused, but unlikely to stand scrutiny.
The aim is to intimidate rather than prosecute. The state has long favoured this tactic to harass journalists, politicians, and activists. The complaints are never investigated and are instead used as a Damocles sword, hanging over the people they target.
This time round, however, the bigger concern of activists is that law-enforcement agencies may use these accusations to harass families as well.
As an editorial in Dawn noted, “commentators may have used intemperate or incendiary language, but the right way to counter this would have been to challenge them under the appropriate laws after due process. Unfortunately, our state appears too wedded to its fear tactics to bother to think out of the box for once.”