The registration of the case on sedition charges against the organisers of the Student Solidarity March raises some serious questions about the rule of law. The first investigation report (FIR) that the police have registered against the organisers of the rally shows us that we are living under a sham democracy. Under the present set up, the state does not care a bit to violate the fundamental right to protest that the constitution of the country grants to its citizens.

Is asking the government to stop privatisation of education a crime? Or demanding an end to all sorts of discrimination constitutes an unpardonable offence? Or is asking the state to restore student unions equivalent of sedition? Unfortunately, the new norm is that the state capitulates before believers in the efficacy of violence, whereas those who remain peaceful and non-violent bear the brunt of the state’s wrath.

While the Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan says that his government is willing to restore the student unions, registration of sedition cases against the organisers of the march is beyond one’s comprehension. On the one hand, the government says that the universities groom future political leadership of the country. On the other, the government is registering levelling sedition charges against those who demand the restoration of student unions. What kind of duplicity is this?

Given that the government also wants restoration of the students union, it must find out the ones who are registering sedition cases. It should ask the law enforcement agencies about the arrest of the activists. The speakers may have spoken some bitter truths, but can the state ignore these truths? Even if ignoring the inconvenient truths is the modus operandi of the government, arresting those who speak their mind only guarantees erosion of the society. The state probably forgets that dissent, not conformity with the status quo, is the highest form of patriotism.

Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government is divided on the restoration of student unions. While the PM wants to lift the ban, Punjab’s information minister, Mian Aslam Iqbal defends registration of FIR against the march’s organisers. The support that the march received from a vast segment of the society tells one thing very loud and clear: the march was anything but an act of treason. It is about time that the government stops silencing those who take to streets for demanding their rights peacefully. Otherwise, the state’s attempt to silence them can force them to seek refuge in violence.