State, being a rational actor, uses repression as a strategic policy to curb opposition movements. Demands are presented by the opposition on the ruling elite to change governments’ policies or to move from status quo. The ruling elite have plenty of options ranging from acquiescence to initiation of civil war to remain in power. After weighing the cost and benefits of the situation, the state elite decide to repress or not. The government elite choose to repress when they believe that they can maximize the expected payoffs.

On June 17, 2014, two years ago, Lahore witnessed deadly repression of the workers of Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT), a political party led by Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri. Hundreds of personnel of Punjab Police stormed into Minhaj-ul-Quran complex, the head-quarter of PAT, killed 14 and wounded many political workers. Violent clashes started when the Punjab Police came to remove the barriers placed in front of Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri’s house who was about to reach from Canada to lead the “revolution”. But the question is, had the PAT enough power to topple the system or the government? Was the decision of the government to repress PAT workers inevitable?

In December 2012, Dr. Qadri returned to Pakistan after spending seven years in Canada. In his historic speech at Minar-e-Pakistan, Dr. Qadri vowed to change the electoral system of Pakistan by calling it a fraud, unjust and unfair. After a month, he staged the “million man march” in Islamabad and declared parliament as group of looters, thieves and bandits. With more than fifty thousand supporters, Dr. Qadri ended his sit-in after four days when his demands were met regarding electoral reforms after the signing of Islamabad Long March Declaration. After a few months, he flew back to Canada.

PAT decided to boycott 2013’s election with the prediction of rigged polls. After the polls, almost all the political parties complained against massive rigging and inconsistencies. Disappointed with the polls outcome, Dr. Qadri, vowed to topple the whole system. He began to prepare his followers for the final call to bring about “revolution” in the country to eradicate corrupt and “unconstitutional” political system. He decided to come back from Canada. But before his arrival, Punjab government had chosen the path of repression to restrain him and his supporters to change the status quo.

With no significant electoral strength, the PAT was neither a threat nor had capacity to bring social revolution. Scokpol, a leading political scientist, in his book State and Social Revolutions argues that social revolutions come when state faces external threat and through elite fragmentation which gives opportunity to peasantry to revolt against the regime. Even though it was believed that Dr. Qadri had the goodwill of military elite, there were no fragmentations within political elite. The political elite, with all their differences, were united on the issue of continuation of the system. Dr. Qadri alone did not have the power to mobilize the large segment of society to stage revolution. He was not going to eradicate the system with only fifty or hundred thousand supporters. The government had failed to weigh the cost and benefit of repression at that time and planned a timid response.

June 17 will be remembered as a black day of Pakistan’s history.