Clockwise from left: Tanvir Khawaja, Sardar Javed Yaqoob and Mozammil Haq Image Credit: Supplied

Al Ain: Pakistanis in the UAE, who are closely following the unrest back home, said dialogue is the only way out of the standoff between anti-government protesters and the ruling administration.

On Monday, protesters briefly took over state broadcaster PTV in the capital Islamabad before being removed by the army.

The forced entry follows weeks of sit-ins and protests against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who denies corruption and election irregularities.

Chief of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan has distanced himself from Monday’s incident, saying protesters should not overrun government institutions, but continues to press for Sharif’s resignation.

Also calling for the prime minister to step down are supporters of cleric Tahirul Qadri.

The army, meanwhile, has urged restraint and warned that violence would only escalate instability.

Pakistanis in the UAE told Gulf News that Pakistan’s army, which has in the past taken over civilian governments, should not interfere.

“I don’t think the army has a role in this political problem. The government should have listened [to protesters] before. Now, they don’t know how this unrest will be controlled,” said Sardar Javed Yaqoob, a political adviser. “But now the only way forward is direct talks and dialogue between all sides.” He said the situation should be handled carefully, at the earliest, to bring back stability because the whole country is suffering heavy economic losses.

Tanvir Khawaja, president of Pakistan Business Council, Dubai, said the country has been left worse off by the unrest.

“No sensible overseas Pakistani will be happy about the situation. I strongly believe the present government – though it was not the ideal situation – had started to move in a better direction. All the economic indicators, which serve as an index of a country’s stability, showed this,” Khawaja said.

“We hope in the next 24 or 48 hours, both sides will reach some kind of agreement,” he added, saying though “people have a right to protest, all parties should sit together again and resolve their differences amicably within a democratic system”.

Pakistan’s penchant for rule of law has been placed under international scrutiny due to the ongoing instability, according to Mozammil Haq, a Pakistani HR manager in Dubai.

“What message are we [Pakistanis] giving to the world? Why can’t we handle these few thousand protesters? Where are the police and armed forces?” Haq said.

Another Pakistani added that the government should have acted in time to prevent the situation from escalating this far.

“It was political matter and the government should have resolved it politically,” said Mohammad Amjad, a resident of Al Ain.

Assad Bashir, also a resident of Al Ain, said people have the right to stage protests “but they cannot blackmail a democratically elected government. How come a few thousand people can negate the government’s mandate given by millions of Pakistanis?”.

Hanif Khan, a resident of Dubai, said violence cannot be accepted at all. “I was in favour of Nawaz’s government but I hate to see government pressing the panic button instead of solving the crisis politically,” he said.

“It is total madness. I believe Prime Minister Sharif has deliberately tried to drag the army into the fray to become a political martyr.

Khan said he was against the Imran-Qadri march but it’s the government that mishandled the situation. “The government has failed in striking a political solution and acted in a dictatorial fashion to quell the unarmed protesters. I believe that the Nawaz government has lost its credibility,” he added.

Pakistan is a democratic country, said Khan and Ahmad, and the PML-N has turned it into a draconian kingdom by using the state apparatus against unarmed citizens who were protesting for their rights. Even journalists and media teams were attacked to suppress the freedom of expression. “We haven’t seen such brutality in Pakistan,” they added.

Bashir Tahir, another Pakistani resident of Al Ain, said tear gas, baton charge, and use of rubber bullets against unarmed protesters, that included women and children, is not permissible at all. “Why didn’t the government use the non-lethal water cannons,” he said.

The government’s response to the protest shows that it was prepared to inflict maximum injuries to the protesters, he said, adding that Saturday night actions were pre-planned. “It’s a black day in the history of Pakistan that has eroded the political authority of the government as well,” he said.