Regardless of the motivation behind them, protests are undoubtedly powerful. A large group of people gathering together over a single, unified cause to create the meaningful change that they believe in is a very impactful concept indeed.
However, if a protest is being carried out at the expense of the masses, then the protestors are crossing a line. Be it unnecessary damage to lives and possessions, or general unrest all over the country, the harmful ripple effects of unmoderated protests cannot be ignored.
So, when Khadim Rizvi and his supporters marched towards Faizabad over the weekend calling for the French ambassador to be sent back, they probably thought they were out to create meaningful change. However, with cellular and internet services suspended, traffic congestion created by the placement of containers, and general unrest caused by the sit-in, it is clear that they ended up doing more harm than good.
Cellular and Internet services get suspended during a protest or sit-in for “security reasons”. The government relies on this kill switch because it wants to make sure malicious individuals are unable to communicate effectively with each other and carry out their plans. This is problematic though, because this security measure ends up negatively impacting people who rely on these services for their jobs, their academic work, their businesses, or any aspect of their lives. Innocent people, therefore, end up suffering for the duration of that protest.
There needs to be a better way to ensure the security and well-being of civilians without hampering their daily lives. If anything, it is during these times of distress that citizens need to be able to stay in touch with their loved ones and colleagues the most. Why shouldn’t you be able to call your parents if there’s a protest going on in Islamabad? Why can’t you carry on running your business operations just because a group of people have decided to sit-in?
If the government keeps relying on its “kill switch policy” every time a protest breaks out, our growth and our daily lives will be seriously hampered. The government needs to work on a transparent counter-terrorism policy that ensures our security without compromising our rights or our access to communication and information.
What do you think about the suspension of cellular services and mobile outages during protests?