Protests grip Pakistan

In an increasingly connected world, when tragedy strikes, the whole world feels tremors. Such is the case with young Zainab Ansari of Kasur, Pakistan.

Ansari was one of 12 girls in the past two years found raped and murdered in the city. Following her murder, the people of Pakistan took to the streets and social media, where #justiceforzainab became one of the top trending hashtags worldwide.

Portland State Associate Professor of Political Science Dr. Lindsay Benstead connected the outbreak of protests in Pakistan to far-reaching corruption within the country.

“There are ongoing issues of the police being accountable to the public and behaving or operating in a way that isn’t consistent with the rule of law,” she said. “The public is very concerned about this incident and they want to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

PSU Sociology Professor Emeritus Dr. Grant Farr pointed to the recent ousting of former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as a possible cause for turmoil.

As tensions rise, some individuals question whether street demonstrations are the most effective way for protesters to achieve their goal of increased government and police accountability. Benstead says yes.

“As Pakistan is a developing country, it is all the more difficult to implement public sector reforms…due to the fact Pakistan is transitioning to democracy,” Benstead explained.

“While [Pakistan] has elections, the public has limited mechanisms to ask the government to change,” Benstead continued. “The formal mechanism of accountability is weakened, so that means the public can only respond through protest and other informal means.”

“Large demonstrations have tremendous power,” Farr said. “I think you have to take to the streets, and if people really care, they need to protest.”