Friday, October 31, 2014

Cynicism in Pakistan

The title of this piece appears to be problematic. One can argue how cynicism may be confined to geographical specifications such as one of Pakistani type. But Pakistani cynicism may be justified on the ground that whatever its general meaning, the way a cynicism formulates in a society makes it special. Thus this piece tries to identify specific Pakistani attributes of cynicism.

Let’s try to have an idea of what cynicism generally stands for. First, it implies that all the ‘people are motivated by selfishness.’ Another most important and most common trait is that a cynic’s ‘outlook is scornfully and often habitually negative.’

As a philosophical term cynicism means something quite different. It was ‘a sect of ancient Greek philosophers who believed virtue to be the only good and self-control to be the only means of achieving virtue.’ So, philosophically cynicism relates to the Cynics and their beliefs.

In order to understand the wider meaning of cynicism, a diving into the history of the word may prove interesting. The word cynic comes from the Greek kunikos, which was originally used as an adjective meaning "doglike," from kun, "dog."  Thus a cynic equates this human life with a dog's life. Probably that was why the word was applied to the Cynic philosophers. The great Greek Cynic, Diogenes of Sinope was nicknamed as Kun. It is told he used to bark, urinate, and masturbate in public.

The first ever English instance of the use of the word cynic meaning “faultfinder” dates back to 1596. It is in this sense that the word cynic found its modern meaning. However, this sense of the word may also be attributed to the Cynics who were wont to find flaws in others. It is this faultfinding which helped formulate the belief characteristic of the cynics of today that human behavior is determined by selfishness. (This discussion of the word is based on an online dictionary.)

So it’s two attributes which may generally be associated with cynicism: First, negativity; and, second, faultfinding. That means that every cynic, be he/she Pakistani or otherwise, would usually be showing a negative attitude towards every thing; and that he/she would, almost as a rule, find fault with every thing. What’s wrong with this? When the things are really negative, they must be dubbed so! When the things are really faulty, they must be dubbed so! What’s wrong with that?

In the context of Pakistan, where most of the things most of the times are negative, why they must not be dubbed negative? And, where most of the things most of the times are faulty, why they must not be dubbed faulty? Why then such a Pakistani, who calls a spade a spade, not be called a Cynic? In the same vein, why then such a trend or attitude not be diagnosed as Pakistani Cynicism?

Actually there is a truth, which is theoretically uncontestable, but practically sometimes may be contestable, and that is what I want to contest. Here is an attempt at building the various shapes of things they may possibly take.

First, all the things are negative and faulty all the times. Second, all the things are negative and faulty most of the times. Third, all the things are negative and faulty some of the times. Fourth, most of the things are negative and faulty all the times. Fifth, some of the things are negative and faulty all the times. Sixth, some of the things are negative and faulty all the times. Seventh, some of the things are negative and faulty most of the times. Eighth, some of the things are negative and faulty some of the times.

Hence, it may be concluded that in a real situation what may practically be not undeniable is that some of the things are not negative and faulty some of the times. It is this truth which every cynic is blind to see and admit; or he/she develops or adopts an attitude which makes him/her see every thing as negative and faulty. This they do as a rule which may only exceptionally admit of an exception. Of course, all the Pakistani cynics are like that; but it is not in that that they show any characteristics specifically Pakistani cynicism exhibits.

No doubt, Pakistani cynics see every thing as negative and faulty. They do not admit of any thing as not negative and not faulty even some of the times. Apart from that, what is specifically Pakistani about them is that they themselves are not negative and not faulty. This should rather be phrased thus: The Pakistani cynics believe they are not negative and not faulty all the times. In contrast to that, every thing is negative and faulty all the times. That’s their first Pakistani attribute.

The second attribute of the Pakistani cynics is that they believe whatever negativity (or negative things) and whatever faultyness (or faulty things) exist responsibility for that rests with all the other Pakistanis, and they themselves are never ever to be blamed a bit for that. Associated with this second one is the third attribute which smacks of an exclusive claim to the possession of the truth that the Pakistani cynics believe only they have a claim to. It’s quite possible that this or that cynic, be he/she Pakistani or otherwise, may be a perfect arrogant, since he/she is in possession of the truth and since he/she plays no role at all if all the things have gone negative and faulty; however, that may not be identified as one more attribute characterizing Pakistani cynicism.

In the end, it may suffice to add that in Pakistan the cynicism has found its way in all the domains of life, but the one which is most dangerous is political. Some of the Pakistani political cynics, such as Imran Khan, are playing havoc with the political system. The others such as Najam Sethi, Ayaz Amir, Ayesha Siddiqa, are there to confound, in varying degrees, already rampant confusion, and are influencing the political opinion negatively and to the detriment of the long term interests of the citizens of Pakistan. (In another piece, the writer would like to elaborate upon this political cynicism and its impact on the political evolution of Pakistan.)

This article was carried by Pakistan Observer on October 11, 2014.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Bilawal - a political crown prince

History is replete with stories of off-springs used in order to seize and wield power. One such story has been narrated by Abdul Haleem Sharar in his excellent Urdu book, “Guzishta Lucknow” (Lucknow of the past). In its chapter on “Jang-e-Azadi aur Lucknow” (War of Independence and Lucknow), he writes: “The King, Wajid Ali Shah himself was in Calcutta, his family was in London, and . . . the conflict over the cartridges and government’s insistence suddenly caused a mutiny and from Merrut to Bengal such revolt flared up that the homes of every friend and foe were burnt and such a strife broke out that the foundations of British government in India appeared to be shaking.

“The way rebels of Merrut etc came to be converged in Delhi and made Zafar Shah Emperor of India, likewise the rebels of Allahabad and Faizabad reached Lucknow in May 1857. The moment they reached here many of the loiterers found a cause and girded up their loins and when they failed to find any other member of the royal family of Oudh, they enthroned Wajid Ali Shah’s 10 year old minor child Mirza Birjees Qadr and her mother Nawab Mahal became the sovereign-custodian of the Kingdom. A limited number of English army was posted here, and all the European officials of the Kingdom who could save their lives from the hands of the rebels fortified in Bailey Guard around which trenches were dug and sufficient arrangements for a safe living made. It proved good and fortunate that Wajid Ali Shah had already left Lucknow otherwise he would have been made the King, willy-nilly. His death would have been far worse than that of Zafar Shah and the ruined and the doomed of Oudh would not have found that ephemeral flourish in the court of Matiya Burj that they happily enjoyed.”

The only reason Mirza Birjees Qadr was enthroned was that he belonged to the royal family and could be treated as the legitimate claimant of the throne; he could win the assent of the subjects also. Another reason could be that in case of a controversy he could be presented before the English as the legitimate heir to the throne. At that time royalty’s right to kingship was considered valid; it is in accord with this right that the English used to make provision for stipend, pension, etc, to the members of royal families. He was made King for the reason also that he belonged to the reigning family and that was why he had to act as supreme commander of the army also. The same was the case with Bahadur Shah Zafar.

What made such enthronements of minors problematic is that those poor souls were quite oblivious of the fact of their responsibility; their age naturally required them to be living playfully and in carelessness; how come that they would possess such wisdom which is necessary to understand and resolve the intricate and complex issues and affairs of the Kingdom and the politics woven around the seat of power; for the same reason when the rebels of Lucknow burdened Birjees Qadr with the crown of the Kingdom his mother was made sovereign-custodian and it was she who in fact saw to the affairs of the Kingdom. That means Birjees Qadr who was made the King was merely a showpiece; the real power to rule rested with his mother Nawab Mahal. Apparently it was a necessary arrangement and involved no political trickery. However, if this arrangement was not put in place, the throne may have been lost.

Sharar relates that this was Birjees Qadr’s “rule” in Lucknow but Hazrat Mahal’s “government.” However, the coinage was issued in the name of Birjees Qadr; officials of the Kingdom appointed; and revenue started coming in from all over the country. In the November of the same year just six or seven months after the enthronement of Birjees Qadr the English army reached Lucknow to recover it. The English army was composed of Sikhs of Punjab and mountaineer people of Nepal, and it is said that it were they who committed more of the cruelties. The impression that the new Kingdom produced disappeared in the face of bombardment of two or three days as a cobweb perishes. Nawab Mahal herself and Birjees Qadr had to flee towards Nepal along with other escapees. Since it was a crowd of about hundred thousand people hence consultation decided to take shelter in the valleys of Himalayas and attack the English army when opportunity facilitates; in case of victory go back to the homeland and take up the charge of the Kingdom, and in case of defeat continue living in the mountains. That was difficult to happen, no doubt!

That’s a political story of 19th century. We are living in the 2nd decade of the 21st century. But the news about the rolling out of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari recalled to my mind that more than 150 year old story and made me think: Is Pakistan of today no more different from the Kingdom of Oudh of 1857? Actually Bilawal’s coronation had already been accomplished when his mother Benazir Bhutto was killed in 2007. Then his father Asif Ali Zardarin himself occupied the co-chairmanship of the Peoples Party while Bilawal was enthroned as its chairman. Aren’t Bilawal, Mirza Birjees Qadr and his father Asif Ali Zardari, Nawab Mahal of today’s Pakistan? Doesn’t real power of the PPPP and its politics rest with Asif Ali Zardari, who is like Nawab Mahal, sovereign-custodian of the Party? As a king at the time of his coronation was honored with various titles; in the same manner when Bilawal was made chairman of the PPPP, he was given the title of Bhutto Zardari. That proves his political hereditary lineage, or political-cum-royal lineage! But that raises certain pertinent questions:  Is PPPP a party like the royal family of Wajid Ali Shah? Is Pakistan like the Kingdom of Oudh? Are its leaders Aitzaz Ahsan, Raza Rabbani and others merely courtiers paying homage to the new Crow Prince? Are the workers and voters of PPPP nothing but subjects of its Political Kingdom wherein Bilawal has been made a Political Crown Prince?

The article was carried by Pakistan Observer on October 23, 2014.  

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Malala’s Peace Prize, cynics and ashraafists

The case of 2014 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Malala Yousafzai, which she shares with an Indian Kailash Satyarthi, who has devoted himself to the cause of child slavery, may be used as a litmus test should we want to know the bent of mind of any Pakistani fellow. This will help us know whether someone is a cynic or an ashraafist or both. Ask someone what he thinks about the Nobel Peace Prize for Malala; if he tells you, ‘Please, no joking!,’ be assured that he is both a cynic and an ashraafist. Some of the refined souls may be so artful that they would argue they are not this or that and are different from the lot; but their rhetoric reveals whether they are exclusively cynic or ashraafist only.

As cynics are souls in anguish who in their mysterious, unknown, and unknowable perfectionism find fault with everything and view everything from a standpoint of negativity, it seems with the announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize for Malala they have been thrown out of the frying pan into the fire, i.e. into a world which may be dubbed perfectly imperfect. So how come in such a world an honor like that of Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to Malala! The cynics will never be able to be in harmony with this fact; they cannot reconcile with this “strangest” thing. What the heck it has been given to a Pakistani, a girl, and a young girl, and a Pakhtun girl!

So much so that one friend who is thoroughly a cynic, and in his deepest perceptions maybe an ashraafist too, was so much outraged that he rang me and questioned me the same evening as if it was I who made this happen. He was completely puzzled, and quizzed me: “Why, but why she has been awarded this? Is it so? Why?” So the Paki cynics think, and they believe it too, that the young girl has done nothing. She has wrongly been awarded this prize; she doesn’t deserve that. Even if she has done something; it’s not such that she be given that award. They mean: It’s all politics behind this; they are capitalists, Americans, and such, who are behind her, and it is this politics because of which she has been awarded this Nobel Peace Prize. That’s a big conspiracy. She is not worth that honor; her work is far below the prestige of the Prize. Who the hell they are who make such decisions! The Paki cynics feel helpless in the face of that “injustice;” they would stop it by force if they could!

All that rhetoric that revolves not only around the opposition of Malala Yousafzai but has found an impetus, albeit negative, in the awarding of the Peace Prize permeates with another hidden tendency. That is Ashraafism (Urdu: Ashraafiyat, or Ashraaf-Pasandi). Let it be noted here that the English term “Elitism” may somewhat be nearer Ashraafism as far its meaning is concerned; however, it is far from conveying the full range of the meanings the Urdu term carries. The Urdu word Ashraaf has a history of its own; it has two connotations: one is its moral implications; and the other, its social, political and economic implications. It’s antonym in Urdu is Ajlaaf, which similarly has the same connotations.

In its moral sense, Ashraaf means persons who are considered with high moral standing in a society; whereas Ajlaaf are such persons whose moral standing is measured at a lower or the lowest level, or they are with no moral standing. In English, they may be translated as Noble and Ignoble people. However, the social, political and economic senses of both terms are of immense significance; and in some ways, it is in these senses that Ajlaaf or the ignoble persons were considered with low or lowest moral standing or with none at all, and the Ashraaf with high moral standing.

As a matter of fact, the Ashraaf were such persons who were placed at a higher level in a society, not only socially and economically, but politically also. They were the rulers and custodians of that society. Opposed to them were their subjects, the Ajlaaf, whom the fate has situated at a lower or the lowest level of that society, and they had no power over their lives and bodies. They were the ruled and the stuff of that society.

What is remarkable about the Ashraaf or Ashraafiya is that not only was the whole of its Ashrafi paraphernalia based on but survived also via the concept of racial superiority and racial purity. Most of Lughaats and dictionaries tell that Ashraaf are ‘the people of noble birth.’ That puts a lot of emphasis on the ways marriages and blood relations were seen and conducted in an Ashraafi society. That did help Ashraaf contain property and privileges within their families and classes. For them, women were part of their property.

As against this, the Ajlaaf were such unfortunate people who were of ignoble birth. They were racially inferior and impure; they were originally, i.e.by birth ignoble. Not surprising that labor and physical work came to the share of the Ajlaaf. Thus occupations created castes, and both symbolized the Ajlaafi classes. That shuts all the doors for the Ajlaaf to go and move right or left or upward. That’s a closed society. It’s mainly two movements, Humanism and Democratismm, that transformed that closed society into a Karl Popper’s open society. But the remnants of that Ashraafi closed society still survive and thrive as well in Pakistan.

Hence the Ashraafists argue how a girl from a non-Ashraaf can be honored with such a Prize. Let it be won by a daughter or son of an Ashraafiya, and they would be all praise for him or her. Once a friend whose family lived in Gowalmandi, Lahore, denigrated Nawaz Sharif thus: “Trash him; he just used to play in the streets of Gowalmandi!” In the same vein, Paki cynics and Ashraafists feel denigrated by this Peace Prize as being awarded to an ordinary girl; they do not see and commend her courage and work; nor her fortune! In their cynicism and ashraafism, they represent a closed society as well as closed minds!

The article was carried by Dhaka Tribune, and Pakistan Observer.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

ISPR’s political semantics - II

Dictionaries and lexicons provide literal and a limited range of meanings only. Thus, they may not help understand and interpret a text until and unless it is put in its proper context and situation in which it was composed and expressed. In the first part of this article, political semantics and the paradoxes lying behind the ISPR’s August 31st Press Release were discussed. This part tries to understand the other two press releases both of which were issued on the same date.

Here is the second press release (N0. PR185/2014-ISPR), which was issued on September 1, 2014: “News being run on private channels after Chief of Army Staff and Prime Minister meeting regarding Prime Minister resignation or his going on leave is totally baseless.”

Actually, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief of the Army Staff Raheel Sharif met in the heat of a very volatile situation. The moment the meeting concluded, some 3 or 4 TV channels started telecasting the news that the COAS had asked the Prime Minister to resign or go on leave. It is in this context that the above PR needs to be put and interpreted. Read the PR carefully and you would especially note how badly worded it is. What it apparently means is: ‘After the meeting between COAS and PM, news regarding the PM’s resignation or his going on leave is being run on private channels, which it is totally baseless.’

First, this PR puts COAS first and PM second in its order; and second, it precludes the apprehensions or rumors it was meant to quell that the COAS had asked the PM to resign or go on leave. However, whatever it may mean, it does not mean that COAS did not ask the PM to resign or go on leave. It simply amounts to saying that two events are not related, i.e. the real fact of the meeting between PM and COAS and the imagined fact of the PM’s resignation or going on leave did not have any connection. Thus, whether it is a fact or not, regardless of that it may be surmised that the COAS may have asked the PM to resign or go on leave!

The second Press Release (No. PR186/2014-ISPR) reads as: “(1) ISPR has categorically rejected the assertions that Army and ISI were backing PTI/PAT in anyway in the current political standoff. (2) Army is an apolitical institution and has expressed its unequivocal support for democracy at numerous occasions. (3) It is unfortunate that Army is dragged into such controversies. (4) Integrity and unity of the Army is its strength which it upholds with pride.”

Here the 1st sentence of this PR, especially its first part, is what provides a clear rejection of the assertions that Army and/or ISI back PTI and/or PAT. In the first place, it must be given a serious thought: why such “assertions” are made; what is that justifies these “assertions” and their overwhelming presence in the current opinion-environment; why such apprehensions raise their heads whenever there is any “revolt” against any civilian government? No doubt, there is a history of such unfortunate interventions and conspiracies, and the culprits have themselves confessed to their crimes. It is in that perspective that such assertions not only stand justified but validated also. A simple categorical rejection may not suffice to weaken or remove that long-standing impression.

What is more important is the second part of the sentence 1, which tries to qualify the “categorical rejection” of any backing of PTI/PAT! When it is said that ‘Army and ISI are (“were”) not backing PTI/PAT in anyway “in the current political standoff,” as far as wording of the sentence is concerned, that means they may have been backing PTI/PAT in the past or may be backing in future. Not only is the PR badly worded, it is prone to various doubts and other meanings also which may not have been the intention of its composers. Better they composed the whole PR in the simple present tense!

In the sentence 2, the PR asserts “apolitical” nature of the institution of Army. To reinforce this assertion, it reminds that on ‘numerous occasions it has expressed its unequivocal support for democracy.’ Is there any need to do so? Why is it that every time there is a “political storm” meant to weaken or topple the government, the Army (and ISI), a sub-ordinate institution, has to clarify and defend its apolitical character vis-à-vis any apprehensions or allegations for its involvement? Once again the reason for such PRs lies in and is justified by Pakistan’s political history. However, in order to wipe out such assertions, apprehensions, doubts, etc, completely from the memory and mind of the nation this or such PRs would not work; what it requires for that to happen is a practically consistent and steadfast approach to devote its resources, energies and time to meet its constitutional duties and zero involvement in any political and/or civilian affairs of the state and/or government, and it must happen to be seen in that way.

After quelling its alleged backing of PTI/PAT in the first two sentences, the PR shows its regrets on the Army’s dragging into such controversies and this fact as unfortunate. That’s really meaning! First, it’s no controversy. Second, it’s a serious allegation that Army/ISI back PTI/PAT in this political standoff or otherwise. Third, it is justified as cogent evidence from the political history of the country. Fourth, it ought to be taken as an opportunity to sit for an introspection and self-analysis by the Army and its allied institutions for the sake of broader national interest. As is the case, past eclipses one’s future, so is with Army and its other institutions. That is indeed unfortunate! Unfortunate for all those parties whom this PR addresses or mean to address, and the composers of the PR also!         

The last sentence 4 seems to be standing on the verge of mere rhetoric. Under the circumstances, what this sentence means or may mean is neither clear nor intelligible: “Integrity and unity of the Army is its strength which it upholds with pride.” The situation in which this sentence has been composed and expressed everyone knows it well; but what’s the context in which one may try to understand and/or interpret it! The one meaning which it may contain is that lest it is the “current political standoff” or the controversies the PR refers to which may be harming the Army’s “Integrity” and/or “Unity”; or there may be other such things or fears aiming at its “Pride.” Or this sentence may be taken to mean addressing itself!

In conclusion, let me repeat: words and sentences are packets of explosives or envelopes of goodwill; it is the context and the situation which determines the nature of their destructive or constructive character. That means in a highly charged situation, as the one prevails in Islamabad today, it is political semantics that matters. Chaucer the poet said: Judge not, lest ye be judged! In the same spirit, may I remind the ISPR that it needs to be too careful to let its text mean what it never intends to mean!  

This article was carried by Pakistan Today on October 11, 2014.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Disrupting the system of governance in Punjab

It does not need any political acumen to see the reality behind the results of those surveys which declare the governance in the province of Punjab as better or best in comparison to other provinces. Building flyovers or such “marvels” within a stipulated time or following the PPRA (Public Procurement Regulatory Authority) rules is no feat; that should go on on its own as a matter of routine. Reaching at any place where for instance a hapless woman has been raped, or a heinous murder has taken place, or in the midst of flood-ravaged people by no means can be termed good governance. It is at best ruling and behaving like a royalty.

Common sense does not tolerate high-sounding praises of such governance by those analysts who believe wisdom is their handmaid and it is they who are there to teach the ignoramuses. Would they ever try to understand that such kingly governance has already become part of the dusty memoirs of the royal personages! We are living in the second decade of the 21st century and there are models of governance which do not focus on personal presence, personal redressal of grievances of the citizens, centralized decision-making, discretionary powers and discretionary funds for elected or appointed / nominated state functionaries, etc. Instead, they encourage independent systemic arrangements for delivery of the services to the citizens with in-built mechanism of accountability; they include on the one hand services like security of person and property, dispensation of justice, which form the core functions of a state; and on the other, provision of social services such as potable water, sanitation, paved and cleaner streets, parks and play-grounds (etc) to each citizen, the determination of which depends on the stage of evolution the society concerned stands at.

As against this, whatever the system of governance the province of Punjab has had, it is being systematically demolished and now it is more than 10 years that this model of personal governance has taken over this unfortunate province. Not only that, the autocratic decision-making in addition to autocratic supervision of everything happening or taking place in Punjab substantiates this model. It is sickening, and one can imagine the plight of those officers and officials who are working under its monarchical set-up. It is rotten and mean. In fact, it is governance in the service of personal whims and likes and dislikes. Everything comes from the office of the chief minister and, likewise, everything goes back to the office of the chief minister. Is not it symptomatic of a deeply entrenched political disease that a number of ministries rest and relax in the person of the chief minister of Punjab; as if he is the source of everything that the government of the province is meant to deal with!

Under the circumstances, the most pertinent question is: Is this model of personal governance a model of governance at all? This question itself gives rise to many other questions: What purpose does this model of personal governance serve? Ultimately, in whose interest, does it exist? What achievements has this model recorded in its name? Has it been able to accomplish any of the above-mentioned two types of services the provision of which every model of governance aims at?

First, the model of governance being practiced in Punjab is no model of governance; it is personal, i.e. it derives its justification and effectiveness from the person who is the chief executive of the province, and not from the chief executive of the province. That may seem tautologous, but it’s not. As is the case, a chief executive is the executive head of a province, and not the whole thing himself as a monarch used to be; he heads all those domains and departments which come under his constitutional and lawful authority. He is not those domains and departments himself; nor they form his person. It is in that spirit that decentralization and specialization find their rationale.

Second, this model of personal governance exists only for the person who is at the helm of the affairs. In this case, it translates into a chief minister of the Pakistan Muslim League-N, and it amounts to saying that in order to accrue political-cum-party gains, the model of governance existing in the books of the Punjab government is being undermined. For example, when the chief minister reaches to an aggrieved person personally, it may serve that person to see his grievance redressed, but the final and the solid gain lies with the chief minister, because that personal beneficent act of the chief minister does not replicate. That’s royal beneficence!

Third, to do justice to this model, it needs to take into account what are the achievements of this personal governance. No doubt, there are certain solid accomplishments, such as efforts to bring transparency in the affairs of certain departments and introduce the e-governance. Simultaneously that raises a lot of questions as to the effectiveness of such efforts: How far these efforts are successful and how much they are trickling down! For instance, as the chief minister’s claim of annihilating the corruption from the province proves to be a fiction, it is yet to be seen how these efforts are going to improve the lot of the citizens. The fact is that the state machinery in Punjab is still as exploitative and as corrupt as it was 5 or 10 years earlier.

Lastly, has this model of personal governance scored any success as far as core functions of the state are concerned; and also what about the social services which the provincial government is supposed to make provision of to the citizens? Not only has increased the sense of insecurity in Punjab, but social life of the citizens also sees no improvement, rather there is deterioration in spite of the network of the roads, over-head bridges and under-passes, etc. On both counts, this model of personal governance fails miserably. Fear the day when Mr. Shahbaz Sharif is no more the chief minister of Punjab and whosoever takes charge from him will have to start from the scratch to put or restore a model of systemic governance back to its due place, if he wishes so, and he will be facing a Herculean task!

This article was carried by Pakistan Observer on October 2, 2014.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Why Pakistan is not a viable state?

Better to start with two clarifications: First, this piece does not raise the question of Pakistani state’s viability in the sense Pakistan’s Leftists and liberals are wont to discuss it. They say something like that: It’s unviable because it was created by the British in line with their policy of Divide and Rule; It’s unviable because it was created by the narrow-mindedness of Hindus or the Congress, or the stubbornness of Muslims or the League. They also hold that: It’s unviable because religion is never the basis of any state. The writer prospectively believes that states are not rational entities; they may come into existence, and disintegrate and disperse into more entities with or without any rational justifications. It’s like individuals or groups of human beings who want to live separately for any concrete or imagined grievances or none at all that states are born and withered. The crux of the argument is that what’s important is not how and why new entities of states emerge, what’s fatally important is how the newly emerged states live, grow and perform on the scale of their citizens’ rights and well-being.

Second clarification tries to address the universally prevailing view of Pakistan as a failed or failing state. This view derives its arguments mostly from political and economic realms. It’s a complex argument comprising many a heterogeneous theses. For instance, it raises such issues: Military’s hegemony vis-à-vis civilian and political affairs; Intelligence agencies’ role in political and state’s affairs; Absence of democratic values and democratic polity; Centre’s hold; Provincial disharmonies; Ethnic resentment; Linguistic discords; Economic subservience of lower classes; Inefficient state machinery; Separation of the East Pakistan as Bangladesh; etc. Various combinations of such politico-economic factors invite the epithet of a failing and disintegrating state for Pakistan. The writer has nothing to do with this view either.

The above-discussed factors do make sense of what has been and is happening right now in Pakistan. One may quip: The political drama being played at the moment in Islamabad proves the unviability of the state of Pakistan! The writer wants to push the argument deeper into the political abyss Pakistan has been thrown into; and, aims at going beyond the constitutional argument for the viability of a state. That no doubt applies to the first two decades or so of Pakistan’s history, when there was a display of various constitutions appearing and disappearing on the political celluloid. Why this was the case then that now a constitution was enforced and now it stood abrogated? It is here that the argument of this writer formulates itself. Certainly it was not mere geographical, political, ethnic, linguistic, or economic differences which were responsible for the lingering constitutional crisis facing early Pakistan. It was something more and other and different than that which caused that constitutional impermanence. In fact, it was that “something” which lied behind and resulted in the formation of Bangladesh.

But what about the four decades (and the fifth lapping to this day) which lived through the company of a constitution promulgated in 1973? Where had gone that “something” during that constitutional intactness? Of course, the devil did not vanish then, but became distributed in details. The constitution was verily there, but seldom enforced and followed in letter and spirit. Up till now, it has been operated upon by three openly declared Martial Laws (1977, 1999, and 2007). As is believed and upheld by many analysts that even when the army is not in the saddle, in certain matters especially and otherwise generally it keeps the reins in its hands. Be that as it may, it is politicians the responsibility lies with whom to run the affairs of the state in accordance with the provisions of the constitution, and it is they who criminally share that with others, whoever they are. Not only politicians collude with the army and intelligence agencies, but they when in power do not bother with the dictates of the constitution. Let it be mentioned here that it completely excludes the spirit of the constitution, more significant than its letter, which never finds any followers in politicians. No denying that both usurpers and lawful rulers treat the constitution in a manner as if it is there for them to manipulate and not to abide by and follow in letter and spirit. Again it is that “something” which may clearly be seen underlying here in this type of anti-constitutional politics.

What’s that “something?” I would call it that minimum consensus which is necessary for any community of people to form into a political entity, i.e. a state. May it be noted here that it touches the boundaries of the notion of a social contract, but in itself it is not a social contract. In fact, when a community of people comes to institute a state, they first need to agree as to this intention that they are to be together in a state where whatever laws are to be made they will abide by them. That is that minimum consensus! It may be termed Writ of Law. Here it is taken for granted that not all the people may be in agreement with this or that law, and that’s natural; and that those who do not agree, even they are bound to follow that law, though they may try to amend, nullify or replace it with one of their choice. So, before a people enter into a social contract, they require a minimum consensus that whatever laws are enacted, regardless of their agreement or difference with them they will follow them.

Contrary to it, now and then this or that group of people, which does not agree with a set of laws, and instead of trying to get them changed in a prescribed manner, comes to violate and challenge that minimum consensus which ensures the intactness of that political union they are part of. That makes that political entity or state unviable. It is in this sense that the state of Pakistan is unviable, and presently it is PTI and PAT which are trampling that minimum consensus in the name of Azadi and Inqilab. Pakistan’s political history of about 7 decades proves that point. Be it prior to the 1973 constitution or after it, that minimum consensus has always been at stake. It is at stake now also! 

This article was carried by PakistanToday on September 19, 2014.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Islamabad sit-ins: who is the culprit

In the matters of running the state of Pakistan, penetration of politics, politicians and political considerations have marred the capability of the state to think clearly, act accordingly and punish promptly; which has weakened it to such an extent that in most of the cases the state is conspicuous by its absence, resulting in increasing anarchy in the country. It was back in 1953 that Justice Munir Inquiry Report concluded thus: “And it is our deep conviction that if the Ahrar had been treated as a pure question of law and order, without any political considerations, one District Magistrate and one Superintendent of Police could have dealt with them. Consequently, we are prompted by something that they call a human conscience to enquire whether, in our present state of political development, the administrative problem of law and order cannot be divorced from a democratic bed fellow called a Ministerial Government, which is so remorselessly haunted by political nightmares. But if democracy means the subordination of law and order to political ends – then Allah knoweth best and we end the report.” (Justice Munir Inquiry Report 1954, P. 387)

The problem has now complicated so much so that a thick layer of confusion prevails from the highest courts to the lowest functionary of the state. The diagnosis Justice Munir Report made is though still valid; however, the effects of the disease the Report diagnosed have shifted the ailment to another vital area; i.e. the earlier disease has given rise to another one more fatal, i.e. how to fix responsibility. Let it be stated here that the fault lies not with laws as such, but more with their implementation. All the thinking regarding the implementation of laws, rules and regulations that exists now in every organ and institution of the state lacks clarity as far as fixing of responsibility is concerned.

With this preamble, this piece tries to analyze the political discourse taking place on the issue of Islamabad sit-ins of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Pakistan Awami Tehreek. The other day, after the disclosures of Javed Hashmi regarding the involvement of both PTI and PAT in a conspiracy to topple the present government of the Pakistan Muslim League-N, which allegedly had the sponsorship of certain retired officials of Army and ISI, General Mirza Aslam Beg (R) managed to present himself to a prime time TV talk show to expose another bigger conspiracy behind the sit-ins. The Big Bang he may have hoped to make by his revelations failed to release any impact. His utterances were no different from the statements of religious politicians who now and then see the hand of India, or America or Israel behind any noticeable occurrence happening in Pakistan. He tried to name US, UK, Canada and Iran as the conspirators behind the Islamabad sit-ins; he said these countries wanted martial law and anarchy in Pakistan and that the incumbent Chief of the Army Staff foiled their plot. That at best may be termed as an attempt to deflect the burden of responsibility which Javed Hashmi’s revelations put on the Army via retired security officials.

Since Azadi and Inqilab Marches of PTI and PAT started, elements in civil society and the media, and some politicians expressed their belief that the same was sponsored, as they dub it, by the establishment. Thus every development that took place in the Red Zone, be it the coming of the marchers to the Red Zone, their forcible entry into the premises of the Parliament building, their attack on the Prime Minister House, their short but significantly symbolic occupation of the Pakistan Television Headquarters, their leaders’ daily tirades tarnishing the every semblance of the writ of the state, was interpreted in the light of that belief. Thus according to such elements the culprit is the establishment, or , the retired officials of the establishment.

I have every so often reiterated that the Pakistani mind has lost a very precious function, i.e. the function of common sense. While fixing responsibility, it does not see who is the perpetrator of an act, what it tries to focus its attention on is who is behind him, as if the perpetrator is not the one who is responsible for that act, the responsible for that act is one who is behind him and has exhorted him to do the act. No doubt, law takes into account the one also who exhorted and / or abetted one to commit a crime, but it puts the burden of responsibility mainly on one who commits the crime.

It’s a social and moral case: I use an example to illustrate this fallacious thinking; that if a person asks another person to jump into a well, and he jumps into the well, who is one who should be framed with responsibility for jumping into the well? Practically, the most prevalent view in Pakistani society is: one who asked him to jump into the well! That view has taken over the commons sense thinking in every domain of the state and social life. It is like that mother who puts the blame of making his son an addict on others, and treats her son completely an innocent soul. That’s the way responsibility is put and fixed in Pakistan. One may object in Pakistan responsibility is never fixed. That’s another chronic malady the state of Pakistan is afflicted with from the day one. The present piece tries to highlight the fact that a new ploy has been developed to thwart the issue of fixing responsibility: put responsibility on everyone or on one who is not the main culprit. That’s the state aristocracy’s way of avoiding responsibility for anything done!

Hence, whether or not, it is the retired officials of the Army or any intelligence agency as Javed Hashmi blamed, or the USA, UK, Canada or Iran, or the establishment as is alleged, or any other conspirators, who are behind the the PTI and PAT’s sit-ins; whether or not PTI and PAT coalesced with any other conspiring power, that’s not the real issue. The real culprit is one who is before us, not one who is behind the mountain. The culprit is who has organized the sit-ins. It is PTI and PAT who are the culprit. It is their leaders who are the culprit!

This article was carried by Pakistan Observer on September 25, 2014.