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.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

ISPR’s political semantics - I

Nothing can be understood in isolation. So is the case with three recent press releases of the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), which acts as the voice of Pakistan Army. However, any attempt to understand them without putting them in their proper context is misleading. Actually, words and sentences are packets of explosives or envelopes of goodwill. It is the situation in which words and sentences are expressed which determines the nature of their destructive or constructive character.

So let’s indulge in a bit of political semantics: Here is the text of the 1st press release (N0.184/2014-ISPR), which was issued on August 31st: “(1) Corps Commander Conference was held at General Headquarters tonight. (2) Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif presided over the conference. (3) While affirming support to democracy, the conference reviewed with serious concern, the existing political crisis and the violent turn it has taken, resulting in large scale injuries and loss of lives. (4) Further use of force will only aggravate the problem. (5) It was once again reiterated that the situation should be resolved politically without wasting any time and without recourse to violent means. (6) Army remains committed to playing its part in ensuring security of the state and will never fall short of meeting national aspirations.”

As far as the sentence 3 is concerned, though the PR reaffirms Army’s support to democracy, but in the same breath it shows its serious concern not only on the existing political crisis, but on its turning violent and resulting in large scale injuries and loss of lives also. The question is why it’s so much concerned about the existing political crisis. The Army is an institution which is sub-ordinate to the country’s civil power, then how come that it stepping beyond its constitutional duties expresses its concern on the violence entering the crisis and large scale injuries. It may also be questioned why it’s so much serious about the violence, injuries and loss of life, which was the result of law-forcing agencies’ efforts to protect the state buildings. Did other institutions such as Rangers, Capital Police and other police officers express any such concerns? Then, it must be asked how such a sub-ordinate institution can judge the policy of the government and its aftermath, whatever it is!

The next sentence 4 reinforces the impression that the earlier sentence gives rise to, i.e. it clearly censures the further use of force. In that, not only does it publicly criticize the government’s policy, but advises it to avoid using force. That amounts to depriving the state and the government of its monopoly of violence, and thus makes it vulnerable to those elements which are creating a worst law and order situation in the capital city. Implicitly it may mean to be understood as carving out a niche for the protesting parties, PTI and PAT. Another angle of understanding 3 and 4 is that in the capacity of a constitutionally sub-ordinate institution, the Army may not advise or exhort any elements which are not part of the government to desist from violence; though they did the same earlier when a PR talked about the sanctity of the state buildings. It be noticed here that the word “force” is generally used for organized (governmental) force, and not for the above-mentioned elements, for which the word “violence” is used usually. It means that the advice exclusively stood for the government!

The sentence 5 reveals the whole stance of the PR. It reiterates political resolution of the crisis, and gives a time frame, affording no wasting of time. More to it, it advises once again no recourse to violent means. Obviously in accordance with the dictates of the constitution, the lawful authority rests with the government, and it is for it to see and decide whether to go for a political resolution, or delay it, or to go for the use of force, or delay it. Here it may be objected that, as argued above, it is justified for the PR to advise or exhort the government to do this or that. But that misdirects the argument, which indirectly tries to make sense of the PR of the ISPR. First, the Army as a state institution may tell or advise only a government institution, not a non-state actor. Second, as it is a sub-ordinate institution, it may not tell or advise the government to which it is subservient.

Finally, the last sentence 6 may be termed paradoxical. While it is said, ‘Army remains committed to playing its part in ensuring security of the state,’ it may at once be asked why that assurance was required to be made. Does it address that mistrust that a long history of military rule in Pakistan has created and strengthened? Or, does it address the doubts lurking around regarding the Army’s role? Be that as it may, the constitution makes the Army to protect the geographical boundaries of the country as well as to come to the aid of the civil power; whenever it is directed to play both of its roles (A-245)! That’s the rationale of its existence.

The second part of the same sentence is rather fatally amenable to various interpretations since the choice of words in it is quite sentimental and problematic. It states: ‘Army will never fall short of meeting national aspirations.’ It is relevant here to note that the constitution consists of twelve parts, and it is in the last part XII and its chapter 2 that the 3 articles relating to the Armed Forces are contained. There are no such words or expression in these 3 articles which may be taken to mean that the Army should not fall short of meeting “national aspirations.” How to understand the meaning of this expression? I would suggest it’s quite a political and partisan expression. How can one know: What the national aspirations are at this moment? That’s something politically subjective, and political leaders use this expression so often to their purposes that it is only in elections that the national aspirations may come to fore and to our knowledge in the form of votes only.

Hence, particularly this PR of the ISPR, which may be said badly or meaningfully worded, does not have only one meaning that the Corps Commanders may have been meaning to say; it may be interpreted in many ways, all of which cannot make part of a short piece of writing. In conclusion, it may said that the spirit and the message of this PR is ominous for the incumbent government, and may be taken to mean something akin to what goes beyond the ambit of the constitution. In short, it’s yielding to the Realpolitik of the moment! (To be continued)

No newspaper carried this article.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Aristocratization / Bueacratization of Adabi Baithak (ادبی بیٹھک), Lahore

Years back, when the very well-know Pak Tea House was closed down, a small portion of the Hall III, Al-Hamra, The Mall, Lahore, was made into a place exclusively for the littérateur to sit, chat, and take a cup of tea. It was known as Adabi Baithak (ادبی بیٹھک).


It’s important to note here that there is a “canteen” also inside the premise of Al-Hamra, outside of which in the open space visitors and especially students of music, and artists used to sit and enjoy a cup of tea. One could see and listen to the sound of a Sitar, or someone rehearsing his / her singing there. It was a very enjoyable place.

We a group of friends now and then visited the Adabi Baithak. Sometimes we preferred to sit in the open and have our discourse there.

Now, when after a week or so, I went to the Adabi Baithak last evening (September 13, 2014) at about 6 PM, a security guard standing at the door of the Baithak stopped me and asked for the Pass. I told him, I am one of the frequent visitors . . . He told, go to the Admin Office, they will give you a form, fill it out, then they will give you a Pass, only then you can enter the Baithak. I asked him to have a peep inside the Baithak to see whether any acquaintance of mine was sitting there, he refused and told: no you cannot; this door cannot open without the Pass!

In the meanwhile, one person who was known to me by his face as he too was a frequent visitor, came and told: Actually, about 4 or 5 days back one “Executive” was present in the Baithak and one man with a cap on his head entered, the “Executive” inquired from him, what’s he is in for; he told he was there just to use the washroom. Then and there, or after that, this restriction has been imposed: Get a Pass from the Admin and then you can enjoy sitting there.

I went back and sat on the stairs of Hall II. When the other friend came we thought of sitting in the open canteen. But there was no chair outside in the open space. I asked a waiter why there were no chairs here in the open. He told, a few weeks earlier, a group of people was sitting here and someone who was drunk broke a chair and there was some fight, since then the Office-wallas have ordered the canteen not to put any chairs outside. I asked him, would he bring tea for us if we sit on the stairs here outside. Yes of course, he said.

I remember when the Pak Tea House was renovated and opened a proposal to issue passes was discussed and was not entertained for obvious reasons. But here this Adabi Baithak has been aristocratized / bureaucratized. Yeah, go to the Admin office, and they give you a form, you fill it out, it asks, who you are, you tell some of your credentials, they ask prove them, or get it verified who you are.

I thought, in every realm of life and letters, now there is widespread aritocratization and bureaucratization; that’s what we have. There has emerged a class in Pakistan, the State Aristocracy (Riyasati Ashrafiya) and it doesn’t want anyone else, anyone from outside to interfere with its privacy, enjoyment, and life-style. For that to achieve, it creates a process, sort of a hurdle, in the form of aristocratization and bureaucratization. It means, it rests with them whom they allow to join or not. That’s like the Gymkhana (a club of state aristocracy) in Lahore.

So, it’s a choice for us: to ask for a pass or not ask for a Pass to enter the Adabi Baithak.

Note it please that Attaul Haq Qasmi, prominent columnist, is Chairman Al-Hamra Arts Council, Lahore. As its head, responsibility for this aristocratization and bureaucratization rests with him, no matter who did impose this ban.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Theory of Dharna politics

Philosophically speaking, one of the major reasons for Pakistan’s intellectual (and general) backwardness is the lack of that ability which helps theorize on the basis of real experiences. What fewer attempts exist in this regard, they remain ineffective and do not translate into practice! That implies there is no connection between theory and practice in any domain. That means we are not prone to learning and are busy in living just like animals. It’s blatantly evident in the field of politics. May I suggest: Any society’s state of politics ought to be taken as representing the level of its intellectual development; no matter that would list Pakistan with a negative ranking!

Though the present sit-ins or Dharnas of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Pakistan Awami Tehreek in Islamabad are being considered as constitutional, lawful, democratic and moral, however, the writer’s take is altogether different. He thinks that this type of Dharnas is not political; they are actually political thuggery as well as political blackmailing. But in Pakistan, if one is a religious or a political leader, no rules and no laws apply to him. That’s the case with Imran Khan (PTI) and Tahir-ul-Qadri (PAT).

That’s not my partisan opinion; it is based on what political theory teaches. It is centuries earlier that it was the norm for every ambitious adventurer who could raise a sufficiently large Lashkar to occupy the throne by laying siege to the seat of a government, or through tactical moves and conspiratorial maneuvers, subdue it and declare him as the ruler. That was the play of the might; no rules of the game existed then.

As it was part of the older political order that, hereditary rulership was accepted, so such adventurers tried to use any descendant of that ruling family to wield power through him or her. (Isn’t it like the present day Pakistani military which usually retains the real power with it and the civilians rulers are merely a showmanship?) But there was no way to institute another rulership; it was possible only through the use of might. Whoever wanted to be a ruler, he had to kill all the relations of that particular ruling family who might happen to claim to the throne later on the basis of the accepted hereditary rulership. Within the same family, no other claimant could be tolerated and without any regard to blood relationship, a son killed his father and a father killed his son to protect his throne.

However, with the passage of time, political theory developed new orders of governance and rulership. The pivot shifted in favor of the people who were the real victims of the play of the might, since with every change of ruler and rulership, which in most of the cases was bloody, disorder used to ensue. Now the power to rule was accepted as residing with the people to be ruled. It was the democratic right of the people now which made the basis of the right to rule. Now who could win the vote of the people, only he was to be a legitimate ruler! In line with this spirit, rules and laws and constitutions were written and agreed upon. That created stability and security for the people and brought order in a society.

As political theory evolved, political practice also improved. Now violence, from its central place, relegated to the discussion of the issue of civil disobedience, i.e. in case a lawful order is in place, when would it be justified to violate law and opt for civil disobedience. No doubt, political practice too settled mostly with discarding violence. Thus democratic and parliamentary politics started taking root, and at last became a dominant political norm.

In Pakistan, the same was achieved, after many a step forward and then back, in 1973 in the form of a constitution that is still in force. Despite this development, the politics of might or the power politics remained entrenched. It was in 2007 that due to the courage of Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry (former chief justice of Pakistan), and steadfastness of the Lawyers’ Movement the core concepts of political theory, such as constitutionalism, rule of law, fundamental rights of the citizens, independence of judiciary and other institutions, found a due place in the larger discourse both in print and electronic media and at other fora. The gains of this Movement helped take shape what the government of Pakistan Peoples Party enjoyed in the elections of May 2013. It reaped its benefits during its 5 year tenure; though it tried its utmost to thwart it too.

The continuity of that democratic and parliamentary politics however underwent a jolt when the government of Pakistan Muslim League (N) came into power and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf started blaming that the elections were rigged in favor of the PML-N and launched a campaign to dislodge the government. This campaign remained within the boundaries of the political realm till the moment PTI’s Imran Khan tried to use legal, constitutional and parliamentary ways to press for his demands, but then he jumped out of the political realm, started hurling threats and blackmailing. His ambitions got a boost when he found Tahir-ul-Qadri (PAT), a partner in arms, who shares the cause of dethroning the government with him.

Thus, the 67th Independence Day brought along with it news of the demise of political theory and democratic and parliamentary politics in Pakistan. Since that day Imran Khan and Tahir-ul-Qadri, and their allies set out on their mission to stage a civil coup to institute a government of their choice. Importantly, both do not bother about the mandate of the people, i.e. PTI has a partial mandate and PAT has none at all. But they are intent upon trashing the mandate of about 50 million voters of Pakistan. They laid siege to the seat of the government, and incited their followers to occupy the state buildings. That is revolt against the state. No political theory would call it politics; it is thuggery and blackmailing which derives its power from a Lashkar of few thousand followers of them. In case, these thugs and blackmailers succeed in what they are intent upon achieving by hook or by crook, Pakistan will once again recede into the older political order where might used to be the norm of the day!

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

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Charter of Democracy’s half truth

As the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Pakistan Awami Tehreek launched this August 14 their “Azadi March” and “Inqilab March” respectively, and then undertook the Sit-Ins (Dharnas) in Islamabad; day by day it was increasingly perceived as a deadly threat to political constitutional set-up prevailing in the country. With worsening law and order situation in the capital including the fears of occupation of state buildings by the marchers, the fear of military intervention loomed large on the political horizon. However, in the face of it something very surprising took place: All the political parties sitting in the parliament reposed and reiterated their complete confidence in the current political set-up, including the government, rejected the marchers’ calls for prime minister’s resignation, dissolution of national and provincial assemblies, and holding of mid-term elections. More to it, bar associations and civil society organizations throughout the country supported the cause of the continuation of the current political constitutional set-up. Finally the Supreme Court also judged that all the institutions and authorities of the state must work remaining within their constitutional domains.

That’s unprecedented for the long checkered polity of Pakistan. Somehow all the political elements, except the protesting ones, out of which the PAT has no representation in the parliament, have put their weight on the side of the constitution ruling out any military adventure. Symbolically, it’s the victory of the Charter of Democracy, which Nawaz Sharif (Pakistan Muslim League-N) and Benazir Bhutto (Pakistan Peoples Party) signed in May 2006. However, it is strictly a political victory, which may or may not translate into something concrete for the individual citizens of Pakistan.

A look at the Charter of Democracy may reveal the political contours of the tale: It lists the following maladies that afflict Pakistan: Political crisis; Threats to its survival; Erosion of the federation's unity;  Military's subordination of all state institutions;  Marginalization of civil society; Mockery of the Constitution and representative institutions; Growing poverty, unemployment and inequality; Brutalization of society; Breakdown of rule of law; and, Unprecedented hardships facing our people under a military dictatorship.

After listing the afflictions, the Charter of Democracy proposed an “alternative direction” for the country characterized by the following: Economically sustainable; Socially progressive; Politically democratic and pluralist; Federally cooperative; Ideologically tolerant; Internationally respectable; Regionally peaceful; and, Resting of the sovereign right with the people to govern through their elected representatives.

In no way, anything agreed in the Charter of Democracy by the two larger political parties related to any aspect of the fundamental rights of the individual citizens of Pakistan. Revisit the Charter of Democracy and note its essential political character, which may be interpreted if not in an anti-citizen manner, necessarily not in a pro-citizen way either. Hence, what the Charter of Democracy agreed at achieving in 2006, it has achieved at this moment a substantial political part of it in 2014. Notwithstanding the fears that the rallying of the major political parties behind the demands of the constitutional rule and continuity, and against the PAT / PTI’s calls of winding up of the political system may evaporate tomorrow or day after tomorrow.

In view of the above analysis, every sane person would love to support the present constitutional political set-up and its continuation; however, at the same time he may wish it translate into the realistic availability of the fundamental rights for each and every individual. As the Supreme Court has observed (August 22): If the protesters are exercising their rights; other citizens’ too have their rights, which must not be encroached by them.

Now, it may be summed up that Charter of Democracy is half the Truth for the individual citizens; the other half of the Truth lies in another charter, a charter of individual citizen’s fundamental rights. It was this spirit in which I responded to the Charter of Democracy, and wrote a Charter of Liberty in September 2007, which sought to present a solution to the myriad problems and unimaginable sufferings faced by the ordinary people of Pakistan. The Charter of Liberty presented not only a critique of the Charter of Democracy but also offered an independent Charter of Liberty for individual citizens so that their personal freedom and fundamental rights may be secured.

In contrast to The Charter of Democracy’s Political Spirit which has manifested itself now in a constitutional consensus across the political horizon, The Charter of Liberty tries to imbibe the Individual Spirit which permeates the fundamental rights and their daily formulations in various situations. The individual citizens must rise to the occasion so that they are able to secure their personal freedom and fundamental rights against the onslaught of the unruly political elements.

Here are some of the demands, the Charter of Individual Citizens’ Fundamental Rights includes: We the individual citizens of Pakistan hold: That of all freedoms, individual freedom is of foremost importance; and that without it, all freedoms, be they political, economic, religious, etc., are useless; That without individual freedom, Pakistan can never be transformed into a virtuous society since it is individual freedom that allows people to make choices on their own and thus to be responsible for their choices and their consequences also; That the above amounts to saying that every individual citizen is endowed with certain inalienable rights such as right to life and liberty; That every individual citizen is free to pursue a life of his choice and liking until and unless he trespasses on such freedom of other individual citizen/s; That in the case of any trespassing, the trespasser, be it a citizen or a group or a political party or an institution or government itself, is to be dealt in accordance with the law.

That the inalienable rights include among other things the freedom of speech and writing, freedom of assembly and association, freedom of professing and practicing any philosophy, ideology, religion etc. and freedom of propagating it by peaceful means only; That the inalienable rights include freedom of movement, freedom of trade, freedom of business, freedom of profession, etc. That amounts to saying that the only justified function of government is to protect its citizens life, their income and property, and their rights and freedoms from those who seek to usurp them be they are local or foreign individuals, groups of individuals, political parties, or institutions or government itself.

That, if there is no rule of law, and no independent judiciary, even a parliamentary government can never come up to the expectations of its citizens, i.e. cannot protect their life, liberty and property; and, That without an independent judiciary, justice can never be accessible to each individual citizen, and a just society can never be created. Thus, through this Charter the citizens’ Fundamental Rights not only in the political realm but in daily life situations, as is happening in Islamabad and elsewhere, may also be secured.

This article was carried by Daily Times on August 28, 2014.

Friday, August 22, 2014

The politics of PTI / PAT: an aesthetical analysis

Everything has an aesthetic aspect. Politics is one of them. The political aesthetics appears, among other things, in two forms: Mannerism; and, Language. The others may be: the beauty of political ideas; the way a politician connects his/her ideas; the reality of political ideas in contrast to wishful political slogans; the beauty of a political vision; the beauty of words and terms chosen by a politician; consistency in the ideas of a politician, etc. The second list is controversial; it’s useless to discuss it here. The first one is sort of methodical, and I would dwell on it. One may raise objections on this or that type of Mannerism or Language; however in Pakistan too there exists a consensus in this regard.

Let it be stated here that certain political leaders did not spare the methodical things also. To them in politics everything, good or bad, is permissible. They exploited them for their own political purposes and build their images. Libya’s Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and Cuba’s Fidel Castro are prominent among them. For instance, where it is required that one ought to be in formal attire they appeared in informal and casual dresses. They exhibited a mannerism that is not formal and against the etiquettes, but which was used to deliver a message to other party that they had not taken them seriously, rather denigrated them.

With this startup, let’s focus on the present political scene. Never have I felt so much ugliness about the politics of Pakistan that is being thrown now upon the face of the citizens from the lush green capital city of Islamabad. The two political parties, Pakistan Tehreek-e-insaf and Pakistan Awami Tehreek, sitting in the center of Islamabad, are day and night churning out ugliness by way of their Mannerism and Language. It seems leaders of both parties have gone crazy in their political pursuits so much so that they have lost every semblance of aesthetic sense. Did they ever possess such a thing, in the first place, one must ask?

No one from the PTI or PAT is minding his Mannerism or Language. In their desperation, Imran Khan and Tahir-ul-Qadri are using the language of thugs and blackmailers. Likewise, their Mannerism is so outrageous that no sane and civilized person may see them and listen to their tirades for long. It is this Mannerism and Language of Imran Khan especially that he has been likened to Sultan Rahi, a legendary actor, who invented an original style of acting of his own, and in his private life, was a far better person and human being than all the politicians combined together.

Obviously the leaders of both the parties have an air of arrogance about them. Their Mannerism and Language is reminiscent of fascists, but with one difference: the fascists may be counted as the most disciplined. But the fascism of PTI and PTA is most conspicuous in their desperation and arrogance towards other politicians and their target, the prime minister particularly. That puts an ugly face on the politics of both parties!

As for Imran Khan, his demeanor, his way of talking, his choice of words, his gestures, his deep-seated contempt for others present him as a man who is outrageous and has never been trained in manners! It’s a horrible experience to see and listen to him speaking. He has no trace of sobriety, rationality and humanity let alone of a concerted and consistent stream of thought running through his speeches, which are replete with volleys of abuses and scorn for his imagined enemies.

Same is the case of Tahir-ul-Qadri. Despite his scholarship in religious sciences, he seems to have no inkling of moral sensibility. Though, his tirades are much less uglier than his rival Imran Khan; but Tahir-ul-Qadri is equally harmful and destructive to political aesthetics. Hence, the politics of both of them requires more of a psychological and aesthetic analysis than a political one!

Also, PTI and PAT may be compared with the Taliban, who were/are a lot of thugs and blackmailers, practically believing in creating ugliness by executing by force their fascist scheme of things. They relax/relaxed in ruthlessness and killings and blood-letting: the ugliest remnants of a tribal culture. In the same vein, PTI and PTA may also be likened to Sikandar Malik, who successfully managed a one-man-show for hours in Islamabad. Just because he had in his company a woman and a kid, and a loaded gun in his hands! That created an ugly scene for the whole country to watch!

In comparison, PTI and PAT have their followers, living individuals, as their loaded guns to blackmail the government and the state. That’s the logic of mob, which through unleashing chaos is always fatal to the beauty of order, and thus in its rampage trample every value and norm. However, as Sikandar Malik was and the Taliban are being finally dealt with sternly, the PTI and PAT may not be, because they are political parties. That means if you are a religious or political leader, you are absolutely free to say anything and to do anything! In a nutshell, both parties are behaving like thugs and blackmailers. That’s how the beauty of rule of law and equality of all before law is being sacrificed. That’s creating ugliness and defacing the beauty of rules and laws which bring order into chaos.

Thus it may not be far-fetched to propose that Pakistan is an unfortunate state as both at home and abroad it remains associated with the ugliest values of terrorism and feuding politicians fighting since day one for the capture of the state. The gist of Pakistani politics paints an ugly picture of starved vultures intent upon eating living human beings. As of now the only way left for Imran Khan and Tahir-ul-Qadri is to get dozens of dead bodies to save their ugly faces: i.e. ugliness breeds ugliness.

So for the Pakistani citizens who possess an aesthetic sense the most crucial question facing now is: how to cope with the Ridiculous and Ugly Politics? Centuries back, Greeks defined beauty as residing in proportion; and the ugliness in disproportionateness. In the social chaos and disorder, it were rules and laws which helped bring order and beauty, without which no aesthetic pursuits could be possible. However, as in arts it is said that breaking rules is permissible only for masters. Likewise, it is not for duds like Imran Khan and Tahir-ul- Qadri to bring order out of the disorder they are intent upon creating. Thus negotiating with such political thugs will encourage other such groups to adopt the same ways to get what they want. That will set a rule in motion for everybody to take recourse to in order to create ugliness by breaking all the rules and norms on which depends the beauty of a social and political order!

This article was carried by Pakistan Observer on August 21, 2014.