Sunday, August 2, 2015

A depoliticized Pakistan on the rampage

The pivot of politics is always seeking power, so that a political party is able, so to say, to implement its program on the basis of which it wins voters’ mandate. That’s an ideal statement of an ideal polity! In reality it doesn’t happen like that. There are betrayals, treacheries, and opportunism on the part of political parties. There is perennial interference, for instance in the case of Pakistan, by the players who are external to the political realm but are always intent upon unleashing political instability and uncertainty in the country. Also, there are other elements different from both of the above, who now and then venture to seek power but in non-political ways. For such elements the society of Pakistan has always proved unimaginably fertile. That’s what may be termed a depoliticized Pakistan!

Let’s try to understand what it is that’s called being depoliticized! In Pakistan, everyone who has a bit of interest in politics knows well a term, Political Apathy, the usual use of which stopped probably after the Lawyers’ Movement (2007-09); though the Apathy still exists. Maybe because it’s that Movement that refreshed the interest of the people in the political affairs of the country! Prior to that, the term, Political Apathy, stood to mean people’s insensitiveness to matters political, and it was also argued that it was this factor which kept the voter turnout in Pakistan too low.

As far as causes of the Political Apathy are concerned, one is more important than others. First, regardless of the fact which party is in power, no civilian political government ever tried to deliver, so people became impervious to whatever was happening in the political arena. They turned to themselves and to their homes. Here it may be of interest to point out that with the introduction of “Development Politics” in the nineties, the credit of which goes to Pakistan Muslim League-N, the interest of the people in politics got a boost at least in Punjab. The Development Politics, however, did not succeed in changing the political paradigm; it’s too slow to make inroads. It’s in the general elections of May 2013 that the construction of Metro Bus Service may be said to have PML-N won the vote from Lahore.

Indeed, presently there is no talk of Political Apathy; but that doesn’t mean there is none, it is there. The voter turnout in the last elections is 55%. But the argument of the present writer does not base on the concept of Political Apathy. It lays its whole emphasis on the notion of a depoliticized citizenry of Pakistan. It may both be non-political and/or anti-political. The concept of Political Apathy is altogether different from the notion of a depoliticized citizenry. The Political Apathy is a reaction from the people to a fruitless and barren politics. It leaves politics on its own; it withdraws its interest from such politics. In contrast to that, a depoliticized citizenry is something very dangerous; simply because it overrides politics. It outdates politics; it predates politics. It does not lose its interest in politics; rather it is overwhelmingly interested in politics. However, it’s concept of politics is sort of unique. It’s sort of a supra-politics.

As in Political Apathy, people are least interested in what’s happening in the political realm; a depoliticized citizenry is most interested in whatever is happening and may happen both in the present and the future political realms. The overriding interest of a depoliticized citizenry is more fatal for a society and its state than the insensitivity of a politically apathetic citizenry. A depoliticized citizenry may destroy and dismantle whatever political culture a society enjoys and whatever political structure a state consists of and stands on. Since a politically apathetic citizenry has nothing to do with politics, it may damage it in an indirect manner; whereas a depoliticized citizenry positively and intentionally damages the polity of the country.

In a nutshell, a politically apathetic citizenry is indifferent to whoever seeks power and whoever comes in power, it knows it’s not going to change their fate. A depoliticized citizenry, as it is ardently and desperately interested in politics, does not believe in seeking power through political means; it derives its inspiration from an imagined future. It is in this sense, that it is said to be depoliticized. It is the essence of depoliticized elements, whatever their form is: they always seek power hungrily and seek it in non-political ways. As a matter of principle, political elements, their betrayals, treacheries, and opportunism aside, somehow come to believe in political ways while seeking political power. As against this, depoliticized elements are naked power seekers; they want power at any cost by any means. That’s their substance and hallmark as well.

One more explanation may help understand the nature of a depoliticized Pakistan the politics of which is being witnessed in the shape of Imran Khan (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf), Tahir-ul-Qadri (Pakistan Awami Tehreek), Chaudhry Shujat Hussain and Pervaiz Elahi (Pakistan Muslim League-Q), Sheikh Rashid Ahmad (Awami Muslim League). They are all seeking power in non-political ways, whatever their excuses and slogans are. In fact, it is all the martial laws which veritably nursed such power seekers. They crafted ever newer ways for non-political power seekers; and opened a whole new world for such non-political politicians. In addition, a constituency for such politics also emerged. That created a depoliticized Pakistan, which think and act non-politically. It derides politics. Some of the political parties learned a lesson or two not to seek power in non-political ways; but there is no dearth of newcomers and the old stalwarts who are still clinging to the old habits of seeking power. 

Imran Khan’s would have proved to be a promising party for the politically apathetic citizens also, had it gone for seeking power in a political manner. Unfortunately it has opted for an alignment with a depoliticized Pakistan, which believes in non-political ways only. Political problems require political solutions. Likewise, in seeking political power in non-political ways, one party may succeed, but in the process what damage it wreaks to the state and society it may never realize. Now it is PTI which represents a depoliticized Pakistan; it’s strengthening it also. It’s on the rampage to destroy a political Pakistan, it must come back to! 

Note: This article was completed on October 1, and was originally posted in November 2014.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Prosperity is here in Pakistan, Mr. PM!

Countries may be likened to individuals who are resourceless and in order to grow and progress need help from their near ones, dear ones or they borrow from a professional lender. That may be understood as the reality of setting-up a business for which capital is a sine qua non. Such attempts of likening countries with individuals appear quite promising, but are paradoxical. The case of Warren Buffet may be used, for instance, for Pakistan to follow. Is it so? Or it tears apart the likeness between both?

In the first place, individuals are individuals, and countries are countries. One cannot be both. In the second place, countries are political-legal entities wherein millions of individual human beings inhabit. Thus one man’s struggle may not be likened to the struggle of millions of individuals under a state. An individual may be resourceless or resourceful; he may borrow from his relatives to set-up a business, or from his friends or a professional lender or lender institutions. He may fail in his struggle, and then may join another successful business. Or he may come out as a successful business. Or when failing, he may have financial, practical, professional, or moral help extended to him by his relations or friends or well-wishers. Or he may continue with his business on a sustaining level and be happy with it. There are billions of real examples being lived, shaped and created by billions of real individuals. Against this, as far as countries’ examples are concerned, there may only be few ones, and those too turn out to be individuals’ efforts at making their countries adopt such policies which free their individual citizens to bring progress and prosperity.

So, Mr. Prime Minister, the first thing to see and realize is that Pakistan, or for that matter any other country, is a real place on this planet where millions of individuals full of life and urge to live live. Mr. PM, you cannot replace their individual plans with your plans for them from the above. Mr. PM, why don’t you look back and see your father struggling with a small business and finally transforming it into a big business empire? Did your father require a government or for that matter government of Pakistan to help him make progress? So unlike your father why do you think and act like a government which in your view brings progress and prosperity to the country? Mr. PM! It was your family business which brought progress and prosperity to Pakistan; not the government of Pakistan which brought progress to your family business!

The second thing to see and realize is that the sole task of a government is to let its individual citizens make their own plans and implement them in an environment of peace where their life and property enjoy complete protection. Such a government is not one which imposes itself from the above; it works among the citizens ensuring them security of their person and property and dispensation of justice as its foremost function. No doubt, in performing this function diligently such a government makes sure the citizens are free to enjoy their fundamental rights and freedoms and no individual or groups or state itself are encroaching upon their personal freedoms.

However, altogether opposed to such thinking and approach, I see your government completely obsessed with foreign help/loans to bring prosperity to Pakistan. Mr. PM! I see it as a misleading economic philosophy. Rather it is the economic philosophy of Pakistan’s Riyasati Ashrafiya (State Aristocracy) and one of its two ingredients is: Prosperity comes down from the above, i.e. prosperity is a prerogative of Riyasati Ashrafiya which it allows to flow downward to its subjects. It means prosperity is brought by a country’s government. Its second ingredient sees prosperity as something imported from abroad. Certainly, it is too Ashraafist to see prosperity as something imported; at the same time it is quite natural for Riyasati Ashrafiya because it lives and thrives on that. This ingredient has developed into an independent Ashraafist model of progress and prosperity. This model stands on the proposition: Progress and prosperity of a society is the function of the magnitude of foreign help, grants, loans, which its government succeeds in procuring for it.

This Ashraafist model of progress serves both parties: which gives and to which is given. The first party pursues its politico-economic objectives in giving, be it grants, loans, etc. The second party, which otherwise may make good use of it, always aims at many a target in receiving what is given to it, which include from hefty appropriations for itself to political good-will at home. You know Mr. PM! You and your party in the heat of Islamabad Inqilab and Azadi Sit-ins have been harping on the visits of this or that country’s delegation and especially of Chinese President’s visit as a result of which agreements worth billions of dollars between the two countries were to be signed and which these Dharnas obstructed; which finally would bring forth prosperity to Pakistan, it was argued.

Now when you have signed a lot of agreements in China, it is being argued that it would bring prosperity to Pakistan. No sooner were you back from China than you went to Germany, and it is reported after that you would be proceeding to UK. Very good progress, Mr. PM! That means there is something wrong with your prosperity model for Pakistan. It’s not that an individual or a country needs no help or loans to prosper; it needs both but only when it desperately requires that. No individual or country espouses taking loans as a philosophy of life; it’s about 7 decades that Pakistan government is living with this philosophy in the name of prosperity which is still a far-fetched dream.

Mr. PM! Progress and prosperity lies here within the individual citizens; why do you look for it abroad! Trust the Pakistani citizens! Only let the market forces under due regulation work to create wealth. Let them freely trade either with China, Germany or India wherever they find a good deal. Only reform your state and its machinery to the effect that it’s not there to control but to facilitate. And you will see, Mr. PM! Progress and prosperity sprout from within! 

Note: This article was completed on November 11, and was originally posted in November 2014.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Political Kingdom of Pakistan

The Government of India Act 1935 declared “Pakistan” only as an independent dominion. Then in the constitution of 1956, the state was named as the “Islamic Republic of Pakistan.” However, when the constitution of 1962 was promulgated, the state of Pakistan found a new name, “Republic of Pakistan” with the prefix “Islamic” dropped. The same was restored to its original position in 1963. Down the road, the constitution of 1973 retained this nomenclature for the state of Pakistan; so the name resonates to this day.

But one question has perennially been raising its head through the 7 decades of the history of Pakistani state: Did this naming, renaming, i.e. conversion and neutralization of the state of Pakistan make any difference to the life of the ordinary citizens of Pakistan? Has the politics which produced, abrogated, suspended or put in abeyance these constitutions been able to provide the ordinary citizens with what a state is in any case is required to provide them with as its first and the foremost duty? Did the state of Pakistan regardless of its nomenclature protect life and property of its citizens? Did it help them live a life of their choice? Did it help them live in freedom? Did it help them realize their dreams?

The answer to all such questions is a big and desperate NO! In fact, from the very beginning, the politicians set to build a kingdom of their own. This was despite the controversy which entrenched its feet even earlier than the death of the Father of the Nation. This controversy survives to this day and revolves around the crucial question concerning the nature of the state of Pakistan, i.e. what kind of a state Muhammad Ali Jinnah wanted Pakistan to be? After about 68 years, this question is being debated probably more forcefully now than in the early days. What is strange and rather magical is that both the politics and polity of Pakistan are oblivious of that debate; what little difference it could make and made may be seen written in the constitution and other books of laws, which are again have nothing to do with the real day-to-day life of the ordinary citizens.

How this political kingdom came to be established is a long-winded story which may be summarized thus: Political parties monopolized politics by politically enslaving their workers, sympathizers, and voters; this they do by inculcating in them personality cult of their leaders; the political leaders in their power politics never espouse any values and principles and these characterizations of their politics trickled down not only to their lower cadres but found a fertile soil in the populace also; political parties solely focus on their own party interests (read personal agendas of their leaders) and they never think of political evolution of Pakistan which is borne out by the unfinished debate about the nature of the state of Pakistan; political parties divided the country into their political principalities (read geographical delimitation of vote banks) and use them as the support-base of their political kingdom; political parties use all of their politics just to keep their hold intact on their political principalities so that they are always able to seize political power; political parties always befool their workers and voters under the guise of deceptive slogans which never come to serve the interests of the people; political parties always opt for the politics of non-issues such as problems of personality, family, larger and bigger shows and processions, etc; political parties never do the politics of real issues which the people miserably face daily; they never tell the people how they would be taxing them and regulating their life, and how they would be spending their tax-money; etc.

No doubt, if one deciphers that manual of Paki political parties some of the rules of which have been listed above, one may see how the political kingdom was built and maintained, and how it perpetuates. All this trickery is performed under the pseudonym of Democracy. This magical democracy provides politicians with alibis to violate morality, rules and laws and social values. It is this character of the political kingdom which this specialty of the politicians explains well: they live, behave and act like kings and princes with no fear of accountability; they submit to no rules and laws; whenever such a fear takes shape, they would manipulate the relevant rules and laws; they put themselves above all rules and laws and morals, and in their ultimate existence they are law unto themselves.

This political kingdom of Pakistan seems like a fantasy, but it’s more than real. Its existence was very much noticeable a few weeks earlier when the Azadi and Inqilab Marches of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Pakistan Awami Tehreek respectively were making headlines in the newspapers and TV channels. Actually this political kingdom has no vital and reciprocative relation with the ordinary citizens; it descends down only when it is in an emergency in the face of challenges (read threats) from the elements external (read security establishment) to it; but this kingdom’s ambivalent relationship with the security establishment is too obvious to be legitimized; it needs to be understood in the context of a power tussle, and not in the context of what the constitution of the country dictates. That highlights the unconstitutional character of this political kingdom.

It is in this perspective that the politics of all the political parties needs to be explained and understood. No matter it is Muslim League-N, Peoples Party, Muslim League-Q, PTI, Jamat-e-Islami, Awami National Party, Jamiat-a-Ulema-e-Islam-F, or others, all of them are part and parcel of this political kingdom. And a kingdom can never be devoid of intrigues and conspiracies on the one hand, and treacheries and betrayals on the other; that is what History tells. Who’s a friend today may be an enemy tomorrow, i.e. the parties which support democracy today may be undermining it tomorrow. Asif Ali Zardari who is standing with Nawaz Sharif today may be abandoning him tomorrow in his bid to conquer back PPPP’s principality in the province of Punjab. It’s a political kingdom, where nobody knows what’s going to happen the next moment; it’s not a constitutional state, where whatever is going to happen tomorrow is constitutionally predictable!

This article was completed on October 13, 2014, and was originally posted in November 2014.           

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

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.)

Note: This article was completed on July 30, and originally posted in November 2014. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

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?

Note: This article was completed on July 30 and was originally posted in October 2014.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

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, 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 Democratism, 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!

Note: This article was completed on October 11 and was originally posted in October 2014.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

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!

Note: This article was completed on September 26 and was originally posted in October 2014.