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. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Reflections on the 67th Independence Day

For the sane in Pakistan the fight is about protecting the values, the humanity has developed in the course of thousands of years, from the political and religio-political witchcraft, which it is intent upon destroying thoughtlessly. How the time-tested values were trashed (and are being trampled even this moment) when Pakistan came into being is a saga of ruthless fights between the politicians continuing to this very day, the August 14.

The greatest deceptive lessons the politicians taught the citizens derive their justification from the misconception that a state may be based on this or that faith, or ideology. That also hints at the infatuation that a theocratic state is a political possibility; whereas history has no such example to show but the only ones which ultimately proved tyrannies and relaxed in political absolutism.

In addition to such ideological adventures, another fever gripped the nation’s mind from the very beginning; that is the notion of an omnipotent welfare state. The politics exclusively revolving around the slogan of such a state gave rise to a state which started feeding itself on the hard-earned money of the citizens. Thus, not only became the state a handmaiden in the hands of every types of criminals under the leadership of politicians, but gradually it turned out to be the cruelest enemy of the citizens of Pakistan itself.

Resultantly, the state of Pakistan became a goldmine for the elite classes, and in order to appropriate the resources which the state happens to possess and generate, there emerged a new class, which the writer has termed as the State Aristocracy (Riyasati Ashrafiya) and which he has elaborated upon in his Urdu book, Pakistan Mein Riyasati Ashrafiya Ka Urooj (The Rise of State Aristocracy in Pakistan). This class of Riyasati Ashrfiya thrives and survives by its capture of the institution of the state and its resources, and use the slogan of democracy to befool the citizens of Pakistan. That is why the Pakistani Riyasati Ashrafiya is thoroughly against constitutionalism, rule of law, and an independent judiciary, and the latest evidence in this regard comes from the Parliament’s efforts to give more powers to the Parliamentary Commission vis-à-vis the Judicial Commission as far as appointment of the judges for the higher courts are concerned.

Despite the emergence of this new class of Riyasati Ashrafiya in Pakistan, the political elites remain divided and at dagger-drawn towards their own tribes. That’s what is happening today in Islamabad. It’s actually a ruthless fight to capture the state of Pakistan. But why does this fight continue even after about 7 decades have seen Pakistan go from bad to worse? What’s wrong with Pakistan, and its political elites or the new class of Riyasati Ashrafiya?

Philosophically, the chronic cancer may be diagnosed and explained thus: whenever any size of community forms, in order to live together the members of it agree to follow certain values, i.e. sort of a code of conduct. Never ever any community did come into being on the basis of a faith or an ideology. It was always an agreement or a contract to abide by certain values and rules which with the passage of time were abandoned; and what remained to be followed and imposed by this group on that group had only the semblance of a faith or an ideology leaving its moral core behind to rot. This complex phenomenon may be simplified by proposing that the abandonment of moral principles or values or rules of conduct served the interests of the elite classes who and/or their cohorts, without conspiring, politicized the faith or ideology of their community to perpetuate their rule and appropriate the resources of the kingdom or the state they happened to rule. The same took place when the state of Pakistan was instituted in 1947 on this day of August 14.

Integral to this is another proposition: When a community forms together, it invests certain persons with powers to give protection of life, property, and personal freedom to each and all of its members without any discrimination. Also, part of this function is the provision of justice and that to all equally. That is what comes to be instituted and known as a state. From the day one, Pakistani citizens were bereft of this protective role of their state and to this moment remain so. Their life, property and personal freedom are more than ever vulnerable today to the whims both of state and non-state actors. The ordinary Pakistani citizens were never that insecure in Pakistan as the present day Pakistan has forced them to be!

All the more reason to despair today is that the same political elite which is ruthlessly fighting for the capture of the state of Pakistan is exhorting the ordinary citizens, and spending millions to celebrate the Independence Day! What is there to celebrate? Celebrate the state of Pakistan, which has badly failed in protecting its citizens’ person and property and their personal freedom! Or celebrate the thoughtless fight for the capture of the state of Pakistan?

Must we ask what is there to celebrate on this 67th day of independence? What did we achieve through these 7 decades? Should we celebrate that chronic disease called Disagreement, or the Lack of Consensus? Ji, that lack of consensus between the political elites which did not allow a constitution take shape and secure Pakistani citizens their constitutional freedoms during the first 25 years or so after Pakistan was established. For the next 40 years, the citizens knew they had a constitution, but never enjoyed the security of their person, property and personal freedom.

Instead, what the ordinary citizens witness today is that despite the existence of a constitution which is verily in enforcement, certain political elites are adamant to give it up for an Anti-Constitutional Revolution which will make them capture the state of Pakistan! That means Pakistan virtually has no constitution to run the state of Pakistan. The fight for the capture of the state is still raging on the 67th Independence Day. It is the political elites which are demeaning the state and the constitution of Pakistan. That delivers a message for the citizens of Pakistan to heed: Demean the political elites! They are their culprits!

This article was carried by Pakistan Observer on August 14.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Political use of religion in Pakistan

In Pakistan, everything stands politicized. So is religion. Those who are clever enough make hay while the sun shines. Tahir-ul-Qadri is one of them and is famously know as a religio-political power seeker. He is more of a religious leader; trying his luck in politics. Since the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) was founded about two decades ago, it has constantly been failing in winning the voters’ mandate. It never made any headway in any general elections. So the PAT is a party, like so many others having this or that much of following in various parts of Pakistan, which has been forced to indulge in politics outside the parliament.

No doubt, it’s such a phenomenon which has yet to attract the attention of the social and political academics. How such parties survive and behave which remain outside the parliament since they succeed in obtaining only a few or no seats in the national or provincial assemblies. There are a number of such parties; Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan (JIP) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-F (JUI-F) are on the top of the list. What is characteristic of them is that they all are basically religious in their appearance; in reality, however, they all are politically crazy power-seekers. When they happen to win a small number of seats in a situation which puts them in a bargaining position vis-à-vis other parties needing their support to form the government, they fully take advantage of that opportunity. JUI-F excels in that gamesmanship.

In contrast, JIP is a player before the play starts. It sells its street power to negotiate as many seats from a winning-horse party as is possible. This time in the last year general elections, Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) pierced the myth of its street power, possibly once and for all. Thus JIP lost whatever clout it enjoyed outside the parliamentary politics. It may be surmised that it is this significant factor which has softened its political stance towards constitutional politics. Another important factor is its apparent delinking from the security establishment the symptoms of which emerged last year under the leadership of Munawar Hasan, its former Amir. The authenticity of its present pro-constitution posture and politics, under the leadership of Siraj ul Haq, is yet to be tested against the forthcoming realpolitik.

Coincidentally, such parties share a commonality: they all evolved out of the teachings of (almost) purely religious scholars. JIP’s intellectual progenitor is Maulana Abulala Maududi; and JUI-F’s Allama Shabbir Ahmad Usmani. These parties contracted political ambitions later. The case of Tahir-ul-Qadri and the PAT is no different. As the chain of events tells, Tahir-ul-Qadri started solely as a religious scholar. It is after sometime when he had developed a substantial following that he appeared to be nurturing political aspirations, and it is then that he founded the Pakistan Awami Thereek (Interestingly its official website is a commercial domain:

Could it be otherwise? Could it be a case of political parties which were to be founded expressly for political purposes without involving religion? Why they happened to be inclining towards using the religious sensitivities of their followers?  Why is it so that almost all the political parties, seeking political power in the name of religion, are initially religious entities and it is only later that they thought of converting their religious following into their political following? And more than that, why is it so that these parties try to exploit the religious convictions of voters for political purposes? Be that as it may, the question is: Is it religion or is it politics that they value most? In case they value religion most, they ought not to be indulging in politics then. In case they value politics most, they should abandon political use of religion and come out openly as political parties.

It is in that spirit that I love to imagine a party forming and flourishing in Pakistan which would prefer to convert its political following into its religious following! As far as my scant knowledge of history is concerned, never ever such a party existed in any part of the world. The history is replete with such examples, however, where a religious organization when came to seize political power, it was this political power by which it stood seized later itself. The crux of the matter is that when it is politics, whether it is valued most or not, i.e. vis-à-vis religion, it is politics, from A to Z. That means seeking and holding political power is in itself an exhaustive cause; that is why it is habitually believed that everything is justified in politics.

It is here that politics miserably needs a bit of guidance from morality; otherwise, it remains mired in its own vicious cycle of seeking and holding political power at any cost and by any means, to which Pakistani citizens are a patient witness to. Morality teaches: Ends never justify means. So whatever their ends, if they come to adopt immoral and unfair means to achieve them, they lose their moral core and moral appeal. The same applies to all those parties which make political use of religion; i.e. when in order to seek political power they use religion, they lose whatever moral sensibility they possessed. Also, in the end, they come to lose whatever religion they espoused. Out of such ventures, only political tyranny comes out!

In conclusion, it may be said that whenever any religion is put to political use, not only is it drained out of its true religiosity, but its moral principle also, on which it has been built. Hence, those who claim to be the real followers of a religion and in that spirit try to use it for their political purposes verily prove to be those who are the real enemies of that religion. At best, they are politicians in disguise who might use anything, be it a religion, faith or creed, to seek political power. It is in that sense that there is no difference between Tahir-ul-Qadri and Imran Khan. Both are Machiavellian! Both are seeking political power! At any cost! By any means!

This article appeared in Pakistan Observer on August 10, 2014.