Friday, August 14, 2015

Stray reflections on the 68th Independence Day

Note: This article was completed on August 4, 2014. Since then little has changed; this piece is still relevant on this 68th Independence Day. 

Stray 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!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Military courts: a moral perspective

A person who is murdered, has he any rights? That question may seem strange. Let me add another dimension to it: What’s the spirit of law? Does it exist for the rights of the murderers to be protected? Or, it exists for the alive so that they enjoy their life safe and sound? Last year, in a seminar on the citizens’ fundamental rights when I made a comment that most of the NGOs are always ahead in safeguarding the rights of those who are accused of capital crimes but why they never turn up to defend the rights of those who are murdered, one activist really turned up to throw an angry question upon me: “What do you mean? The accused has no rights? And we defend murderers?” I said: “What I mean is that the one who was murdered he too had a right to his life, why was he deprived of that inalienable right? Who was supposed to protect that right of him?”

Here too, my contention is the same: What about the rights of those who are murdered, and that whether law has anything to do in the first place with the protection of their life? I presume who were murdered for a reason or for no reason at all the state was bound to protect all of them. My question those who have chosen the duty of defending the rights of the accused especially of capital crimes, why don’t they give a thought to the rights of those unfortunate ones who lose their lives? Partially in this sense, idea of the military courts makes sense.

Let’s try to delineate the issue as a solution for which the establishment of military courts is under discussion and which is one of the 20 points of the National Action Plan to tackle the menace of terrorism and extremism. In fact, the normal law is not able to take and complete its due course as is required: Delays, inefficiency on the part of the prosecution as well as the courts, fears and threats, complicity, etc. mar its performance. Both types of arguments for and against the military (speedy or special) courts are influencing the debate and public opinion in both directions. The military courts established by martial law regimes in the past are being used as a model to judge the proposed courts. That’s misplaced.

Leaving aside the both camps, I want to argue from the point of view of Law, and from the point of view of Morality. As for the first, so many others are also emphasizing that the measures which the 20 points envisage should have been taken quite earlier, since the day Pakistan came into being. That delay of about 68 years is more than criminal mainly on the part of the politicians who utilized the state for their Ashraafi interests and led it astray to what we witness happening today.

In principle, the first and foremost function of law is to protect all without any discrimination and make sure that no unlawful activity takes place, i.e. no such conflict brews which culminates in anyone’s murder. In Pakistan, however, the law has completely been negligent of this function of it; mostly because here the civil society and media took inspiration from the advanced world which has already achieved a peaceful lawful society and that’s why their point of focus is on ensuring the rights of the accused. Our society, on the contrary, is miserably a violent and unlawful society; that’s why in the first instance it requires its focus to stay on ensuring everyone’s right to life, property and liberty.

As for Morality, no debate in Pakistan, including the current one on military courts, has ever been mindful of it. It’s a non grata issue in the Paki intellectual, political, religious milieu. Let me remind that Law grows and flourishes in the soil of morality; in the absence of morality, no law can make any difference. Nonetheless, it’s Law which helps morality gain its lost dominion as it did in Europe. So in a lawless and devoid of morality Pakistan, we can start with establishing the rule of law, which with time will restore morality to its due status.

It needs not arguing that Law in an important sense is morals codified; in that it presents a moral view also. However when codified, Law takes its own course, be it moral or not. It is in this context that I want to introduce a moral problem, which the Peshawar massacre of children has brought to the fore in bold relief. No qualms about that: Let the Law take its course, which for innumerable reasons it has not taken; and it’s no time to inquire about its whys, while about 50, 000 innocent citizens have already become the victims of terrorism and extremism. The circumstances have put us face to face with a moral choice: Let the innocent citizens die at the hands of terrorists and extremists or take extraordinary measures to exterminate the murderers!

In the US, moral philosophers are employing empirical research and experiments to see how people respond to such moral dilemmas. One Problem of Trolleyology is being heatedly argued about; one variant of it is like this: Pull a signal lever and divert a trolley-car which otherwise is going to kill five persons tied to the track; but by diverting it to a side track you kill a person tied there. So what’s your choice? Most people want one should die, not five persons! In contradistinction to it, our choice is far too clear since on the one side are hundreds of thousands of innocent citizens and on the other “jet black” murderers! The only risk in setting up the military courts is the miscarriage of justice in some cases, the magnitude of which may only be measured after the legislation stands completed.

In a broader perspective, that would help shift the emphasis especially on the protection of everyone’s right to life; and though it requires a wider approach and a lot of other measures to succeed in the longer term, it may serve as the first step towards putting the state and society on a peaceful and lawful track.

Note: This article was completed on December 29, 2014, and was originally posted in January, 2015.

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.