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.

Why Pakistan is not a viable state?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Islamabad sit-ins – who is the culprit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Note: This article was completed on September 23, and was originally posted in September 2014. 

Monday, April 6, 2015

ISPR’s political semantics - I

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Note: This article was completed on September 2 and was originally posted in September 2014.

Aristocratization / Bureaucratization 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.

Note: This was originally posted on September 1, 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.

Note: This article was completed on August 25 and was originally posted in September 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!

Note: This article was completed on August 19 and was originally posted in August 2014,

The blood of "Minorities" and the flag of Pakistan

The blood of "Minorities" and the flag of Pakistan!

Note: This comment and the picture was originally posted on August 14, 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!

Note: This article was completed on August 7, and was originally posted in August 2014.

Gangsterism – religious and political

The place is not far from Islamabad. A three hour drive and one is far away from almost everything Pakistani. Not only is the weather pleasanter; this small place presents the ethos of a non-Pakistani world. Here it is just one road on both sides of which are located a number of hotels and other shops. It was evening time and I was sitting in the restaurant of a hotel and looking through the window-glass out on the road. It was no crowding here, only a few visitors doing shopping and walking on the road. On the right side from where the road seems to come, I could see just the same scene. Look straight where the road was goes to, I could see the road turning towards left and disappearing.

The sky was cloudy and a cool breeze was flowing with a soothing hiss. All of a sudden, this calmness was broken by a rising noise. As if a crowd was chanting slogans with full force and creating gargantuan sound of their motorbikes’ engines! Everyone and everything stood still in anticipation of it. The shoppers and walkers all stopped wherever they were. First, young bearded men riding on motorbikes appeared. They were holding flags of a religious (political) group. Then open loader vehicles came forward. Men of all ages were aboard with the same flags waving and shouting slogans. Then there were others riding on motorbikes; but it was not a very big crowd. They all stayed there awhile at the turn of the road.

As if just now they have conquered this place, they with a new vigor started chanting the same religious (political) slogans. All the shopkeepers and shoppers and visitors were watching them as if mindlessly. For about ten minutes, they performed the ritual and then moved ahead, maybe to conquer the other part of this place. I tried to take a sip of the tea, but it was all cold.

Years back, it was in Lahore and in a very congested area that the same type of ritual I witnessed. It was late afternoon. Suddenly the shouts of slogans started creating ripples in the air. In such localities such things are strange and folks eagerly try to make out what’s that has come to happen in their midst. The shouts were coming closer. Like others, I too tried to have a glimpse. A young bearded man was leading a group of boys as old as 15 or 14 years, and as young as 6 or 7 years. They were about 25-30 in total.

I asked for another cup of tea. My mind was disturbed: what the hell all this is about. Is not Pakistan a predominantly Muslim majority country? Religious minorities have no substantial number here and maybe that is why they enjoy no religious freedom! Here everywhere there are only Muslims. Then what is that such groups, which are not too few, but too much in number, are up to? What do they want to achieve?

Let this point be clear here that there is no truly religious party or group in Pakistan. The undeniable fact is that almost all of them, though they present themselves as religious, are fundamentally political. They have political aspirations and political cravings. No doubt, the truly religious do not indulge in politics.

Also another undeniable fact is that almost all of them use religion for their political purposes. They all have political motives, be they are individuals, groups or parties clad in religious garb.

Meanwhile, one friend who was sleeping upstairs in his room came down and joined me. He asked: What was happening on the road here in such a place? I was confused. I had no words to tell him what it was. Just that moment it flashed through my mind. Instead of answering, I put a question to him: have you ever watched such a movie in which gangs of motorbike riders are shown committing crimes. They are in fact criminal gangs. They commit crimes in groups. They ride heavy motorbikes with powerful engines, the thundering noise of which causes great alarm and fear.

Here in such a peaceful place, it was such a gang of motorbike riders and others boarding on open vehicles, but I cannot make any sense what they were after, after all, I told him. Instantly, I tried to clarify that this was not a criminal gang in the strict sense of the word. They are different. They do not commit crimes like criminal motorbike gangs do. However, what is obvious, they make use of all of the tactics which such gangs of criminals use. They use motorbikes, and the sound of their engines, and the group psychology of creating fear. Above all that, they use the flag of religion to silence others and to justify as well as sanctify their gangsterism.

He concurred. We did remember the days of our studying in a university, where a group of students affiliated with a religious (political) party used the same tactics of criminal gangs riding heavy motorbikes. We did remember and realized that on the night of every new year, this group riding on motorbikes in dozens or in hundreds try to harass and punish and torture the revelers on the roads. And all that in the name of religion! They are in fact gangsters. Or actually whatever their objectives are, good or bad, they use the ways and tactics of gangs.

This helped us see what the political and (religio)political parties are doing in Pakistan. They now and then resort to the tactics and methods of gangsters. Lately, in most of the cases, it is religious groups and parties which have often come to act like gangsters. In a philosophical sense, it means that both politics and religion have abandoned their moral appeal and moral ways. Both of them are intent upon achieving their ends at any cost by any means. No matter these means are good or bad. They never care a dime about their means. That is how both religious and political parties have acquired and adopted the ways and tactics of gangsterism in Pakistan.

Note: This article was completed on July 22, and was originally posted in August 2014.