Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Paki philosophers and politics

The two noblest professions are teaching and politics. [Aristotle]

Back in 2002 when the 35th Annual Session of Pakistan Philosophical Congress held in the Bukhari Auditorium, Government College (now G. C. University), Lahore. Dr. Naeem Ahmad was Secretary of the PPC (Dr. Naeem had been Chairman Department of Philosophy, University of the Punjab, Lahore),  and well before the start of the proceedings I had time and time again requested him to allow me to present a Resolution in its General Body meeting. He was positive. On March 16, while the proceedings ended, late in the evening meeting of the General Body of the Congress was in progress. When all the items on the agenda, such as issues relating to the next Congress, elections of the office-bearers, stood settled, Dr. Naeem announced the closing of the Congress.

I was dumbstruck; yet in a second I decided: it’s now or never. Based on the past experience, nobody knew when the next Congress would be held. I went up on the stage, occupied the rostrum and expressed myself thus: ‘Dr. Naeem sahib promised me and I had requested him to allow me to move a Resolution here.’ Meanwhile, Dr. Ghazal Irfan intervened and assured to give me time to speak. After a while she invited me; I read out the Resolution making the following demands:

“I) Since its inception, Pakistani State has been repeatedly failing in protecting the life, liberty and property of its citizens. It has suppressed even the liberties ensured to them in the various constitutions of the country, too. 

II) Likewise, it has usurped its citizens’ right to Education of their liking. From the first grade to the intermediate level, the State has monopolized the development and implementation of curricula which it uses for whole-scale Indoctrination. 

III) With the provincial text-book boards working as its tentacles, the Curriculum Wing of the Federal Ministry of Education has been instrumental in strengthening the cause of Propaganda and Indoctrination. 

IV) For instance, according to the 1994 Curriculum Wing Document for Social Studies (5th class), children were to be taught “Hindu-Muslim differences”, “India’s evil designs on Pakistan”, “India’s wars of aggression against Pakistan”, and to learn to make speeches on Jehad and Shahadat.

V) That is like supplying the content of Education right from the State’s inventory in the form of finished goods. Same is the case with the aims and objectives of Education. Under the yoke of national and collective objectives, there is no room for the individual citizen, his rights and his freedoms. 

VI) By denying Education, the State has denied its citizens their rights to free inquiry, free thinking and free speech; and, thus, has dehumanized them. 

VII) With the help of Indoctrination, the State has tried to become intellectual progenitor of every mind. It has resorted to the science of cloning to beget intellectual and ideological Dollies.

To restore their humanity and individuality back to its citizens:

a) the State should stop telling the citizens what to think and what not to think, and what to do and what not to do;

b) the State should ensure its citizens their individual rights and freedoms, and should abstain from interfering in their private lives;

c) the State should divert its resources and energies to the fulfillment of its basic duties, i.e. protecting the life, liberty, and property of its citizens;

d) the State should focus upon establishing and maintaining the Rule of Law in the country.

In view of the above considerations, it is demanded that 

1) Indoctrination be eliminated from Education; 

2) Curriculum Wing of the Federal Ministry of Education be abolished; 

3) Provincial text-book boards be dismantled; 

4) Academic Freedom be restored to educational institutions; 

5) Electronic and Print Media be freed from State’s control; 

6) Protection of life, liberty and property along with freedom of religion, press, assembly and association be assured to every citizen.”

The moment I finished, there was uproar in the hall. I tried to make sense of it, and saw one old lady standing and arguing haughtily; she was Jocelyn Ort Saeed, an Australian poet settled in Pakistan. Her argument ran like this: ‘How come that you want the Curriculum Wing abolished! What would we teach our children, then? What are you up to?’ As she concluded, another lady stood up: ‘We are philosophers, and we have nothing to do with politics? You want us to be embroiled in politics; why?’ She was Dr. Arifa Farid from the Department of Philosophy, University of Karachi.

It was quite noiseful in the hall. I was unable to see what had I done which caused such an outrage. Then, Dr. Iqbal Amiri, another fellow from the Department of Philosophy, University of Karachi, came up and grabbed the microphone. He was counter-arguing in favor of the demands made in the Resolution. I remember the gist: ‘How could you say that Philosophers have nothing to do with politics; it’s everything is politics. What the state is doing, how come that it has got any right to do that? Philosophers need to stand up against it.’

By now, there emerged two groups: one favoring and the other opposing the Resolution. It was quite an intellectual commotion there. In the midst of that, Dr. Ashraf Adeel, who became the new President of the PPC the same evening, tried to hush up the matter. He wanted the discussion on the Resolution be put off now and take it up again when the 36th Congress was held. That was like killing it. However, the group in favor of the Resolution demanded a Vote, which was conceded by way of raising hands.

As the 35th Congress was hosted by the Department of Philosophy, G. C. Lahore, a good many number of students present there belonged to the same Department, which Mirza Athar Baig, now a well-known Urdu novelist, was the Chairman of. The Resolution was defeated by one vote; 19 votes polled in its favor; 20 against. Mirza Athar Baing voted against the Resolution. The President of the Congress, Dr. Ashraf Adeel, did not cast his vote; I reminded him, but he shrugged off. At the dinner, Mirza Athar Baig came to me and said: ‘Why didn’t you tell me about it earlier?’ I explained: ‘What was there to tell beforehand? It was all happening before you!’

The Resolution could not be carried through; but it succeeded in view of the fact that most of the demands made in it were raised first time in the history of Pakistan, especially about the abolition of the Curriculum Wing and dismantling of the provincial text-book boards. It proved to be the first step towards disseminating a spate of ideas in Pakistan bringing the fundamental rights of the citizens to the fore! Note: The facts narrated above are for the sake of putting the record straight!

Note: This article was completed on January 1, 2015.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Depoliticization and its causes

Here is the first part of this article: A depoliticized Pakistan on the rampage

The 2nd and the final part: Depoliticization and its causes

What’s a depoliticized Pakistan; how is it different from a politically apathetic Pakistan; how is it damaging both for the society and its state; who does now represent it, such questions were discussed in A depoliticized Pakistan on the rampage. In the present piece, some other questions will be dwelt on such as: why doesn’t a depoliticized India or Bangladesh exist in India or Bangladesh, for example?  Why that’s so only with Pakistan? Why is Pakistan so fecund for such elements? What are the elements that feed milk and butter to a depoliticized Pakistan?

Since long it has been my contention that the main culprit for the backward Pakistan is Politicians. In this case also, the main culprit for a depoliticized Pakistan is again Politicians. The previous article argues that it is barren politics that among other things may have caused Political Apathy to take root. That’s natural. Decades of experience made people learn: ‘Politics, Sir, is a cow that will yield such people no more milk, and so they are gone to milk the bull.” (Samuel Johnson used Truth in the place of Politics!) Though sort of a “Development Politics” entered the political arena, but it could not change the political paradigm. In the midst of present Islamabad Dharna, one must have noticed the top leadership of the Pakistan Muslim League-N harping on its development projects in vain.

It’s no denying that Political Apathy contributed to the solidification of a depoliticized citizenry. Moreover, it is consecutive martial laws which banned political activities, curbed political liberties, surgically operated political parties, built up artificial political structures, and last but not least, destroyed an independent political culture. Whoever ventured in politics made it a point that in order to succeed he needs to be part and parcel of the so-called establishment! It was the most successful short-cut to power in Pakistan. That it inspired a depoliticized Pakistan to love no-politics is evident.

Despite the voluminous charge-sheet against the imposers of martial laws, it may be argued that no martial law did ever succeed without the complicity of politicians. Let the generals impose martial law, and let no political party come to their aid, you will see the generals running back to their barracks! It is politicians who partner with the generals and give them constitutional cover. It is like reprieving a murderer from the gallows. In response to an objection that politicians are an amorphous entity and thus are vulnerable to insinuations, one may retort that politicians are well-organized in political parties with a devout following, and may prove an invincible citadel if they plan to act so; however, they always choose the path of submission and subservience. In this sense martial laws did not create such conditions which proved conducive to the growth and spread of a depoliticized citizenry, but it is the political opportunism and political cowardice on the part of political parties which helped a depoliticized citizenry most in fortifying its depoliticized vision for Pakistan.

Also, it is political parties which did not create an independent political culture in Pakistan; they always let their trees grow in the lawns of in-service or retired generals. Practically they behave in a manner as if the source of power lies in the General Head Quarters (GHQ). It’s strange and at the same time perplexing that no political party ever seems to believe in the constitution which unequivocally declares power as residing with the people of Pakistan. They do vie for the people’s mandate but never abide by its implications. Once they come to power, they do not remain in contact with the people whose mandate makes them rule the same people. That does strengthen the depoliticized Pakistan.

Another factor is the same old refrain: political parties did not deliver, political parties do not deliver. That translates into a fact that politics do not deliver; so let it be passed, let it be part of the past. Surprisingly it is characteristic of a depoliticized Pakistan that it does not delve into the past; it focuses its eyes only on the future. It is in this sense that a depoliticized Pakistan discards all that is part of a political past; it lives in the future. This especially explains the politics of Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf: Imran Khan and his followers have no inkling of Pakistan’s political past and they present the PTI as the first true political party of Pakistan, trashing all others. That’s not mere arrogance of an ignoramus; it is inherent in the politics of PTI that it’s the only true political force, whereas all other parties are just corrupt entities. That’s depoliticized Pakistan in action!

One more thing requires some elaboration as it is far more confusing. That’s about the number of people who participate in the PTI Dharnas, meetings and rallies, the latest one held in Rahim Yar Khan on Nov 9. Actually, numbers must not be mixed up with principles. Hitler had much following in Germany; but at the end of the day he was a fascist, who finally set out to conquer the world. Imran Khan has a substantial following of those sections of a depoliticized Pakistan which believe in political power legitimately belonging to them, and as their privileged right like divine right of the Kings of medieval world. It is fascism pure and simple. Imran Khan also wants to conquer the whole Pakistan, but what is characteristic of him and his politics and a depoliticized Pakistan also which he represents is his non-political politics, or his anti-political politics (a contradiction in terms). He seeks power in non-political ways.

As for India, there may be a depoliticized citizenry too weak to be noticed; it may be more vibrant in Bangladesh; but for the same reasons a depoliticized citizenry seems stronger and more damaging in Pakistan. It means it is not in martial laws (Bangladesh has had its share of which) that the rationale for a depoliticized citizenry may be found; it is in the quality of politicians that the process of depoliticization grows it stuff and substance. It is politicians themselves who depoliticized Pakistan, who fed it with milk and butter; now they are condemned to face the same depoliticized Pakistan!

Note: The 2nd part of this article was completed on October 1st and was originally posted in December 2014.