Monday, February 22, 2016

Cynicism and the political evolution of Pakistan

[Here is the part 3 of the article: "Cynicism and Pakistan."]

The discussion of the political cynicism here focuses only on the sections of society which exercise influence on the formation of public opinion. These sections may be considered as the mainstay of political cynicism in Pakistan. As far as the general citizenry is concerned, the myth of its political apathy evaporates with every general election held in the country. One may object: the turnout in the elections is too small to break this myth. However, the statistics belie it: the turnout in 2008 stood at 44 % and in 2013, 55 %. In the world’s largest democracy, India, it was 64 %.

The mainstay of political cynicism in Pakistan comprises academics, intelligentsia, journalists, TV channels talk show hosts (as well as announcers!), Urdu/English newspaper columnists and op-ed contributors, and authors of books on various subjects but with a political tilt, which include history, Muslims history, memoirs, novels, etc.

As for the academics, both public and private, they may be termed as unique creatures. Except some of them who have somehow found a place mostly in print media and so they need to take a position, the large majority of them thinks it’s not for them to think and write about the government and the state, i.e. politics, and they are there to teach and earn their living. Their only mantra is: “Politics is not our cup of tea; and thinking and writing about the government and the state touches the boundaries of the political.” One more thing: a sizeable section of them is now busy in doing research which pays. That’s how they judge the quality of their research.

In case, the freelance thinkers and writers, who are not attached with entities which somehow interfere with their thinking and writing, are included in the larger group of intelligentsia in addition to journalists, TV channels talk show hosts, Urdu/English newspaper columnists and op-ed contributors, that will allow for another group of thinkers and writers to exist within this fold as intellectuals who whether they think or not but do write for their political masters or parties. This later group consists of writers who have open political affiliations; their writings paraphrase the policy of their parties and leaders. Since political parties are very much directed in their aims and politics and in no way can be diagnosed with any type of cynicism, the views of these writers do not form part of the context which the present analysis is set in. A bigger chunk of the Pakistani intelligentsia thinks and writes in religious terms and since most of them think and write out of sheer sanctity of their belief, this analysis which aims at listing independent opinions does exclude them.

After identifying the sources from where the views and arguments based on political cynicism generate, it’s time to examine them. For want of space, only two will be discussed here. First, most of the thinkers and writers hold that for Pakistan there is no way out of its crisis, and it’s because of the defects which it is afflicted from its very birth. A child with birth defects! That amounts to saying that Pakistan is inherently un-viable. The arguments put forward by them are quite convincing. They say: Because it is inherently un-viable, it is unstable from the day one. The history of 67 years attests to that. It’s no place to go into the details of the defects which make Pakistan un-viable. Nor is it of any use to sort out those who cherish such views and why. What is of value and needs to be refuted is their argument!

What is a viable country, they must be puzzled with this question. Whether USA was viable; whether Rwanda, North and South Sudan are viable! Actually this tribe of political cynics is involved in endless debates on what is it that makes a nation, and what role religion and language play in making a people a nation, and how to distinguish nation from nationality. To them, people, nations, countries are like academic entities or intellectual categories the criteria of the definition of which they must fulfill. However, in contrast, it may be asserted that communities, people, nations, countries, whichever form they get together and appear in, are entities of living individuals. Likewise, for any good or bad reason, or in this or that type of circumstances, they may come to bond themselves in the form of a new people, nation, or country.

So even after 67 years, columns, articles and books questioning the rationale of Pakistan’s coming into being still find place on the paper, air and websites. It is this cynicism which is intellectually holding Pakistan back from moving ahead and evolving politically. The fact is that countries may break and give birth to new countries, as Pakistan gave birth to a Bangladesh and a Pakistan.

The second tribe of political cynics has a good philosophical argument on their table to offer. It is the Theory of Lesser Evil. Like the perfect cynics, they believe that nothing exists but the evil. In clear terms, that means every political party or whatever takes place in the political realm of Pakistan is evil. The most popular form this Theory acquires is during the elections days, when this view is widespread:  Out of all the evil parties, let’s choose the lesser evil! That’s so much characteristic of the political cynics that one may use it as a yardstick for their who’s who. Also that view gives rise to all the revolutionaries who aim at building the Pakistani society from scratch.

Not only theoretically, but practically also, it’s not possible that in a situation all the things are evil. Imagine a situation where nothing prevails except evil, even there something evil may cause something good to happen. For this focus needs to be shifted on smaller and effective things. Revolutionary total view may not work in this context. In every situation such good things exist to be realized by those who may have a vision to grasp them. But the Pakistani intelligentsia does not want to wake up from its cynical slumber and remains broiled in its futile debates. That has retarded the intellectual evolution as well as political evolution of Pakistan.

Link to the 1st part of this article: Cynicism in Pakistan

Link to the 2nd part of this article: Cynicism and the politics in Pakistan

Note: This article was completed on August 9, 2014.  

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