By Dr. Muzaffar Iqbal:
Jasmines are about to blossom in Islamabad, but is there any possibility of a Jasmine revolution in Pakistan? Such a revolution began in Tunisia, it arrived in Egypt and then went to several other Arab countries with mixed success, but can Pakistan be on its itinerary?
The Tunisian Jasmine revolution depended on the resilience of the civil society and youth against terrible odds, so was the case in Egypt. The ambiguity inherent in the term “civil society” notwithstanding, there is a broad base of educated people in Pakistan and hence this component is similar to Egypt and Tunisian situation. This segment of Pakistani society has already demonstrated its ability to bring about change in the past, most notably in the case of restoration of the Chief Justice and departure of the last military dictator. So, can it bring about another change?
The Tunisian and Egyptian demonstrations started due to high unemployment, soaring prices of food items, corruption, poor living conditions, and the lack of freedom of speech; all but the last are present in Pakistan. The protests in Tunisia and Egypt were not led by any recognized political leadership; in Pakistan there are too many leaders. So, is it the presence of these tried and failed leaders which is prevented the start of a Jasmine revolution in Pakistan? Or is it the lack of a clear-cut agenda of change? If it were latter, one can easily construct one.
A Jasmine revolution in Pakistan can begin on the basis of the surrender of country’s sovereignty by the rulers. This needs no proof: even an upstart like David Cameron can cause a near total shut down of the city when he arrives. Even far less people have been come and caused the entire security apparatus of the country to be surrendered to the foreigners; that should be enough proof and if it were not sufficient then the mid-night release of a double murderer and CIA operative and the continuous drone attacks should be enough cause for a civil society revolt against the existing system. In addition, the continuously rising prices of essential items, high unemployment, and poverty provide enough reasons to hope for the emergence of waves of protest by the middle class and educated youth.
All of these conditions have been present for some time and one would expect that any local group can utilize them to ignite the initial spark. The fact that it has not happened so far is rather difficult to explain; the only explanation that one can think of is a great sense of doom and despair one feels throughout the country.
Wherever two Pakistanis are sitting, there is endless chat about the dismal state of the country, corruption and incompetence of its politicians and the unending intrigues and political dramas, but there is never a spark of hope. Perhaps it is this lack hpw of hope that has hampered the Jasmine revolution, but then, Egypt was worst. There, two whole generations had grown up without hope. So, was it the intensity of their hopelessness that made change possible? Are Pakistanis not sufficiently engulfed in darkness?
Regardless of the factors, one can begin to put together pieces for such a revolution in this season of the blossoming of Jasmines. First there is the question of regaining of Pakistan’s sovereignty. Let this be the first demand of the new revolutionaries. Let there be a charter of minimum, non-negotiable demands with the top item being regaining of Pakistan’s sovereignty. It should be written in bold letters: Henceforth, all drone attacks will be responded in kind. Furthermore, all CIA operatives must leave the country within 36 hours. All politicians must declare their wealth to public within 24 hours and whatever is not declared should become public property and whatever is declared should be scrutinized by an independent commission.
In addition, there should be a list of basic national problems for which solutions must be found within a reasonable time by an independent council of experts who should have powers to implement solutions. Of course, on top of the list will be energy crisis, which has been blamed on corruption, poor planning, the lack of resources and just about everything else. But all of this should be set aside; after all, there are proven ways to estimate demand for gas and electricity and all that the country needs is a transparent and fast track procedure to meet this demand. It will cost money, but money is not the problem in this situation; it is sheer incompetence and corruption. There have even been claims that if Pakistan were to replace its old grid wires, there will be enough electricity. And it has also been said that if Pakistan’s rulers were to stop their extravagance, there will be enough money to overhaul this grid system.
In Egypt and Tunisia, Jasmine revolutions had strong technological components: internet, face book, twitter, and other platforms. This was needed because of extreme political suppression; in Pakistan these may not be as necessary, but since there must be some mechanism of transmission of information, these may play secondary role and the relatively free news media can take the primary role.
Those who started the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions were just small youth groups; in Pakistan these can easily come into existence through existing mechanisms and hence, objective analysis indicates that time is just right for a Jasmine revolution in Pakistan. While it is true that there is no leader to lead this revolution, it is also true that both Egypt and Tunisia had no leadership for their revolutions. Pakistan has an abundance of educated youth. These young men and women have great ideas and plans for a different kind of society. All that this new generation lacks at this point is the initial ray of hope; someone just needs to provide them that initial spark of hope and there will blossom a spirit of change in this seasons of blossoming Jasmines.