NOTES FROM A SOCIAL SCIENTIST
By Dr. Haider Mehdi
“Can those who can see be equal to those who cannot?” – Al Qur’an.
Today’s most important question is: Has the people’s revolution arrived in Pakistan?
Indeed, Imran Khan’s promised “tsunami” hit the Karachi shores on Quaid-e-Azam’s birthday at Quaid’s ‘mizaar’ – a symbolic re-birth of Quaid’s dream. There were reportedly over half a million people – old and young, locals and those from afar, and from all segments of society and all ethnic backgrounds. There is no question about it: it was a “tsunami.”
But a tsunami had already happened in Lahore. On October 30th , among hundreds of thousands, Colonel Retd. Hamid Khan Shahgufta, aged 87, resident of Lahore, had dressed up in his best suit and tie and had alone ventured to attend Imran Khan’s “jalsa” at Minar-e Pakistan. Colonel Shahgufta says that he has never witnessed such a flood of willing and passionately driven people other than the Pakistan Resolution public gathering of 1940 at Minto Park. Shahgufta’s daughter travelled from Islamabad, along with her friends, to attend Imran’s “jalsa.”
Zara Shahid and Minahil Mehdi, 12th grade students at a prestigious school in Gulburg, Lahore, told me that they, along with several of their female friends, voluntarily went knocking door to door requesting people to go to Minto Park on October 30th. This campaign also included asking parents to join PTI. Sajjad Hussein, senior banker, and his family parked their cars near Lahore’s museum on the Mall and carried kids on their shoulders while walking all the way to Minto Park to listen to what Imran Khan had to say.
Obviously, massive public gatherings and the emotional enthusiasm of Colonel Shahgufta, Zara Shahid, Minahil Mehdi, Sajjad Hussein and the like, do not bring about people’s revolutions. But one thing that such determined public engagements certainly indicate: they demonstrate across the board, from young to old, from Punjabis to Pathans, from Sindis to Balochis, from Karachi to Peshawar and beyond, a loud and clear public desire for a transformational change in the traditional Pakistani political culture that is outdated, ailing, corrupt, stagnant and massively out of sync with the existing needs and democratic aspirations of the people of Pakistan. In a real sense, PTI’s Lahore and Karachi “jalsas” have made the other two large political parties in Pakistan, the PPP and PML(N), and their leaderships irrelevant to the ground realities of Pakistani politics. Indeed, the ruling PPP and it’s 4 year-old friendly opposition, PML (N) – both the parties and their leaderships – have had their inherent flaws and weaknesses openly exposed to the public. The PPP and the PML(N) stand rejected, and that is that.
Now back to the basic vital question: Has the people’s revolution arrived in Pakistan?
A large number of social historians and social scientists see politicians as representatives of specific and distinct vested interest groups and the exercise and attainment of political power as the victory of those interests over the larger interests of the masses. Political history has proven time and again that the aforementioned political hypothesis is correct: it has also proven that special interest groups work in mysterious and covert manners to infiltrate public movements in order to derail fundamental political goals and objectives. For example, the infiltration of counter-revolutionary forces in the Tahrir Square public movement in Egypt is clearly visible as a recent phenomenon, and other instances can be seen everywhere in the wake of the Arab Spring political movements. The question is: Why would specific social and political vested interest groups in Pakistan spare Imran Khan’s socio-political public movement for change and risk an entire transformation of the traditional status quo-oriented political culture?
If I were in Imran Khan’s place, I would have taken chances with my destiny, depending entirely on the massive wave of public support for political empowerment; it is politically dangerous to play with the idea of “electables” in order to ascend to ultimate political power. But Imran Khan is not me. Perhaps he is politically more perceptive, perhaps Imran’s political vision is larger, wider and more insightful. Perhaps Imran’s confidence in his political vision and message of change is so powerful and timely that his promise of a “political tsunami” will carry everyone in its wake. Perhaps Imran Khan believes that people and their lifelong mindsets can easily be transformed, transmuted and changed 180 degrees for a noble national political cause. Perhaps Imran Khan has faith in celestial intervention for shifting the mindsets of political actors who have recently jumped on the PTI bandwagon and who have, on the face of it, always promoted the political status quo, exercised politics for their vested interests, remained steadfastly loyal to US-West’s dictates and have been forever the pillars of a traditional reactionary political culture that has brought our beloved country, Pakistan, to the verge of collapse.
Quite frankly, with due respect to Imran Khan’s political judgment and the declared noble intentions of the traditional political elite (with the exception of one or two) who are joining the PTI, I am having serious difficulty in sharing Imran’s optimism on this account.
In my philosophical political judgment through an analytical approach, I believe it is decisively problematic to envision how these traditional political actors joining the PTI can mentally and politically conceptualize Imran Khan’s transformational politics of absolute change. After all, one of the major actors, for instance, the Senior Vice President of the party, must have negotiated his position prior to joining PTI in exchange for his political support of Imran Khan. This is one vivid example (among others) of how traditional egocentric, self-seeking, vested interest social group politics has been played and is being played in Pakistan.
Let us pray and hope Imran Khan remains steadfastly committed to his politics of change that has become the voice of the people’s democratic aspirations and will – and that he prevails in the end!!!! Amen!
Indeed, there is a difference between those who can see and those who cannot…!