By Humayun Gauhar
The inner eye can see what the outer eyes cannot. No amount of injections in the eyeballs by Dr. Zeba can give you that sight, only contemplation in melancholy can. It is patently obvious that the coming elections will be ‘make or break’ for us. I have this sense of foreboding: will we be hijacked by the forces of bigotry, dogma and obscurantism or the forces of democracy, moderation, pluralism and inclusion – or, despite our inner resilience, will we fall apart? We are in a game of bloody three-dimensional chess. One misstep and everything could go up in smoke.
Victory for the terrorist peddling bigotry and obscurantism will be to derail elections and fill the leadership breach in the ensuing anarchy. Victory for the moderate is that elections are held regardless of the outcome. The caretakers must be careful that they don’t become undertakers – literally. Thus this election is the seminal battle and that will determine whether we take a great leap forward or a giant leap backward. Who dominates Pakistan, the extremist morphed into terrorist or the moderate morphed into democrat, that is the question. Neither quite understands the creed that they follow: the extremist mistakes terrorism for Jihad; the moderate confuses elections for democracy.
The sifting process has moved the system forward with many a crocodile disqualified. The evolutionary process has taken a quantum leap forward; interventionism creates the mirage of acceleration that actually decelerates political evolution. However, this being the first time, some wrong decisions have been taken which can be corrected later and the process improved, like the appalling decision to disqualify columnist-politician Ayaz Amir on grounds that he wrote against the ‘ideology of Pakistan’ on which there is no consensus. That doesn’t mean that the principle of filtration is wrong. The process is most important and must go on. It is implementation that needs improving.
I’ve been saying for ages that our political system must evolve towards its natural death or improvement; only then will change be acceptable to our people and to the world, for it will be natural. Foisting change never works. Thus I’m starting to feel vindicated somewhat with the filtration of electoral candidates taking place, for we are moving in the right direction. Sure we have the wrong system and even this bad one needs improving. The latter is happening. You can see that as many an idol is ejected from House of Politics. In time, we will evolve a better system. Only genuine revolutions, not interventions, bring accelerated change. Such revolutions are also begotten by evolution.
It is not quite as simple as that though, for Pakistan is a unique case. Because terrorists and obscurants who are terrorists of the mind come in many hues they seem a polyglot but have networked and have become a monolith. They share the same broad obscurantist ideology based on their own, often self-serving, interpretations of the Quran, often literal or based on the views of some ‘scholars’ and often at variance with the spirit of God’s Word and His Intent. Thus they are not leaderless. They have a simple message that resonates with a people morphing from desperate to desperado: the imposition of their own version of Sharia that will solve all problems instantaneously. They are organized, rich, well armed, well trained, provide leadership and are well supported at home and from abroad too. Above all, they are zealots. Such people spread discord and disharmony by foisting their dogma on the majority, something not unique to Muslims.
The moderate-democrat has none of the above. They may know what they want but don’t know how to get it because they remain confused in alien systems and norms, disconnected with Pakistan’s reality and its masses. They can hardly speak their language for they are unfamiliar with the idiom and are either comfortable in English or mired in fancy, outdated Urdu. The terrorist-obscurant speaks the language of the masses. He lives amongst the people; the moderate-democrat lives away from them. The former are connected; the latter seriously disconnected. The moderates’ ideology isn’t cast in local reality. They have wish lists and a wooly desire for democracy, a creed they don’t quite understand, mistaking elections for democracy. Disorganized and fractured, each piece led by corrupt and mediocre leaders many of whom pander to terrorists-obscurants for electoral gain, they are increasingly unable to compete with them and only mouth homilies, not sensing the coming storm. Worse, they have no simple message that touches the masses and can take on the obscurant, as Bhutto did with the ‘Food, Shelter and Clothing’ slogan and trounced the religious political parties in 1970.
The moderates are divided from left to right and everywhere in between, a sophomoric, leaderless polyglot. Their desire is not so unclear though. They wish a moderate, democratic, egalitarian society in which the rights of man are implemented, an Islamic welfare state that Mr. Jinnah talked about, where implementation of Haqooq ul Ibad is the prime constitutional duty of a state that calls itself Islamic, where ‘democracy’ means a system that delivers man from wretchedness by constantly and significantly improving his condition starting from the poorest. A balanced and just society where education and enlightenment are given the highest priority. Where people are guaranteed security, dignity, housing, clothing, nutrition, potable water, healthcare and all else that are their fundamental God-given rights.
The confusion is that the obscurant claims that he will deliver the same rights through his own version of Sharia as the moderate claims that he will through alien western electoral democracy and all its political, legal, social and cultural constructs that the people don’t understand. One has not seen that happen either way in modern times in the Islamic and the rest of the Third World.
As the economic situation of people worsens the obscurant’s message becomes increasingly attractive. The desperate want food, for God’s sake. If elections are disrupted anarchy will ensue, just what the doctor ordered for the terrorists and secessionists. They are waiting to pounce. Obviously then army will have no option but to intervene whether you like it or not, but only for a time. As things develop and the world reacts adversely, they too will start floundering. God help us then. The only good option that can avert anarchy is to hold elections well and on time and hope that less bad governments are thrown up.
The possible scenarios are:
- Elections are held on time and lead to better governments even if they are not good governments that hopefully complete their terms too. Anarchy can then be averted and the door to an terrorist-obscurant takeover closed, provided people get some relief and delivery. Even if it doesn’t make us it will not break us.
- If Baloch separatists and their top tribal warlords form the provincial government, there is no gainsaying that they won’t pass a resolution in the provincial assembly declaring independence. If India, our ‘brothers in faith’ and some of our ‘allies’ recognize them, what can we do?
- If elections are disrupted all hell will break loose and anarchy on the streets will be upon us. Baloch separatists will get a fillip as will the terrorists. Before separatists and terrorists hijack the mob the army will have to intervene that no one wants, least of all the army.
It is an imperative that acceptable elections are held on time lest the evolutionary process breaks and – horrors of horrors – with it the state. No one wants that. What could really disrupt elections is America’s nightmare of another Nawaz Sharif government. All they want is a stable Pakistan to enable an orderly withdrawal from Afghanistan by December next year. They are not sure that Sharif can provide that stability or cooperation and whether he is a ‘closet Taliban’ or not. With Imran Khan seemingly imploding Sharif’s chances of winning the most seats improve. What they can’t get through elections they get through assassinations. Nawaz Sharif should watch it.
Once upon a time not so long ago there was a young fruit seller in Tunisia who set himself on fire after being slapped by a policewoman. He not only reclaimed his honour but also set the Arab countries on fire. From his ashes is arising an obscurantist phoenix as tyrant after tyrant falls. They didn’t have the safety valves of democracy and free speech that Pakistan does. Don’t close those valves by closing the door to elections and opening the door to anarchy, bigotry, dictatorship and disintegration.