NOTES FROM A SOCIAL SCIENTIST
Understanding People’s Revolution
By Dr. Haider Mehdi
“‘We must rescue our people from the injustice,’ said the mountain boy. ‘We must make our people strong and devout so that they cannot be preyed upon by our enemies.’”
“Motive does not exist in the abstract. It’s not who people are. It’s what they do.” From the novel Our Game by John Le Carre
Recently, Socialist Pakistan’s Secretary General, Farooq Tariq, compiled a list of price hikes in the country during the PPP’s 3-year political-economic management. This list is a miserably dismal reflection of growing poverty, economic mismanagement, social injustice and utter disregard of the welfare of the Pakistani masses. The life of the majority of the 180 million people of Pakistan has been marginalized in the way that has no precedent in our history. Pakistan is tearing apart at its seams because of the massively increasing poverty of its people – and yet, the incumbent ruling party, along with the major opposition parties and their leaderships, continue to paint a picture of a prosperous democratic Pakistan in the offing. It seems as if the very concept of democracy has changed its political and philosophical meaning, as if in the mindset of the Pakistani traditional ruling elite, democracy in itself has become a sacred cow in its own right, as if it is an abstract idea to be protected above and beyond the welfare of the governed, divorced and removed from the political and economic role that it is supposed to perform in the service of the populous.
Instead of democracy, “a government of the people, by the people, for the people,” the contemporary political elite, inclusive of the traditional politicians in opposition, have come to believe that democracy is a government of political power of the vested interests, by the vested interests and for the vested interests – and the political game of clinging to power continues. So much so that nearly all top political leaders are claiming transfer of political power as a hereditary right. Asif Zardari already has his son as his successor, and Mian Nawaz Sharif reportedly has argued that if the son of a medical doctor can be a doctor, why can’t the son or daughter of a political leader be a leader. And several others seem to share the same belief. The recklessness of democratic norms is an amazing salient feature of Pakistan’s democratic past and present.
It is ironic that Pakistan’s traditional politicians are in a frame of mind refusing to even acknowledge, in fact in total defiance of, the revolutionary processes that are engulfing the entire Arab and Muslim world. Unfortunately, laced with naive assessments of political ground realities, superficial rhetorical excesses and pure and shameless hypocrisy, the Pakistani contemporary leadership, including the major political actors in the opposition, continue to see the public turmoil in the country through a Western mental grid: They say it is democracy that people are clamoring for – as if voting is an end in itself, irrespective of what the voted representatives deliver to the voters. Indeed, they have made a mockery of national democratic aspirations.
The entire Muslim world is exploding with public anger against oppression, corruption, fear, uncertainties of future existence, massive unemployment, lack of health and educational services, and direct interference in domestic affairs by the US-West’s neocon establishments, so that political turmoil has become a way of life in many nations. And yet the Pakistani leadership remains oblivious to rising tides of public demands in its own country as well as totally removed from learning any substantive lessons from ongoing revolutionary world events. “Across the world, a lot of middle- and lower-middle class people now feel that the future is out of their grasp, and they are letting their leaders know it,” wrote Thomas L. Friedman recently.
Indeed, there is a multitude of reasons for societal turmoil engulfing the large part of the present-day world. And yet, it is not difficult to find and point out a common denominator in all of those people’s-propelled political explosions worldwide: “Instead of trying to conceptualize an ongoing diversified process, I’d better to listen to the people to the..people asking for dignity and respect, a decent standard of living and job, right to education and an end to corruption,” wrote Luc Debieuvre of IRIS and the University of Paris. “We are fighting for an assessable future,” commented Freidman on the recent middle class uprising in Israel.
In Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Jordan, Morocco and scores of other countries, mass political movements are demanding social and economic justice, a cultural renaissance, freedom from oppression, both from within and outside, and an end to state sponsored police violence, privatization of national assets and corporate culture. What is desired is a drastic transformation of traditional institutionalized political and economic structures, substantive and meaningful changes to the traditional political cultures, massive state investment in self-reliance in economic policy and planning, an end to political and foreign policy status quo and a return to full national sovereignty. Of course, eliminating people’s hunger, starvation, misery, deprivations, socio-cultural exploitation, disease and illiteracy remains the common goal for all oppressed people around the world.
I’m obliged here to cite Imran Khan, chief of the PTI, who has endlessly lamented on the Pakistani people’s miserable and tragic contemporary existence: Imran says that political socio-economic conditions in Pakistan today are far worse than in almost any other nation in the world – there is lack of electricity and water, prices of food and daily consumable commodities are skyrocketing, people are dying of starvation, violence, murder and mayhem have become a way of life, state brutality and oppression is rampant , state institutions are being systematically violated by the powers-that-be, and all our contemporary political leadership, inclusive of the incumbent rulers and the opposition, care about is to seek power at the nation’s expense, even at the country’s complete destruction. General Aslam Beg, former Chief of the Army Staff and a noted columnist, has argued a number of times through his writings and TV appearances that the state might collapse under the weight of present conditions and because of political-economic-foreign policies and contemporary mismanagement of national affairs. Both Imran Khan and Gen. Beg are politically correct, are they not?
There was a time, not long ago, when this was a peaceful and serene country, until a wretched General said “Yes” to another wretched General over the telephone. Since then, all hell has broken lose. Not that civilian rulers and other generals, incompetent and selfish, had not violated the sanctimony of this nation before – but this one had topped all previous cataclysms only to be superseded by the incumbent civilian PPP rulers and their behind-the-doors collaborators within the country and from the high-powered masters outside of it. We are in an absolute mess, are we not?
There is an emptiness in our national existence at the moment that can, incidentally, offer opportunities for endless and never-ending political inventions and economic initiatives. But our contemporary leadership is neither interested in filling that emptiness nor the least in understanding the importance of those inventions or initiatives in the interest of the nation. We are besieged by a bunch of incompetent, visionless, selfish power-seeking, egocentric politicians who would not let it go, no matter what the consequences are. Hence, we as a nation have become so used to “hopes frustrated, possibilities unrealized, opportunities denied, that we have learned to take disappointment for granted, even before it happens.” But the point is that if the present political phenomenon continues, it is a sure recipe of our ultimate demise as a nation.
What we need now for our future survival, political inventions, and visionary initiatives is a leadership tailored on the model of “Qalandari and Qalandaranah” – bold, undaunted, free-thinking, selfless, full of personal integrity and credibility, dedicated wholeheartedly to serving the people and answerable to those who elect them. What we need is a ”Faqiranah Mizaj” – “dervishy” mindset, penurious and possessing the humbleness becoming of saints. What we need are altruistic persons at the helm of national affairs.
Or we can continue to subscribe to “Firauniyyat” the despotic perverters of democracy …The choice is ours!
“Motive does not exist in the abstract. It’s not who people are, it’s what they do.”
Join the rising tide of people’s revolution in Pakistan.
Join in understanding the need for such a revolution!!