VIEW: Sialkot and the writing on the wall — II —Naeem Tahir\08\28\story_28-8-2010_pg3_6

Sporadic violence perpetuated by conflicting groups is most damaging for a country. It falls short of a revolution and becomes an internal struggle for power by groups with vested interests like ethnicity, religious bias, mafias, and revenge by the have-nots

Castro went to the US to explain his revolution. He said, “I know what the world thinks of us, we are communists, and of course I have said very clearly that we are not communists; very clearly.”

The important thing to note here is that Pakistanis are not religiously aggressive like the situation prevailing at the time of the Iranian Revolution, nor are they communists. There are many commonalities between the Chinese revolution and Russian revolution and even the French revolution. None of the mentioned revolutions were an exact parallel to each other, but there were common factors and causes, and these also exist in Pakistan. It is, however, a question of the tolerance threshold.

The basic factors in all these cases have been:

1. Ineffective governance;

2. Rampant corruption;

3. Elitist apathy regarding the common people;

4. Poor economic conditions;

5. Failure of the legal system to administer justice;

6. Breakdown of law and order;

7.Intolerance reaching a boiling point.

Consider and compare these factors and see if an impending ‘revolution’ is the writing on the wall.

Should this warning be ignored like the warnings of the floods? Certainly not. Because this will not be water flowing in the streets; instead, it can be human blood. Violent revolutions do not discriminate. Anyone perceived among the ‘haves’ by the ‘have-nots’ as guilty gets the wrath even if he is ‘not guilty’. The ‘suspicion’ does it. So it did in Sialkot.

A people’s uprising is not like the drawing room or teahouse revolutions of the ‘intellectuals’. These are cruel and bloody. We cannot say “Hum dekhen gae...” (We will see...) because we may be wiped out in ‘friendly fire’. Now is the time to do something and to save the country and save the saner sections of society.

The situation can be prevented from going out of hand if a sincerely planned strategy is put in place. At least three politicians are known to have been reading the writing on the wall and mentioned the possibility of revolution time and again. These include Dr Sher Afgan Niazi, Imran Khan and Altaf Bhai. Sporadic violence perpetuated by conflicting groups is most damaging for a country. It falls short of a revolution and becomes an internal struggle for power by groups with vested interests like ethnicity, religious bias, mafias, and revenge by the have-nots. A ‘revolution’, if steered by a philosophy, national priorities and sincerity, brings a healthy change at some cost of life and property, but gives a new life to a nation. Do we have leadership and discipline to bring about this type of constructive revolution? The leadership of the MQM, a very serious and disciplined political party, has hinted at a role of the army being acceptable. The ANP leadership has also said so. Most recently Imran Khan in an interview with Dr Shahid Masood agreed that the army has a role to play. All these leaders may have different reasons to seek the army’s role. These could include the lawlessness in Karachi and Sindh. It could be the breakdown of administration in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and the wayward administrations in Balochistan and Punjab. The Punjab law minister, in an interview on TV on August 23, said clearly that the present legal system for criminal justice is not practicable and criminals cannot be brought to book. It was one of the most clear and surprising admissions from the Punjab law minister. If the civil and criminal law has failed, then what are you hinting at? Relevant voices for action are being heard from at least three federating units and the fourth is likely to follow.

Public perception is an important factor. The public perception of the army is very good at this moment, particularly because of its actions against terrorism and provision of rescue and relief to flood victims. People are also comparing the present civil administration with the previous, favouring the previous one. The other institution, in fact the head of the institution, who commands some respect, is the Supreme Court. This is about all. After the institutions there may be only individuals like the great humanist Mr Edhi and competent technocrats and society members. In my humble opinion, this is a time for a considered and sincere collective action by the National Assembly, institutions, political parties and concerned and sincere individuals from different segments. The bloodshed of a revolution must be avoided but the mobilised energy of the masses must be diverted to build the ‘new’ nation and a nation state. It does not need to be an ‘NRO’, which ended up protecting criminals and the corrupt, but it does need to be a reconciliation to protect the national interests. Urgent methodologies to administer justice within a short time will solve more than half of the problems and defuse the stored ‘anger’ against injustice. It will also restore confidence in the new administration of a revolutionary set-up. The National Assembly should resolve and support a revolutionary set-up. The National Assembly must make necessary legal changes and let the ‘revolutionary set-up’ implement the law speedily and eradicate corruption and lawlessness and so on and so forth. New elections should take place at the scheduled time and should be held fairly under a system that should not be designed to support the landlords, waderas, sardars, elite, and the powerful. It should be designed to pick the best from the working classes and technocrats, specialists and other dedicated individuals committed to continue the process of nation building. The decision needs to be taken now, not later, before the sparks spread the fire beyond control. Revolutions start with small sparks, but end up engulfing everything.


Naeem Tahir is a culture and media management specialist, a researcher, author, director and actor

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