The inevitability of change - Raoof Hasan - Wednesday, February 09, 2011

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“Eager souls, mystics and revolutionaries may propose to refashion the world in accordance with their dreams, but evil remains, and so long as it lurks in the secret places of the heart, utopia is only the shadow of a dream”

(Nathaniel Hawthorne)

The romance of revolution is an eternal dream. Generations have perished working for it and, for generations, it has provided succour and sustenance. Quite often, revolution takes on the apparel of a mirage, making people suffer incessantly. But, somehow, its promise has lingered since antiquity. It refuses to go away.

Pakistan’s struggle to come to grips with its destiny incorporates unmistakable elements of a romance. The more elusive it appears, the more attractive it becomes. In Pakistan, this struggle for change has crossed the mortal threshold of romance alone. It has become an enduring passion. Generation after generation, people have endeavoured to bring about a meaningful change in the ways self-serving rulers have perceived the destiny of this country. This hasn’t quite paid off yet, but the struggle has only become more intense with the passage of time, both in content and intent.

The scent of the surging crowds in Tunisia, Yemen, Jordan, Egypt and elsewhere in the North-African belt has brought a message of hope for the people of Pakistan. It has, first and foremost, rejuvenated their faith in the legitimacy of change. Facing the virtual inevitability of an impasse after the 45-day period for bringing about reforms in the structure and manner of governance in the country, they have something credible to repose their hopes in: the prospect of engineering a change through means outside the traditional realm of acceptance. This would happen as the political leaderships seem unwilling to either recognise the need for this change, or to spearhead it to its desired destination. As Robert Fitzgerald Kennedy once said: “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable”.

With little ambiguity remaining regarding the performance or intentions of the majority party in the ruling coalition, what are the options that Pakistan is left with at this critical juncture? One calls it critical because not only is Pakistan confronted with an unprecedented economic emergency, it also faces the twin-dragnet of widespread corruption and a wave of terror originating from points that are, directly or indirectly, patronised by the very powers that are perceived to be its allies. The undeclared tug-of-war raging between the federal government and the largest province of the country, with its damaging fallout, is another inherent flaw that plagues the national body-politic with the potential of bringing the artificial edifice crashing down, and, with it, the hopes of the traditionalists.

In the unlikely eventuality of a change actually accruing because of the PML-N reform package, there would be a million claimants clamouring for political points. There is little likelihood that any one party, including PML-N, would singly benefit from the outcome. It would be lost in the maze of claims and counter-claims. Further still, in the event that the PPP actually decides to change track and begins to deliver during the remainder of its term, of which there is scant hope, it would end up improving its image among the electorate and would stand to gain on the election-day. One should remember that, in politics, there are no definitive deliverables - more so, in times marked by bitter and unbridgeable divisions.

In a political environment at its most vile, there is little room for statesmanship. Promises have been broken. Commitments have been reneged. Dictatorial parlance has been elongated. Democratic traditions have been flouted. The judiciary has been brazenly confronted and its adjudications consigned to the bin. Corruption has been blatantly patronised. Institutions have been systematically ravaged. Billions of state wealth have been siphoned out. The concept of immunity has been misused for continuing with an absolute abdication of governance. Provocations have been hurled indiscriminately to create ethnic and religious strife. Nothing, really nothing, has been left to the imagination. Still hoping that a party that has persistently indulged in a variety of grave transgressions of its so-called mandate would amend its course and take to democratic polity is dreaming for the stars. No such thing has happened. No such thing is going to happen. What, then, are the options?

Looking at the post-February 20 scenario when the 45-day deadline is out of the way, one sees no solution that would emerge strictly in accordance with the thinking of the traditionalists. In that event, is it that one should resign to the ravages of a democratic system that stands on shaky foundations and without its natural ingredients in place? Or, is it that one should ponder the options that may keep the hope alive? This hardly presents a choice among veritable options, but such has been the fate of this country, and such will remain the fate unless serious effort is unleashed to bring about a credible change that does not hinge on the desirability of the corrupt ruling elite alone, but is moulded in accordance with the needs of the underprivileged and the impoverished. Unless that were to be so, there would be no hope, there would be no romance, and there would be no change. Time is ripe and fate beckons. Faiz stamps the inevitability of such a change in his own inimitable way:

“Yeh khoon key mehak hey key lab-e-yaar key khushboo / Kis raah key janab se sabaa aati hey dekho / Gulshan meinn bahaar ayee ke zindaann hoowa abaad / Kis simt se naghmonn key sadaa aati hey dekho”

(The morning brings a fragrant message / unleashed by somebody’s scented blood / Or, perhaps, the sweet lips of my beloved / Be it the advent of spring / Or the unlocking of the prison gates / It comes echoing / Fresh musical notes)

The writer is a political analyst.


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