Revolution’s domino effect - Roedad Khan - Saturday, February 05, 2011

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There seems to be a curious pattern in the Islamic world. For a long time, things continue unchanged until, suddenly, the tectonic plate beneath the surface shifts, and the established order crumbles. A seemingly small event sets off a series of radical changes that alter the very face of the region.

Take the revolution in Tunisia for example. It was triggered by a peddler who burned himself to death, and fast became one of the most decisive moments in recent Arab history. A month long peaceful protest led by middle class Tunisians toppled the country’s dictator and set a precedent for the rest of the Arab world. A North African country of only 10 million set off democracy movements in a region characterised by long-established dictatorships.

In the Arab world, only two other events have had comparable impact: the creation of the state of Israel, and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after five centuries. The latter, in turn, triggered the creation of modern Arab states.

The Islamic world contains the world’s greatest concentration of corrupt rulers, unelected monarchs, and military dictators, all supported by America. None would survive without American help. Not surprisingly, American support for tyrants in the Muslim world has turned millions of Muslim against the United States. In the past, there was some rationale for accepting authoritarian regimes in the Muslim world as long as they were anti-communist. Now that the Soviet Union is a thing of the past, what is the justification for supporting unelected, despotic, corrupt regimes?

A long-awaited revolution is now blazing its way across the Middle East. The entire political system dominated by authoritarian rulers, fabricated by Kitchener, Lloyd George and Churchill in 1922, is in imminent danger of total collapse. Egypt is in the throes of a mighty revolution. Jordan is in turmoil. So is Algeria. And the wind is blowing toward the East.

Which leads us to question: where do we stand today? The independence of Pakistan is nothing more than a myth. Sixty-three years after independence, Pakistan has a dysfunctional political system, a president facing corruption charges and terrified of his own people, a non-sovereign parliament, and an ineffective, corrupt prime minister. The opposition languishes in torpid impotence. Ostensibly, we have all the trappings of democracy – national and provincial assemblies, political parties, elected government but they play no real role in determining major policy decisions and are, for all practical purposes, quite irrelevant.

The Pakistan Mr Jinnah founded no longer exists. It disappeared the day corrupt rulers hijacked Pakistan. Thanks to eight years of General Musharraf’s illegitimate rule, followed by over two years of Zardari’s corrupt administration, Pakistan is now a ghost of its former self.

Today, people openly talk about the corruption, indiscretions, folly and vulgarity of the man whom fate has planted in the presidency. The good news is, President Zardari’s star is already burning out. But he will stop at nothing to keep power. It seems that in the death throes of his regime, he will take Pakistan with him.

At present, all the conditions that precede major changes in history, exist in Pakistan. The country is fast approaching revolution. We are on the verge of a total economic and political collapse. The social contract between the government and the people has collapsed. The dialogue between the rulers and the ruled has broken down.

It is noteworthy, that of all the decolonised, newly independent countries, Pakistan is perhaps the only country that has lost its independence after gaining it. It attained freedom from British rule, only to turn into an American colony. Today it is not just a “rentier state,” or a client state. It is a slave state, misgoverned by a power-hungry junta and a puppet government that is controlled by Washington.

After decades of corrupt, civilian and military dictatorships the state is so flawed that it needs to be dismantled and rebuilt, rather than fixed. It is not enough to sit back and let history take its course. The present corrupt leadership is taking Pakistan to a perilous place. This is a delicate time, full of hope and trepidation in equal measure. Today, there exists a political and moral imperative for all patriotic Pakistanis to fight for our core values, to resist foreign intervention in our internal affairs and to destroy the roots of corruption at the top.

The time has come when the ultimate sovereign – the people of Pakistan – must assert themselves. We have no alternative but to stand up and fight. If we succeed, and God willing we shall, we may be able to create a new corruption-free Pakistan. We may regain control of our collective destiny, and earn back the respect of the democratic world. We may become a proud and free country once again.

If people want a fundamental change, they must keep voting where it counts most – in the streets – over and again. A corrupt regime like the one in charge of Pakistan today, can only be brought down if enough people vote in the streets. In the event that people take to the streets in large numbers, the regime will have to choose between shooting its people or surrendering power. And this, is what the regime fears most. There is no other path for our country, but the one the Egyptians are treading today. There is no other solution.

The writer is a former federal secretary. Email:,

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