WASHINGTON DIARY: The difference in revolts —Dr Manzur Ejaz - Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Source : www.dailytimes.com

Even if people agree with the mullahs on the blasphemy law, it is not a problem for which they will come out onto the streets. Their economic impoverishment and lack of hope are the main issues for which they may come out one day like the Egyptians and Tunisians

While the Egyptian streets were brimming with millions of protestors to oust Hosni Mubarak, Lahore was witnessing a mullah rally to defend the blasphemy law and free a killer. The contrast between the uprising in Egypt and the mullahs’ rally in Pakistan clearly shows the difference between a people’s movement and an organised, bigoted minority’s show of power. In Egypt, people were on the streets to get freedom from a nation’s hangman while the mullah rally aimed to hang innocent people and free a confessed murderer, Mumtaz Qadri.

The mullahs have never been able to bring more than 40,000 people together onto the streets. If one counts all the mosques and madrassas in Lahore, this number is actually really small in a city of seven to eight million people. This shows the utter failure of the mullah parties in getting the common people involved. Their only saving grace is that no major political party or other anti-mullah forces have brought out counter-rallies and confronted them. In fact, major political parties give them tactical blessings: Pervaiz Elahi of the PML-Q and Saad Rafique of the PML-N joined the mullah rally.

The rallies greeting Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry showed glimpses of a people’s movement in Pakistan. Such scenes were never seen on the streets after Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s rallies of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Almost two or three generations of Pakistanis have never experienced or seen the colours of a people’s movement. Therefore, for them a small mullah rally is very impressive and intimidating. The Tunisian and Egyptian masses have provided an opportunity for the younger generation to get a sense and smell of a people’s movement versus the rallies of these bigoted mullahs.

Even if people agree with the mullahs on the blasphemy law, it is not a problem for which they will come out onto the streets. Their economic impoverishment and lack of hope are the main issues for which they may come out one day like the Egyptians and Tunisians. For now they are standing by silently while boiling with rage from within. Sooner or later, however, such rage is going to come out onto the streets.

In the meanwhile, the mullahs are filling the vacuum with their religious rhetoric. As a matter of fact, their rhetoric and their rallies are providing a defence shield to the rich and the corrupt by distracting people from the real issues. This is one of the main reasons that the rich and powerful give them their blessings and do not confront them.

The mullahs have really exposed the limitations of the democratic order. They are always keen for a democratic setting to misuse it for their anti-democratic causes. If democracy means individual rights then mullah shahi (rule of the mullahs) does not permit such liberties. Therefore, there is a non-resolvable contradiction between democracy and the ideology of mullah shahi. In short, a religious party is essentially anti-democratic and, maybe, they should be treated like they are in Bangladesh.

In a democratic set-up it is the responsibility of the state and the government to protect the rights and will of the silent majority against any bigoted minority, religious or otherwise. If the state or the government cannot protect society from the threats of a bigoted minority then the soul of democracy is compromised. In such circumstances, if the silent majority does not rise up against the attacks of dictatorship, they find justification. If a bigoted minority can dictate the direction of political discourse then why should one bother to distinguish between a military general and an elected leader?

The Pakistani state and government have utterly failed to fulfil the essential conditions of democracy. It is allied with anti-democratic mullahs like Fazlur Rehman who, addressing the rally in Lahore, advised the governor of Punjab, Latif Khosa, to go and congratulate killer Mumtaz Qadri for committing a heinous crime. If such government allies are representing democracy by preaching the killing of innocent people, then who needs such a political system?

The fact of the matter is that the mullahs have proven to be nothing more than a bigoted minority that is dictating its agenda and intimidating its opponents because of the impotence of the state and government. The enlightened sections of society, due to intimidation and opportunistic reasons, have been looking towards the government to protect their democratic rights. But, since the state and government are incapable of doing so, they have to rise, organise and confront mullah shahi and its rich and powerful ruling elite. This is doable because, as said earlier, the mullahs are just a tiny minority but they are organised.

The writer can be reached at manzurejaz@yahoo.com

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