Discernible trends in Pakistani politics - Dr Qaisar Rashid - Friday, March 18, 2011

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=36838&Cat=9&dt=3/18/2011

The only constant is change. The adage is applicable aptly to nowhere but Pakistan. A perpetual activity can be monitored on the Pakistani political and social planes: something is happening somewhere. Incidentally, at least, four major trends can be discerned.

First, it is quite decipherable that recognised (universal) democratic principles are incongruous with the kind of politics practised in Pakistan. High moral grounds taken in the recent past are ceded to the lame excuse, political expediency. By showing a disposition to materialise the expediency, both PPP and PML-N are actually shifting the responsibility for averting any next military coup onto the shoulders of the judiciary and media. Politicians are perhaps forgetting that dishonesty – in both words and actions – is the undoing of democracy in Pakistan.

Further, it seems that coming to terms with the rule of law is hard for the central government led by the PPP. To lay claim to restoring the higher judiciary by an executive order is one thing but to comply with the orders of the same judiciary, is altogether a different proposition. Calling a province wide strike in reaction to the decision of the Supreme Court of removing Chairman NAB Deedar Hussain Shah has debunked the sense of insecurity plaguing the PPP. In fact, anti-judiciary hatred transforming into anti-federation caveat by hoisting the Sindh card is a bad omen for the country. Hitherto, one thing is clear: if not political parties, political thought is yet to mature.

Second, the strife for securing access to economic resources is touching the lethal limit of disorder in big multi-ethnic urban cities like Karachi. Target killings is one manifestation of that turmoil, psychological maladies may be another. The scary trend may be repeated in other urban cities of Pakistan like Lahore and Islamabad which are also rapidly getting multi-ethnic. The palpable population swell in cities is due to both (local) high reproduction rate and high urbanisation rate. The swell yields soaring demographic needs which outnumber the available resources leading to social discord. Nevertheless, scarcity of resources is a shared trait of big cities of the world. What is missing in Pakistan, however, is reviewing the definition of citizenship to meet the needs of cosmopolitan culture.

It is now evident that traditional disciplinary citizenship (which sprouts from government policies and relies on the taught means) is proving inadequate to cater to the wants of cosmopolitan culture. There is dire need to complement disciplinary citizenship with cultural citizenship (which with its two core values, equality and identity, predicates on the need to learn). Cultural citizenship has a special utility in sectarian and ethnic contexts in Pakistan: all are equal in the eyes of law (or the state) but identity of any one faction should be venerated by all others. Hence, it is not only the duty of the government to inculcate civic values in citizens by employing pedagogical means like teaching curriculum, launching campaigns, and enforcing law and order but it is also a duty of the citizens to learn how to cohabit in a society getting increasingly multi-cultural.

Third, the pace of class struggle has escalated manifold. In the twenty-first century, the concept of class is transnational promoted by the ‘immigration culture’. The members of the lower and middle class of a developing country immigrate to affluent countries and come back after earning ample money to expand the upper class in their native countries. In concert with the same phenomenon – reverse migration – the upper class in Pakistan is expanding. Nevertheless, that reversal is also generating a social imbalance by accentuating differences between the haves and have-nots translated into thefts, robberies, and murders. Further, the disparity is making the deprived sections of society disheartened leading to melancholy and suicide. To counter the ugly trend, the missing link is ‘cross-borders investment’ in the form of Direct Foreign Investment (DFI) to set up new industries or launch development projects – which can enhance job prospects for the youth and make them economically contented. The expatriate Chinese and Indians have done so to change the economic outlook of their countries.

Fourth, micro-nationalism is thriving fast. Under the sway of globalisation, the idea of nation-state is evaporating while the concept of internationalisation is taking root. Being apprehensive of the would-be final picture of globalisation, people in the developing countries are seeking refuge in minor identities like language and ethnicity. It is one’s language-nationality or ethnic-nationality that is embodied in micro-nationalism. Pakistan has started witnessing this phenomenon which manifests itself in peoples demanding vociferously for a separate province – even by dividing any existing province – on the basis of parochial relevance.

One of the reasons may not be that micro-nationalism is dearer to them but that people do not know what would happen once their identity is diluted. The fear of unknown forces them into underscoring the available identity: micro-nationalism is the last ditch effort to overcome that fear. The demand raised by people offers a chance to politicians to exploit and score political points (as it was done by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani, the other day, when he publicly supported the possibility of carving a language-based province, Seraiki, out of the province of Punjab, but with the pre-condition that he wins the next general elections with the same mandate). Nevertheless, falling back on identity offers people the latent period to stay contented till the inevitable – global culture, for its being superior – takes over and offers a new and ultimate identity, global citizen.

In short, the political and social planes of Pakistan are in a perpetual state of flux.

The writer is a freelance contributor. Email: qaisarrashid@yahoo.com

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