VIEW: The evil that men do —Dr Saulat Nagi - Monday, March 28, 2011

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The comparison of today’s Pakistan and Nazism of yesteryears is chilling but a grim reality. Today this homegrown fascism is rampant and we are made to believe that it has gone beyond the state’s control. The blood of innocent citizens comes cheap. The privileged can walk free and unscathed unless they are not the ‘chosen ones’ for a bigger cause

The body politic of Pakistan suffered another serious blow when the Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, was assassinated in broad daylight. Another crime committed through sheer brazenness; a mournful whimper was strangulated before it could develop into a shriek or a shrill scream — even if permitted, it would have hardly echoed beyond the staccato of arms and explosives — unheard, unrequited and unanswered. The manner in which the events are unfolding, it looks as though Pakistan has become a tomb, which smells like a mortuary or at best a crematorium. Those who naively thought that the death of Salmaan Taseer would stem the rot and quench the thirst of the parched throats of these bloodletting hate-mongers were clearly underestimating the extent of their lust for human blood and quest for spiritual redemption. Amazingly, all of this is happening under the benign gaze of the state and at worst with its collusion. Either way the state is culpable due to its pusillanimity towards dealing with militancy or because of its acquiescence. Both of these are cloaks meant to mask the hideous crime being carried out against humanity. The million dollar question is: why does this havoc break loose only when the state is cornered by the self-inflicted economic woes? Whenever the people give an inkling of staging massive protests, which carries a slightest hint of overturning this rotten system, a soul is immediately sacrificed to an act of terrorism. In each instance, the bewildered mind curiously inquires as to whether this is a mere coincidence or is there a rat in the corridors of power. There might be none but it smells like one! At least it seems a convenient way out of a quagmire. Capitalism keeps all options open in order to maintain its stranglehold on people trying to emancipate themselves. For its invigoration and the ultimate realisation, there is nothing more conducive than a flawed democracy and religious fascism — both are present in plenty in Pakistan — a lethal combination that keeps the structure of power unchallenged behind a smokescreen.

The process of brutalisation of Pakistani society was slow but steady and certainly premeditated. It all started as a nightmare with a crackdown on the religious minorities, supported by the so-called socialist premier of our country in order to distract the attention of the people from the real issues, which he once promised but never intended to resolve. Keeping political cult fiction aside, an answer to this conundrum is hard to come by except through class analysis why a populist leader, a demagogue, turned into a tyrant. In fact, one who seems a tyrant is nothing but the political representative of a class — that is the dominant economic power — whose interests he is supposed to guard. Bhutto (like Hitler) found the safety of his class in this diversion, which culminated in a mini-holocaust. The only difference here was that instead of the Jews, a sect of people who claimed to be Muslims were thrown out of the productive system and crucified — without any contriteness, of course. The dynamics of capitalism always stand clear of human sensitivities and free social passions. Another reason was to resuscitate the dying religious organisations, which had been outrightly rejected by the conscientious people of Pakistan in the preceding elections. Bhutto used religion as a tool to prolong his rule without rocking the system. His successor — a mercenary on a prayer mat — proved too good in this art. He tried to legitimise his rule using the same instrument. But in this process, our society was thoroughly brutalised. Our enthusiastic participation in the US’s war against the Soviet Union was the icing on the cake. Since then every ruler has added something new to this Pandora’s Box. From Naseerullah Babar to Pervez Musharraf, all have played their due role in this raging inferno. No one can claim innocence. Every one contributed to the augmentation of religious fanaticism that quickly transmogrified into fascism. Ah, “the evil that men do lives after them”.

The comparison of today’s Pakistan and Nazism of yesteryears is chilling but a grim reality. Today this homegrown fascism is rampant and we are made to believe that it has gone beyond the state’s control. A similar lesson was taught to us when Swat was set on fire. The prime-time televangelists with their spurious passions and their staged theatrics tried their best to make us believe in the invincibility of that ragtag army of terrorists but once the required motive (of the concerned authorities) was achieved, everything came miraculously under control, perhaps akin to the speed of a photon in empty space. Apparently, we are now left with no choice but to live at the mercy of these shoguns — the ‘Caliban’ of our times. We have to be with them or fall prey to their tyranny hence offering the same recipe for disaster propounded by one of their mentors (who with a change in vested interests turned into their tormentor) — George W Bush, the world’s ‘nightmare incarnate’. However, this is a baseless hypothesis. Nothing can be more distant from reality. The Taliban are an artificial force but still a force to be reckoned with as long as their reins are held by the not-so-invisible-hands. After 9/11, most of these mercenaries were summoned to hibernation by a usurper who otherwise was unsavoury but took pride in portraying himself as the enlightened saviour of this beleaguered country. But this was a half-truth. The reported tussle between the CIA and the ISI (the Raymond Davis imbroglio) has brought the other half into the limelight and has again clearly shown that that actual power lies in inscrutable hands.

The blood of innocent citizens comes cheap. The privileged can walk free and unscathed unless they are not the ‘chosen ones’ for a bigger cause. It is about time that the people of Pakistan stand up and be counted. The moment of truth has arrived! What kind of Pakistan do we want? A progressive, prosperous country where an ordinary person can at least dream of a better future and not an estranged spectator, or as Arundhati Roy has described it, “a limbless, headless, soulless torso left bleeding under the butcher’s cleaver with a flag driven deep into her mutilated heart”. The question is, can we let it happen? Have we not allowed it to happen?

The writer is based in Australia and has authored books on socialism. He can be reached at

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