WASHINGTON DIARY: Uprisings and impacts —Dr Manzur Ejaz - Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Source : http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2011\03\30\story_30-3-2011_pg3_3

WASHINGTON DIARY: Uprisings and impacts —Dr Manzur Ejaz
Even after the Musharraf dictatorship is over, much of our politics is run from Dubai and we have to involve Riyadh in every important political crisis. In fact, Arab kings have been violating Pakistani sovereignty, with the connivance of our ruling elite, even more than the US

Knowing fully well that neither Obama nor any state agency in the US can punish or prosecute the buffoon Pastor Terry Jones, under the leadership of Munawar Hasan every political animal is jumping onto the anti-Tauheen-e-Quran (desecration of Quran) bandwagon. Meanwhile, the Arab uprising has spread all over the Middle East having serious implications for Pakistan that few are talking about in the land of the pure. As a result, besides the economic impact, impending changes in the Middle East will change the collaborative relationship between Arab and Pakistani rulers.

Syed Munawar Hasan, the Ameer of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), needs an issue before every Friday prayer to mobilise thousands of madrassa students and the ‘faithful’ to keep the pot of religious politics boiling. After the Raymond Davis case died down, everyone should have expected that the JI would pull something out of the Mansoora magic box. The JI’s job was made easy by an idiotic religious leader of an unknown Christian ministry in the remote south of the US. The Americans had never heard of him and none of them know what he has done or how it is being used against them thousands of miles away.

JI Ameer Munawar Hasan and all the politicians passing resolutions know that, according to the US constitution, freedom of expression is guaranteed and, hence, there is no way Terry Jones and any such idiot can be prosecuted. Every Pakistani politician makes frequent visits to the US or at least sends his/her children to US universities and knows quite well that the US government is helpless in this regard. However, facts do not matter in politics: Munawar Hasan and the JI have perfected the art of ignoring facts (even from the Quran) in their pursuit of using religion as a political tool. They have proved beyond any doubt that Islam as a system of faith and as a political tool are two distinctly different things.

As has been said many times, the campaigns undertaken by the religious right — may it be anti-blasphemy laws, Raymond Davis or Terry Jones — distract Pakistanis from looking at more pertinent economic and political issues. Presently, the anti-Terry Jones crusade is not allowing Pakistanis to look at the political explosions in the Middle East, a situation that has very serious consequences for the ruling class as well as for the common people. For the JI, there is an additional reason for distracting Pakistanis from looking at the Middle East’s mass rebellions: religion has not been used as a rallying point in any of the Arab uprisings, showing that people from Muslim countries can bring about a meaningful democratic change without bringing in their matters of faith.

Despite the JI distraction, one cannot ignore the mammoth changes taking place in the Middle East. In recent days, several Pakistanis have been killed in Bahrain because many of them were/are in the security or police forces of that country. To suppress the anti-king uprising, Pakistanis in the security forces were used for brutal attacks on the demonstrators. Consequently, the anti-king Bahraini masses started identifying Pakistanis with the oppression apparatus. Similar to Bahrain, many Gulf States’ security agencies are filled with Pakistanis and, if the uprising spreads even more, Pakistanis will be the targets of hatred and vilification. The Gulf people’s anti-Pakistani wrath is not going to remain limited to only those Pakistanis who are in the security agencies but is going to become a common phenomenon leading to the return of most of these expatriates.

For now, the uprising in Bahrain has been suppressed with the invasion of the Saudi and Arab Emirates’ armies. Mass movements for democratic rights are having better success in countries that have some semblance of constitutionalism, though ruled by elected dictators, as against countries where monarchies prevail. Probably, the first category of countries has had some nationalist revolutions in the past and there is a significant middle class there.

The growth of population in every Arab country is very robust and consequently unemployment is rising. The Arab middle class is expanding everywhere with the awareness of democratic rights. As tribalism wanes and the middle class swells, the primitive political system of Arab countries is becoming unsustainable. Therefore, sooner or later the Arab masses are going to overthrow their rulers and the space for expatriates will be squeezed. Pakistanis, representing the coercive security apparatus or in other work capacities, will not be tolerated and will be forced to return home. Such an exodus from the Gulf States and other parts of the Middle East will have a negative impact on the Pakistani economy, particularly on remittances and our foreign reserves.

Along with the common Pakistanis working in the Middle East, Pakistan’s ruling class may have to swallow a bitter pill. Up until now, from Nawaz Sharif to Asif Ali Zardari to every rich Pakistani who has bought safety homes in Dubai or in other Gulf States, they have developed a huge stake in that part of the world. Pakistan’s rich and powerful believe that they have reserved a place in ever lasting paradise. However, if such a paradise becomes ‘hell’ and the Pakistani ruling elite cannot siphon off ill-gotten money to these places, Pakistan will be better served by the Arab revolutions.

Arab kings have had an enormous impact, mostly negative, on Pakistan. They have been controlling the political discourse in Pakistan through (though symbolically) getting Nawaz Sharif out, providing him with very comfortable accommodation (a palace), and letting Benazir Bhutto operate from Dubai. Even after the Musharraf dictatorship is over, much of our politics is run from Dubai and we have to involve Riyadh in every important political crisis. In fact, Arab kings have been violating Pakistani sovereignty, with the connivance of our ruling elite, even more than the US. The investment by the sheikhs from the Middle East also falls in the classical category of imperialism but that is another topic for another time. For now, we should get out of the JI spell and smell the coffee that is brewing all over the Middle East.

The writer can be reached at manzurejaz@yahoo.com

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