VIEW: The revolution syndrome —M Hassan Hakeem - Monday, April 18, 2011

Many analyse the present situation of the country as ripe for a ‘revolution’, seeing what has been going around in rest of the world. But comparing the
socio-political liberties of Pakistanis with those of Arabs and Africans leads one to conclude that the former have a greater proportion of independence in most, if not all, aspects 

The world community is
witnessing a new chapter of democratic history being written with protests emanating from North Africa and spreading to the entire Arab world. The uprisings are similar to the ones witnessed in the 1990s in demands but intense in magnitude and momentum. With no visible leadership on top of these excited demonstrators, these uprisings are like a headless body structure, senseless and leaderless, a cruise with no destination at all.
The ‘Jasmine Revolution of Tunisia’ speaks volumes about American puppetry: a stage show where actors change while the play remains the same. The public needed a legitimate mechanism to ventilate grievances. Now that long-term ally of the West, Ben Ali, has been ousted, the system still remains intact while the players have ostentatiously been changed; an old wine in a shiny new bottle. Egypt’s case is no different. Now being ruled by the Supreme Council of Armed Forces, that has always been a close ally of the US, the public mood is still dark and discontent looms large.
Likewise, Libya has been the latest addition to this list. Colonel Gaddafi functioned internationally by pitching himself as a revolutionary anti-imperialist, immune to western manipulation. There have been a number of revolts and worse humanitarian crises in recent years (if the Rwandan genocides of the early 1990s and the Yemen uprising are anything to go by), where NATO, with the US at the helm, did nothing.
A number of reasons correspond to the military intervention by NATO. One of them is that Libya has more often than not been on the outskirts of the American domain of influence and the latter finds this window of opportunity providential to its imperial interests. Secondly, there is the issue of western interest in Libyan oil resources, a fact being kept under the wraps. Libya, a key supplier to Europe, appears to be a square deal for the West. However, the western media remains completely negligent in reporting that oil tankers have started arriving at the Marsa el-Hariga export terminal to load oil bound for Qatar. The Italian government’s formal recognition of oil rich town Benghazi-based Transitional National Council (TNC) ensures that the Libyan opposition will sell oil to Italy. This is a blatant attempt to protect British and western companies’ massive investments in Libya.
Thirdly, Washington’s reaction was slow and stilted in case of Tunisian and Egyptian uprising and its tight lipped statements were heavily criticised world over. Fourth, the emergence of Islamic Brotherhood in Middle Eastern uprisings has actually motivated the US to intervene proactively this time on to foster ties with these fundamentalist groups through military support and aid.
Africa and the Arab world equate chaos with ‘revolution’ and think of turmoil as synonymous with revolution. Democracy is a process, not an event, and protests are a part of any democratic process. An uprising must not be confused with revolution; revolution is the toppling of the existing political apparatus that leads to a complete change from one constitution to another (for instance, the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran).
What remains an unanswered question is why South Asia, Pakistan in particular, which presently has all the ingredients needed for a true revolution, still lags behind despite the fact that it has been rocked by scandals such as the murder of a governor in broad daylight who dared to criticise man-made blasphemy laws, or the release of an American, purportedly protected by diplomatic immunity, after he had gunned down two Pakistani men in plain view of a crowd. Each of these incidents had the potential in them to spark off a tide of protest and precipitate an uprising, yet they lacked the leadership that would see it through. Do we even have those calibrated visionaries when the leftists stand divided?
Many analyse the present situation of the country as ripe for a ‘revolution’, seeing what has been going around in rest of the world. But comparing the socio-political liberties of Pakistanis with those of Arabs and Africans leads one to conclude that the former have a greater proportion of independence in most, if not all, aspects. Even though our media does not represent all classes of society, the limited segments it does represent do get their grievances ventilated. The western media has always been intense in its reaction to these uprisings and has always coined nomenclature that is fervent and sharp. Unfortunately, our local media instinctively follows what the western media propagates.
Long march, shutter down strikes, etc are all forms of protests indigenous to Pakistan, whereas, the gathering of mobs in large numbers was new to this generation of Middle Eastern and North African countries, regions that had always been suppressed by the autocrats. Public processions and head on collisions with government forces were just as unprecedented in their world of repression.
Another reason why the West cannot afford a revolution in Pakistan is the approaching Afghan endgame. The cost of interests and gains is high for the West. Any twitch internal to Pakistan will have a ripple effect as far as the Oval Office. The convolutions of poverty, psychological estrangements, governance issues, corruption allegations, social injustice and power deficits can never be overlooked, but at the same time, can never be catalysts for a revolution. Be it the killing of two Pakistani boys in broad daylight by a foreigner or Salmaan Taseer’s heroic killing, these correspond to post-traumatic stress symptoms of the ‘War on Terror’ proposed by Uncle Sam.
As put by Richard Nixon in 1980 look-ahead book The Real War, “Many of those who romanticise revolution prefer to view terrorism merely as one of the ills of modern society, or as an outraged response to intolerable social conditions. But ‘senseless’ terrorism is often not as senseless as it may seem ... it is a calculated instrument of national policy.”

The writer is a freelance columnist

Source :\04\18\story_18-4-2011_pg3_6

No comments:

Post a Comment