There is a difference between grass roots and street power.
To start with the MQM. It had the kind of street power that could both empty and fill the streets to considerable effect: Its leverage worked; but it was not admired. The MQM as factionalized –- imploded and exploded –- no longer commands that kind of street power.
Yet, alongside of its waning street power, its grass root political strength is more clearly perceived. Besides its thugs (I choose that word for its wider etymological ethnic resonances) it evidently has a broad constituency that remains loyal to cadres of a well-organized party whose workers stayed in touch with and served and protected the people they represented. The party leadership presently is amorphous even though the founder is unambiguously self-destructed, but the constituency remains. Continue reading “Taking to the streets”
If ‘Go Nawaz Go’ is the mood of the chanting crowds, ‘Get Nawaz Get Him’ is the animus of the Opposition. Unfortunately, it is embarrassing to ask just how and where they themselves, singly or collectively, intend to go once they’ve got their quarry. Continue reading “Taking the Opposition seriously”
May 12th 2017 is as good as come and gone. As I recall 2007—the year of CJP Iftikhar Chaudhry, for his persona was at once the catalyst and dynamic—that May 12th anniversary marker’s mood-content would be anachronistic today. Its villains and martyrs have squirmed and shifted, and are no longer held firmly within the mould of that year’s context.
TO whom would you give the Monumental Stupidity Award? The Sharif camp for offering — if it indeed did offer — the incorruptible Imran Khan a bribe to shut up about PanamaLeaks; or Imran Khan for “disclosing” what can only remain yet another allegation?
It is hard to take up “facts” when they keep varying, but an aspect of the disclosure that intrigues me is that the emissary/go-between is said to be an individual long turned sadiq and ameen— maybe of the kind that turns kundun after having done much personally to feed the fiery flame? Of course such probity implies they can be trusted not to divert the lucre; but what of the moral philosophy that the bribed and the briber are equally heinous? Are middlemen blameless as mere facilitators or do they get it
Our country’s history predisposes us to dwell on the tensions of the civil and military relationship and the resultant impact on our politics. Implicit in the spasmodically yet doggedly publicized affaire of Dawn ‘Leaks’ is the underwriting of the thought that the armed forces and the civil government are/may/will be at cross-purposes; or that one or both of these bulwarks of the state may have conflicting currents within them: A more perilously confusing state—domestically and internationally—than the frank impropriety of civil government being subservient to military diktat; or the armed forces blatantly flouting or choosing to act independently of civilian policy’s direction and directives. Continue reading “Flipping pages”
IT is of course entirely politically incorrect to miss the doctrine of necessity, and still more reprehensible to think wistfully of the Eighth Amendment. I would hate to appear on the side of our uniformly distinguished dictators who (fairly successful in some ways though toxic in others) variously went a-looking for the essence of democracy; an indigenous democracy not overawed by modes as of Parliament and Capitol Hill; or quite humbly a basic democracy; using those very legal implements. But quoi faire? Our democracy flounders like the bat in democratic daylight and finds its wings when fighting the dark of martial law. Continue reading “Learning the hard way”
A FRIEND sent me his greetings on New Year with this verse: “Apnay haathon say dastar sumbhaloon kaisay/ Donon haathon mein kashkol pakar rakha hai.” (How should I hold up my turban when I hold the begging bowl with both my hands?)
The truth of this verse hit me when a news item in this paper reported the proceedings of the Senate recently. The government had come under fire from a PTI member for piling up external and domestic debts to such proportions that servicing them was becoming impossible.
One should not dismiss this as political gimmickry to embarrass the ruling party. After all, which party in Pakistan has even attempted to be self-reliant by adopting austerity as a policy to reduce the government’s dependency on loans? With few parties remaining in office for too long, every ruler spends money with abandon knowing that the chickens will come home to roost when he will not be around to cope with the problem. Continue reading “Loss of dignity”
In a subcontinent where street power has been instrumental in ridding its peoples of British Raj and where ignoring it has also been implosive—as in the presently heavily occupied Kashmir and the no longer existent East Pakistan—it is an achievement of sorts that our politicians have been able to trivialize it: mass demos, dharnas, rallies, jalsas, have become stale as well as tiresome.
But it would be perilously delusional to assume that the consequences of the sustained abuse of street power can be counted on as also being trivial and dull.
Pakistan’s politicians conceive of street power as a tool of political one-upmanship: who had the larger turnout where. The public why and because are secondary rather than motivational, and the objective is to wrest power from the incumbents and gain it for the leaders’ party machine. (There is much verbiage but little evidence or precedent that power thus gained will be exercised in the public interest first and foremost.) The PTI’s use of its glitzy street power has been frankly disruptive but it has yet to gain the critical mass to get Nawaz to ‘go’ as bid. Other political parties align with the lionized Imran Khan and his PTI off and on in unedifying bargaining to gain traction for—first things first—Nawaz to go. The spirit is we’ll join hands but reserve the right to turn on each other later. Continue reading “Street power”
THE turnout at the walk organised last Sunday by Citizens against Weapons (CAW) was heartening. Started in 2014 by some concerned citizens, the campaign is catching on. I had joined them at a rally on an intersection of a busy area in Karachi two years ago. There were then barely 50 protesters. On Sunday, there were 400 or so.
One of them, activist Naeem Sadiq, whose motto is ‘say no to guns’, has been working on this goal for a decade. He and his colleagues want to rid the whole country of guns and the message is gaining adherents as a larger number of people — that does not include our rulers — begin to understand the significance of deweaponisation in ending violence. Continue reading “Enough is enough”
Pakistan’s democracy is an evolutionary process in which representative legislation derived from the popular electoral mandate moves in the direction of better governance. The electorate and the elected learn politically and self-correct. The mandates conferred in 2008 and 2013 may be viewed in that light: Government at the federal centre changed hands each time, and provincial mandates mutated. Tahirul Qadri’s PAT established an irrelevance within the electoral process; while Imran Khan’s PTI registered a significant though scattered national rise, and formed the government in KP. Given the PPP’s decline, Imran’s party emerged as a vibrant third force in the national parliamentary configuration. But the overall electoral outcome left Punjab in the grip of the PML(N) – where Imran tirelessly alleges massive rigging – and denied the PTI a high profile in urban Sindh.
Setting aside what the party may or may not have established about its ability to govern by the standards it demands in others; what example has its oppositional mode offered in terms of federal politics – which — as Pakistan is a federal republic – has acute relevance for each one of its citizens. Continue reading “Remember remember ? November”