By Waheeduddin Ahmed, Ph.D.
I am very fond of reading the editorial page of â€œJangâ€ on line, the daily Urdu newspaper of Pakistan. The articles are no less articulate than those of the Op-Ed page in the New York Times: perhaps even more so. â€œJangâ€ can justifiably boast that it was and still is at the pinnacle of Urdu journalism. I remember reading the columns of Shaukat Thanwi, Rais Amrohi, Ibraheem Jalees and Ahmed Nadeem Qasimi yers ago. Now, when I read â€œJangâ€ my nostalgia kicks up and I am tempted to summon my own talent in writing Urdu prose and poetry, which has been in slumber for many decades. However, a number of things prevent me from doing so. Firstly, regaining fluency in Urdu will be time consuming; secondly, I would have no means of publishing my Urdu writings and the most important reason being that if the passion and the devotion of such literary geniuses as Irfan Siddiqui, Ata-ul-Haque Qasmi and Haroon Rashid have so far failed to move their nation, what difference would my mediocre political critique make, as I donâ€™t even live there?
The ahl-e-qalam (literarily the people of the pen) are pouring out their lamentations day and night, about what they see in and what they think will happen to Pakistan, in the manner of the prophets of Israel: Amos, Micah and Isaiah but will anyone listen? I say to myself: didnâ€™t the states of Judea and Samaria eventually perish?
The area of Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa, already hit by many man-made disasters is under water, drowning peopleâ€™s hopes and aspirations and the â€œelectedâ€ president is on an official self-serving tour of the enemy country; the prime minister goes to inspect a fake hospital for the victims of the flood! Can anything remotely as shameful be found in the annals of history?
In Pakistan, the word government means different things to different people. To some it is a God-given chance for the unlimited enhancement of personal wealth, to others, an opportunity to extend the power of life and death over other people. To the common man, words like democracy (jamhuriat, its Urdu equivalent) mean as much as a Latin botanical name for a family of wild flowers, devoid of any practical meaning. Elections are periodical episodes for pleasing the landlords and the bosses or to form gangs and bargain away the votes.
Pakistan was an idea, not a nation. Its morphosis never even began. Since the demise of its founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, ideals have evaporated and the light has gone out of nationhood. Starting from bureaucrats like Ghulam Mohammad, imperialist political agents like Iskander Mirza and self-declared field marshals like Ayub Khan, a long winter of oligarchical rule began, wherein some genuine politicians were assassinated like Liaqat Ali Khan and some like Khawaja Nazimuddin and Fazlul Haque trampled under the boots of dominant ethnic cultures, resulting in the eventual dismemberment of the country. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was a populist charismatic leader. His eloquence, his rhetoric about â€œIslamic Socialismâ€, his quest for nuclear deterrent and his anti-imperialist stance did not sit well in Washington and London — a parallel may be drawn with Patrice Lumumba of the Congo and Salvador Allende of Chile. So he was promptly dispatched. None like him had preceded him in Pakistan and none has followed. His progeny has taken up his mantle, like in many other South Asian countries where wives and daughters follow famous fathers and husbands but the mantle never fits; the hidden faces of incompetence and unworthiness assume enormous proportions under the veils of lineage. The ancestral genius seldom propagates; often it degenerates. In Pakistan, Bhutto had tried to abolish feudalism but after him it came back with a vengeance and took hold of the party he left behind. His daughter was wooed by the very countries and cultures he had denounced and was married into a family of business people with unsavory business practices, quite distant from the educational standards of the Bhuttos. In the end, following his execution, his idealism was also put to death.
We have four secular political parties in Pakistan today. Each is a family mafia, more like the Columbian drug cartels than like the All India Muslim League of Jinnah. Elections in Pakistan are incapable of returning any government but of thieves and dacoits. The mother nation will deliver what it is impregnated with, its womb being vile and defiled. As the elite live in ivory towers, intermittent military dictatorships toll the bells of doom in the corridors of power. Alternating between the cabals of political parties, when a general is not at the helm, has increased the surge of fatalism and corruption. Some religious leaders are so devoid of religious ethics that when they cast their shadows on society, many contemplate relinquishing religion. Masjids are now slaughter houses for vile sectarian fanatics, who seek hellfire under the minaret rather than in whorehouses and taverns.
To a historian these conditions are not unfamiliar. They existed in many countries prior to revolutions. The French revolution, the Bolshevik revolution and the Islamic Revolution of Iran were carried on the shoulders of people fed up with less severe socio-political conditions. Pakistan is now ripe for a revolution but the nature of the revolution is unpredictable. Revolutions happen in urban centers, not in the agrarian hinterlands. In Pakistan, the demography of cities like Karachi, Hyderabad, Lahore, Peshawar and Multan will be a determining factor. Karachi is in the grip of a mafia exploiting peopleâ€™s ethnic divisions and grievances. Spontaneous uprisings such as in Paris and Tehran may or may not happen in Karachi and Lahore. However, if the young ones: the students, the workers and the unemployed come out, they will have a tryst with success. There is no time to waste; they should rise and march towards destiny.