Monday, November 19, 2007

Patriotism and Common Sense

The Article by Mr. Baig entitled 'Path of a Patriot' is a much needed starting point for a debate that has been burning around campuses since the imposition of Martial Law. Before beginning my analysis, I would like to highlight that discussion on this point should continue since it is essential for understanding the present situation. While I completely agree with Mr Baig that the removal of the General is not a cause worth endorsing on its own, I have serious reservations about what has subsequently been said in the article. Let me first highlight what I conceive the General's removal to mean. I agree that if the General were removed today, and another military ruler took over, we would not have moved an inch beyond where we stand today. This means that the fundamental fight is NOT against General Musharraf as a person, but the institutional role of an unelected, hierarchical entity in Pakistani politics, i.e. the military. This is an underlying point on which my response to Mr Baig's article would attempt to build upon. This means that Mr Pervaiz Musharraf, contrary to what Mr Baig believes, DID not go through a metamorphosis from an Idealist, to a proponent of realpolitick and finally a Machiavellian Prince. Rather, the very removal of Nawaz Sharif by a military General shows how the ROOT of the malady facing Pakistan, is not Benazir Bhutto or Nawaz Sharif; it is the continued interference of the army in the polity of the country, masquerading as our saviour.

It is natural therefore, that the present struggle is a struggle against this institution that has thwarted any attempts for democratic consent to exist in this country ( ignoring the argument that we are not ready for democracy, often found in elite circles and more recently in the General's martial law imposition speech). Ofcourse, politicians have always been a support mechanism for military regimes, but the overiding power has always existed with the army. The assertion that Benazir is a more vociferous proponent of international interests is absolutely incorrect since BB's party atleast has roots within the masses Pakistan, unless ofcourse, Mr Baig conforms to the same elitist sensibilities that PPP supporters are nothing more than illiterate peasants, easily duped by their leader everytime. General Musharraf has absolutely no roots within this country (his referendum can be testament to that) and Mr Bush still calls him America's 'Staunch ally' in the war on terror. Who can forget the billions of dollars received by Pakistan to butcher innocent Afghani's, massacre its own people in Waziristan and Swat to counter 'Terrorism' and the selling out of Pakistan's assets (including telecommunications) to foregin companies. Even the General's Prime Minister, Mr SHORTCUT Aziz, a man with no political constituency in Pakistan, is like a 'Gift' to Musharraf from International Donour Agencies. No one represents international strategic interests more than the General, and the reason for this is the fact that dictatorships in Pakistan have never found popular support amognst the mass. Insteadm the have relied primarily upon international powers (with a few local renegades thrown in, like the Chaudry brothers today).

As for corruption, who can compete with the Army's billions of dollars of legitimate corruption, using the state appratus to obtain loans and grants for businesses, from construction to corn flakes. The Army is also the biggest land holder in the country, fleecing several thousand peasants off their lands to make poultry farms and farm houses. Field Marshals, like Khattak Abbas Khan are known to have recieved kickbacks of 180 million rupees through the sale of mirage fighters. Countless other cases of corruption exist that are never investigated due to the fear of the military, while all attention is cast upon the corruption of politicians. The Armed forces already recieve more than 50 % of the budget to kill its own people in Balochistan, Swat and Waziristan and sells nuclear weapons to other countries. The reason for viewing politicians as corrupt and ignoring the biggest corruptor, stems from years of a 'sytematic demeaning of politics' in this country, the brunt of which has been borne by the PPP. This comes as no surprise since the PPP is perhaps the only party with a consistent record of fighting the military establishment. Notwithstanding the fact that Benazir is corrupt, the biggest danger to unity today stems from creating fissures in the opposition by calling an end to Benazir along with the General. The reasons are quite simple. The fight against dictatorship can only succeed if a democractic government of National Unity is formed, something that all political parties, including the PPP is calling for. Democracy without BB would ignore the biggest political opposition to the Military Establishment, without which any democratic set-up is unforseeable atleast in the near future. We definitely need to bypass BB at some point in time, just like we need to bypass the PML (N), or the Jamat-i-Islami. This is only possible, however, if we allow democratic processes to find their course, citizens to scrutinize their leaders, and most importantly, if we reject the misguided notion that we need UNIFYING LEADERS. We do not need unifying leaders to be our saviours, this would be the same as the General's claim. We need democratic institutions to be allowed to take route, and the only way for that to happen, is if the military is taken out of the power equation permanently, and a democratic government of national unity through free and fair elections is allowed to function. Any other path can create discord amongst the opposition and turn our attention away from the main struggle of the present time.

The Path of a Patriot

Opposing General Pervez Musharraf is not a cause worth endorsing solely by itself.

General Pervez Musharraf is not the man he was when he first usurped the seat of Pakistan's government. Over time as his political age has advanced, he has undergone a staged metamorphosis: from an amateur idealist, to a practitioner of temperate Realpolitik, and then finally to an outright Machiavellian Prince.

It will be profoundly self-righteous of any single one of us to contend with authority that if exposed to the General's temptations - the troika of International interests, institutional weaknesses and a manipulable judiciary - we ourselves would not succumb to a similar fate. Opposing General Pervez Musharraf is therefore akin to focussing on the proverbial symptoms of a malady, and not its root, when in fact ours should be a struggle against the method of perpetuation of our affliction and not its recurring product. We are merely opposing a masque today.

It is high time that we question our motives before treading any further with placards in hand and slogans on tongue. The return to democracy we yearn for today can potentially be a rude awakening since General Pervez Musharraf's successor – in the wake of an all-pardoning National Reconciliation – is set to be Ms. Benazir Bhutto. Notwithstanding those forgotten corruption charges of fraudulently amassing roughly $1.5B of the nation's wealth[1], she is a more vociferous representation of strategic international interests than the General; she is the proverbial soldier of fortune.

This implies that there will undoubtedly be an intensification of tribal conflict leading to increased national destability in the event of her election and subsequent government. Moreover, the tide of extremism in Pakistan is unlikely to be subdued by a satellite government zealously enforcing external decree; if anything, it will fuel the same. Overall, such a fanning of the flames could be a fatal development in a climate where the country's social fabric is reminiscent of 1971 and international monitors are preparing contingency plans for securing Pakistani nuclear assets. Quite simply the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) is a threat to national security – Ms. Benazir Bhutto's ascent must be stopped. This is as crucial as our government's reversion to democracy and deposition of General Pervez Musharraf; and so we have two objectives to achieve - not just one.

Our struggle at present is predominantly composed of pro-democracy demonstrations marked with an indifference to political positioning. A lot has been said in favor of this strategic non-alignment, and rightly so. However, such apathy is jeopardous on at least one account: the movement is an easy target for political highjack. Even as you read this, the PPP is actively conflating the tide of sentiment in Pakistani youth with its own pressure tactics. And it is no secret that having inherited the devotion of Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's unflappable loyalists, the PPP needs but a small further push to tip the scales completely in its favor. By being non-aligned, we give this party exactly that opportunity. This profound risk should not be overlooked when assessing the true virtue of our neutralism, and its true cost to our future.

We need to elevate our intellectual capital to genuinely understand the crossroads we find ourselves standing at today. In this regard, a study of history can be valuable since there exist patterns in human behavior which accord it a degree of predictability. Our struggle can hence greatly benefit from comparable examples from these archives - hindsight has the latency to impart wisdom no conjecture can provide. And so, the following case is worthy of notice.

There are lessons to be learnt from India. On 25th June 1975, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi imposed emergency in the country - precisely two weeks after the High Court in Ahmedabad UP (where she had won parliament elections in 1971) ruled her recent election win void due to election fraud. Soon the prime minister, aided by the promulgation of President’s Rule, was ruling virtually by decree and thus began the country’s turbulent two-year journey through calculated oppression.

Ms. Gandhi was a proponent of a rather efficient school of oppression management. She administered a generous dose of comprehensive media blackout throughout the land, in effect birthing a communicative quarantine that drove deep schisms through the opposition camp and compartmentalized it into isolated pools. This efficiently dispersed the threat of a backlash. Leaders who took the cause of opposition found their clout limited in the absence of established channels of information flow, and so a unifying figurehead to lead the people of the land in their darkest hour was unable to flourish.

The Indian example can give us a better understanding of our own situation. Firstly, the example illuminates the indispensability of effective communication, without which, the rivers of protest cannot converge to form the ocean of change. Any tyrant understands this modus operandi, and thus does his paramount to disallow it. Secondly, it deconstructs the mechanics of tyranny: a potentially equivalent popular-reaction develops as a direct consequence of oppression, but precipitates only when catalyzed by a unifying leadership structure – or disperses ineffectually otherwise.

It is imperative that we truly understand the function of the aforementioned unifying leader. Unlike days of responsible citizenship, in times when the general populace cries "Revolution!” the role of a leader is less of a mobilizer and more of a focal point. . He is not required to inspire them into action – such impetus already beats within each protesting heart. He chiefly exists as an anti-thesis to the oppressor and gives the separately protesting throngs a locus of confluence. Consequently for such a figurehead to fill the leadership vacuum, the only crucial attribute is universal agreeability – for then, like fire-flies, the masses gravitate to him in expression of their dissent.

Therefore, we can realize our dreams for Pakistan by first designating a popular leader and then by empowering him through our voice, our action; our multitude. Such a platform of focussed patriotism has the potential of setting off a chain-reaction through capturing imaginations and stirring feet into vigor anew. And in this struggle, one good tiding is that we are all the progeny of the information age. In the guise of the World Wide Web, and to some extent cellular networks, we command a dissemination instrument which is pervasive and almost unstoppable. General Musharraf's emergency may have blacked out more conventional forms of media; it cannot restrain our virtual eyes, ears and tongues.

When considering the contendership of a unifying leader for our cause, the names of Hon'ble Mr. (Ex) Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Mr. Imran Khan and Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan naturally spring to mind. To my understanding, all three are compelling choices. I am of the view that whereas extremely competent and reasonably charismatic Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan would be nothing short of a grave national risk given his allegiance to Ms. Benazir Bhutto. Unless the good Barrister publicly proclaims his independence from the PPP to eliminate any conflict of interest therein, we should maintain his ineligibility for the position. In between Hon'ble Mr. (Ex) Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and Mr. Imran Khan, I would lend my support to the latter, given his hitherto commendable record of public service (the Cancer Hospital), his outspoken patriotism and his public appeal. On the whole, time is of the essence for us to reach a consensus on this choice. Destiny will not forgive, nor forget, our complacency.

The efficacy of our struggle is dependent upon efficient, disciplined micro-management. In this consideration, our foremost duty is that of pervasive information dissemination. And the most effective method of accomplishing this duty is dedicating the greatest amount of time to engaging new, hitherto unaffiliated individuals, instead of repetitively enlightening the enlightened. For we need to significantly expand the pool of our numbers to a critical mass – without which our voice would be lost in the tolling bells of suppression. It must not be expected that such a mass-contact campaign would be easy: we would need to nurture ample mental perseverance given the psychological demoralization inherent in laboring to awaken the apathetic, the bigoted and the morally flexible. We would find ourselves out of breath quite often.

We will harvest the uninitiated with the cruciality of our cause, and with our allegiances. We will not hesitate in revealing the true nature of our common enemy to them, leaving no inroad unexplored. We will resort to patriotic discourse where necessary, to sheer rationale where required and to dialectical resilience where needed in order to convince our audience. We will use all communicative means available to us, prioritizing those which can achieve supreme impact in the least amount of time. Those of us possessing the dexterity of the tongue will use that tongue. Those with writing skills will put such skills to comprehensive use. Those with physical stamina will take to the open sky in a spirited show of constitution-bound demonstrating. And those with all three traits will generously indulge in all quarters.

Unity is the only way to success in joint activism and a splinter-group can undermine an entire cause; much like it takes but one traitor to defeat the whole group. Therefore, in our endeavors we will ensure inclusion along the commonality of ideology, and not stated goal – for clash of ideologies is seldom reconcilable. Secondly, we will maintain our dignity but curb our egos lest they jeopardize our alliance. Thirdly and most importantly, our integrity will be Jinnahite in its infallibility - we will never bend under pressure, we will never yield to fear, we will never succumb to enticement. These three mantras will form the bedrock of our struggle.

The current milieu is a time of flux; like putty it is ripe for molding and shaping. Our founding-fathers have left us with an invaluable blueprint of conflict management, and we are also intellectually well-poised to actualize a popular-reaction. Though we find ourselves outmatched by our opponents' cache of material resources and their Western patronage, we possess a potent counter in the fact that once in unison, we can resonate the realms. And therefore it is critical that we perceive our responsibility to our country's future, and then act upon it. Recognition of this responsibility and its concretization through considered steps is the real path to the fruition of our aspirations - the only path a true patriot knows.

[1] A 1999 US Senate sub-committee report using Mr. Asif Ali Zardari’s money laundering activities as one of the case studies can be read at:

The General holding nukes as hostage


Pakistan may face its ultimate destruction because of one person -its own military chief.

Having lost all other legitimacy, Musharraf is now bargaining with the west on a single point agenda.
"Allow me to stay in power, or else the nukes go into the militants hands. Only I (Repeat I), can safeguard the nukes. The west has a choice. Me or nuclear talibans."
If the people of Pakistan can not see through this fraudulent argument and take immediate actions to remove Musharraf from his job as the army chief as well as the President, they are any way going to be doomed. The US will determine its own method of protecting Pakistani nukes.
Musharraf has now publicly admitted that he broke the law by imposing emergency. What does the constitution of Pakistan say for those who violate constitution. It is an act of treason.
The struggle for restoration of democracy and justice must be launched from every street of Pakistan.

Today's Protests in Islamabad

1) Media Solidarity: Ary TV st 62, F7/4 2:25-3:30

2)Civil Society Gathering: 3:45- 5:30 PM, Cricket Staduim, F6/3