Friday, July 20, 2007

Pakistan Twenty Oh Seven, Twenty Oh Seven

I could start today, given the events in Pakistan, with what Iqbal, one of the greatest thinkers and poets South Asia has produced, said:
Sulthani-e-Jamhoor ka atha hai zamaana
Joe naqsh-e-kuhan thum koe nazar aayay mitaa dho
[Comes, now, the era of the People's Reign
What signs of oppression you see; erase them]
But being the Pakistani elitist liberal that I am, caution and paranoia are my first reactions. What I am reminded of is a poetic piece by a friend of mine, which includes the lines:
Dhar-Dhar shehnaa'ee baajay gee
Jamhoor paree yaan naachay gee
Yehi bhanshanr ab sarkaree hain...
[Everywhere the flutes of joy will ring
Fair Fairie Democracy will dance, here, with joy
These speeches now are the official line...]
and goes on to say
Hum bheek kay ghandhum kh-aathay hain
Hum apnee sohni dharti maain
Apnon kee laashain ugaathay hain
Haan sharm-e-hayaa say aaree hain
Hum pandhraa crore bhikaari hain...
[We live off grain we got as beggars
In this fair beloved land of ours
We reap the corpses of our own
Yes, we are devoid of shame
We are a a hundred and fifty million beggars]
The same friend, having come up politically in a religio-political party in his student days, now says that each of these things (Lal Masjid, the CJ, May 12th...) are distractions from the neo-liberal selling out of the country under an international banker's supervision. Of course, he didn't use the phrase "neo-liberal selling out", but was talking about things like Mr "Shortcut" Aziz's government's total neglect of the sector that is the backbone of the country's economy: agriculture. We Pakistanis used to pride ourselves in the 70s and 80s that no one was dying of hunger in our country--we had our first few farmer suicides (a phenomenon that's been going on in India for while) in the last year or so.

So now the people have a victory. And the rule of law is big in the words of leaders.

Never mind that when the coup originally happened the whole current crop of folks chanting "Rule of Law!" "Rule of Law!!", from New York Times best seller Mohsin Hamid to every Silicon Valley Yuppie were either being supportive or equivocating. The gentleman just reinstated, at some point, took an oath under the constitutional scheme currently in place. One media darling, and especially popular with young yuppies, is Imran Khan. Don't ask me why; he's never won a single parliamentary seat fair and square--the ONE seat his party has was a gift from the establishment; his opponent, the incumbent/natural candidate from that seat and who carries the same family/clan name (Khan Niazi) as him, withdrew in his favour the last weekend before the election] was doing. He's leading a chant of "Rule of Law!", "Rule of Law!!" Here's what he was doing right after the current coup:

http://www.wsws.org/articles/1999/oct1999/pak-o16.shtml

The only clear voice for constitutional integrity was the "liberal"s everyone's bashing nowadays:

http://www.fas.org/news/pakistan/1999/991013-pak1.htm

The full statement from the Human Rights Commision of Pakistan (HRCP) is at right.

That's who we should all be working with and supporting. But what do I know? I am just an elitist liberal from Pakistan.

Having said that (as I did in email, earlier in the day) a friend chastised me for a negative note on the one day that Pakistanis can feel proud.

Thing is, I already wrote a blog post expressing my pride in things Pakistani just a couple of days ago:

I take time out regularly to be proud of things Pakistani--and I often do it "off-season", too, not just when the whole crowd has deigned to join us; see here, here, here, here, and here, for example.

But on today's events, I think it is the duty of those of us cursed with memories to be the ones urging caution. All I can say is that , for example, progressive activists must have felt as proud as all of Persia the day they overthrew the Shah. And the feeling must have lasted, what? a few months? It was just a few days ago that William Dalrymple was saying that "Pakistan today in many ways resembles pre-revolutionary Iran...." and "...[s]ome fear that Islamists could hijack the protests of the lawyers’ movement, just as they hijacked the civil-rights protests against the Shah in Iran in 1979..." [You can read the full article here.]

I don't want to be the wet blanket on happiness. I celebrate today, a victory for the people. Sulthani-e-Jamhoor ka athaa hai zamana and all that. I love it!

But tempering joy with some of what we have learnt in the last 3-6 cycles we have gone through might not be a bad thing. But then, like I said, what do I know? I am just an elitist liberal from Pakistan.

PS: A shout-out to the Teeth Maestro for providing the inspiration for the subject line by pointing out the uniqueness of the date.

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