If the gesture is beautiful

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ARTICLE :French poet Laurent Tailhade, a strong anarchist supporter, shocked a literary supper when he exclaimed: What do the victims matter, as long as the gesture is beautiful? -a view, according to historian Michael Burleigh, the poet probably revised when a random anarchist bomb took out one of his eyes in a restaurant.

Pakistan heading towards a showdown between the forces who call themselves secular or ultra liberal, or both, and those who are labelled as a frenzied crowd of people burdened with a myopic, flawed and obscurantist worldview. Is it a simplification or over-simplification of this profoundly grave matter at this point in time? Or, the issue is actually more complex than Shakespeare s Macbeth?

Although, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to carry out the correct diagnosis of this situation and reach a suitable remedy, it is increasingly apparent that hoodlums, hooligans and racketeers of various ilk from among the crowds on both sides of the divide clearly seek to create conditions whereby the present system, which arguably, is a legacy of the colonial days, risks serious damage, if not outright annihilation.

In the foreword of Franz Fanon s The Wretched of the Earth, Homi K. Bhabha says: At the level of the unconsciousness, therefore, colonialism was not seeking to be perceived as a sweet, kind hearted mother who protects her child from a hostile environment, but rather a mother who constantly prevents her basically perverse child from committing suicide or giving free rein to its malevolent instincts. The colonial mother is protecting the child from itself, from its ego, its physiology, its biology and its ontological misfortune. . . .

It was sometimes in the 1990s that the pioneer of world-known Orangi Pilot Project the late Akhtar Hameed Khan told the students and faculty of an upscale Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture that it would be highly unwise if the architects of this school do not visit katchi abadis of this sprawling town and work for their mosques, community centres, drainage, etc, to bring about a qualitative change, however modest, in the landscapes of such localities with a view to bringing about an improvement in the quality of life of those who inhabit such neighbourhoods. Your failure would be a fatal one, for it would only contribute towards widening the gulf between the haves and the have-nots, exacerbating the social tensions that already exist in society, he warned them. Before one proceeds further to elaborate how instructive Khan Saheb s remarks, which he presented before a large number of people (this writer was one of them) were and how his worst fears have been confirmed by the present upheavals in society, one may go back to people widely known for their encyclopaedic knowledge to learn about the lessons history can offer about how such situations can be effectively addressed-if only by avoiding the mistakes of the past.

Michael Burleigh, who is said to have unflinchingly shed a light on the nature of terrorism starting from the West to the present-day global threat of Jihadist violence, in Blood & Rage - A Cultural History of Terrorism has chronicled, among other things, as how the press sedulously propagated the idea of a world-wide army of anarchists willing to avenge suffering humanity. For example, the reporting of the killing of king Umbarto of Italy directly inspired the assassin of
US president William McKinley. He quotes Sir Howard Vincent, one of the founders of Scotland Yard s Criminal Investigation Department, as saying: `The advertisement of anarchism, as many other crimes, infallibly lead to imitation. That was why the French Chamber of Deputies made serious legislative efforts to prohibit reporting of trials of anarchists, according to Burleigh.

In Uncivil War: Intellectual and Identity Politics during the Decolonization of Algeria, James De LeSeuer has argued that citizenship becomes the unstable, unsustainable psycho-affective site in conflict between political and legal assimilation, and the respect for, and recognition of, Muslim ethical and cultural affiliations. According to LeSeuer, between 1865 and 1936, fewer than three thousand Algerian Muslims had availed themselves of Napolean s senatus consulte, which extended French citizenship to those people who agreed to divest themselves of civil status under Islamic law. One may seek to find an answer to the present-day situation in
Pakistan with what happened later in Algeria where Algerian statute of 1947 made another gesture of goodwill towards the natives, which was nothing but a sleight of hand.

Let us begin with the denial of power to the vast majority of the people by the elite on one hand, and the inter-tribal and inter-faith animosities on the other that have been the hallmark of the 60-year history of Pakistan: the people have never been empowered. Not only have they been blighted on account of divisions, fissures and animosities among themselves, whatever the state has done for its majority of people has been nothing. Those who have been availing senatus consulte over a period of time have been found to be more indifferent and even callous towards the plight of majority than their colonial predecessors. Ever since the death of the Quaid the elite of this country has progressed and prospered in leaps and bounds-both during the civilian and military rule. When the US, for example, was able to create a formidable strong middle class following the WWII, and India, being another example, was able to create an equally strong middle class by the 21st century, at least in terms of numbers, Pakistan remained devoid of such healthy development because of a variety of factors, including this nation s lack of ability to seize sovereign control with a view to articulating a prosperous future for itself.

In the case of Salmaan Taseer, an important representative of the federation, however, the state was perhaps seeking to be perceived as a sweet, kind hearted mother, instead of a mother who constantly prevents her basically perverse child from committing suicide or giving free reins to his malevolent instincts. He was pampered by the state and punished by an all pervasive disaffection writ large on society. While continuing drone attacks and increasing US intervention in country s internal affairs are steadily scuttling whatever sovereignty this nation had in the midst of redeemable debt and profoundly abysmal state of its economy, people who openly or quietly approve of Qadri s act seek to change the order, believing that the silent majority-a euphemism for moderates in Pakistan-is just silent; it has never been a majority.

Unfortunately, however, the constituency that Qadri represents lacks the required wherewithal or the ability to articulate for itself the required alternative as this country never had people that eventually could help shape a class struggle based on lessons drawn from Marxism to blend them with Islamic ethos and traditions. Neither had they Ahmad Kasravi nor Ali Shariati, nor Jalal Aal-e-Ahmad, not even Abdollah Entezam in their ranks who could strictly prepare them for a revolution , if not for elections for such an exercise can slow revolution as Lenin ordained in the run-up to October 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, although the tsar had made elaborate arrangements for giving people their right of franchise. Arguably, Lenin s was genuinely an approach to nihilism.

Pakistan, General Zia, who is widely blamed for injecting religion in politics, was quite careful towards his approach to dealing with clerics. An open admirer, if not a staunch follower, of Maulana Maudoodi, the founder of Jamaat-i-Islami, he had the dexterity to divide the clergy for his benefits. As very rightly pointed out by Burleigh that Zia encouraged modern clerics and co-opted them and left the traditional maulvis to continue to look after the madressahs the alternative to providing a decent public education . Notwithstanding the failure of Islamic Socialism during the days of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Zia, who had played a key role as a senior army officer in defeating an insurgency commonly known as Black September in Jordan, was able to articulate his strategy based on several other factors. Foremost of them was his strong appreciation of the state of stability that he had witnessed in the Arab world where most countries were and still are under despotic regimes (Burleigh seems to have missed this point in his focus on Muslim South Asia : pp 367-368). The sheikhdoms owe their stability or absence of social, political and economic turmoil to a policy of coercion, bribe, co-option and their respective populations strong adherence to Islamic traditions in relation to allegiance to a ruler as propounded by 11th-12th century sage Imam Abdul Hamid Al-Ghazali.

Any further deterioration in the present situation will give birth to some legitimate fears about the prospects of a la Hosni Mubarak regime lasting for decades in Pakistan, with people like supporters of Qadri, real and perceived, facing long spells of persecution and coercion if the oppressed again fail to discover an enduring strength to find a free and just society and a national consciousness regardless of their deeper sense of being continuously aware of their own anxiety and fragility and their new-found infatuation with terror.


Courtesy: Business Recorder

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