By: | Muhammad Tabish Sarfaraz |(Masters in International Relations from University of Karachi)
We all grow up idolizing our elders; parents, siblings, extended families and in few instances even those who are not our blood relatives. For a very long time, they are the ones who shape us; dressing, education and outlook on life even the things that are arbitrary such as food choices and discriminatory practices.
Part of growing up is indeed finding our own feet and making our own choices. We cannot be expected to continue living the lives that our predecessors had planned for us. This part of life is the toughest; not for all but certainly for many. Ameer ul Momineen Ali ibn Abu Talib (RA) once remarked, “Do not raise your children the way (your) parents raised you, they were born for a different time.” How apt this quote is for all generations to come? Yet, in many, if not all aspects, we continue to rely on generations old methods and experiences, for times that are not only different but vastly challenging.
Though this quote can directly be applied to nearly all notions of life, I am concerned more the connotations this has on a sociological and political sphere. Mine is a country where democracy and dictatorship have had a merry dance for its entire history. Mine is also a country living in the twenty first century but lingering far in the past. It is also a country were education has not brought about wisdom. It is a society where we still stick to the discourses of the past as if they were Universal Truths.
The road leading to this problem is two ways. One comes from the people who influence of our lives in the earliest stages as mentioned previously; the other, from our discourse, which has unfortunately not gone through evolution. There is a third path as well, largely ignored but present nonetheless. We do not wish to change our opinions. The mentality of status quo so firmly embedded that we do not know anything apart from it.
History is there to render all its facts. And as such, history does dictate our experiences of the present but not entirely. As my late professor, who taught us European History and Diplomacy, Professor Sheikh Mutahir Ahmed, once explained that history is not repetitive but events are. The common mistake is that we often fail to distinguish the difference between the two.
As an avid reader of history and of politics as well, I often cringe at some of the absurdly weird ideas that go around regarding politics of Pakistan. The topic itself is highly contentious, never failing to result in heated arguments and even more heated tempers. But this frenzied emotional state often leaves no space for reasoned discussion. I do not like to debate in non formal settings because opinions are very hard to break down and everyone is entitled to their own. But there is such a thing as a wrong opinion. I have many such opinions, which I am quick to disregard if proven that it is indeed wrong but this common courtesy of evades other people, who cherish their opinions as they are the truths. And in many instances, their opinions have not been formed by themselves as they are a result of the transfer of opinions from preceding generations.
The very recently convicted former Prime Minister and his very vocal supporters present this very phenomenon accurately. All I hear is “Establishment! Establishment! Establishment!” I can only muster a wry smile. In the late seventies, the very famous and by some accounts, extremely alive Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was hanged in a contentious Supreme Court decision. There in is the similarity being drawn. While neither I nor a large number of other current generation were alive back then, we listened to the countless stories how the military regime hanged Bhutto. And it makes sense objectively. Zia could not have hoped to be spared if he let Bhutto go and the result is Bhutto’s immortalization. The semblance is not fitting the current narrative. There is no dictatorship or military rule. Democracy has been firmly entrenched since 2008. The elections have been scheduled. There is an interim government in place. But these arguments are met with deaf years. The counter argument is more amusing.
The military has influenced the judiciary. But the petition was filed by leaders of opposition, notably the fight against corruption was led by the bat wielding, cricket analogy infused former cricketer turned politician. The last Army chief did not take an extension, even though, I am sure no one would have objected if he had as he was highly popular with the populace. There definitely is a wholesome commitment to democracy from all ends but this discourse of military being the almighty controller of things is hardly holding up anymore.
But, we do not want to change. The opinions of our forefathers, who grew up in a drastically different socio-political environment continue to dictate our own outlook and discourse. I may be pegged as a pro-GHQ person for saying this but that is a better option for me to be honest than supporting someone who is a convicted criminal; who looted billions from me and my people and continues to pander as if a hero. I do not have any severe political leanings and certainly do not favour any political party but what I do know is that Pakistanis continue to profess an infantile approach to politics; one that refuses objectivity and reason but continues the hereditary trends of the past. The words of Walter Cronkite perhaps ring very true for us as a society,
“We are not educated well enough to perform the necessary act of intelligently selecting our leaders.”
The writer tweets at : https://twitter.com/theee_tabish?lang=en