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Pakistan Press (23 May 2018 NewAgeIslam.Com)


Loving the Royals By Rafia Zakaria: New Age Islam's Selection, 23 May 2018






New Age Islam Edit Bureau

23 May 2018

Loving the Royals

By Rafia Zakaria

Two Steps Forward?

By Mahir Ali

Art Lessons

By Bina Shah

Challenges To Democracy

By Zahid Hussain

Trump’s Jerusalem Move

By Amanat Ali Chaudhry

Seeds of Fascism

By Amjad Bashir Siddiqi

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau

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Loving the Royals

By Rafia Zakaria

May 23, 2018

THERE are obvious reasons for Pakistan’s continuing fascination with the British royals. The bits and pieces of our colonial past, the adulation of white skin, of white customs, of white pomp and circumstance, had over two centuries to seep into the mind and blood of our ancestors. Power then was the ability to be the good subject, the obedient subject, properly dazzled by the pomp of the colonial masters.

The speakers of English, and the admirers of the English, were duly rewarded, and their progeny continue the tradition. The wealthiest display swords and statues, and mix and mingle in clubs that were begun by the colonists of old; having bowed before the conquerors is often offered up as if it were a badge of some bit of residual royalty, a claim to the crown itself.

It follows, then, that the latest royal wedding, that of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, was an occasion for commemoration, for rapt attention to the clothes and the jewels, the ceremony and circumstance. Many awaited the day with an eagerness not afforded the weddings of many; many others consumed every bit and piece of royal trivia, what the royal couple-to-be were saying or doing, whether Meghan’s dad would attend or not, whether her family, African-American, would be afforded the same warm welcome given to the family of the Duchess of Cambridge.

Pakistan’s adoration of archaic English customs is rooted in the idea that inherited wealth and stature must be the basis for the ordering of a society.

In these details, of course, lay another reason why royal weddings have such a hold over the country. The details of their gossip, whether the boy’s family would be appropriately respectful, whether the girl’s family would be adequately submissive, which relative would be miffed and who would refuse to show up, all bear shocking resemblance to the workings of weddings in Pakistan. To see the details of brown colonised family life imposed on those of the British royalty is an occasion of a lifetime. There are too many daughters-in-law waiting to show a little of their own feminism, à la Markle, to in-laws whose traditions are suffocating and dated and yet duly enforced on all new members of the family.

Then there is the issue of roles. As the noted British author Hilary Mantel wrote in an acidic (but brilliant) essay on the royals a few years ago, when the requirement of the job of princess (or prince, etc) is to follow a closely scripted role, one with little or no actual significance, then a plastic person, one with no edges of their own, is best suited for the job. Kate Middleton, the elder Bahu, in Mantel’s view is a perfect candidate.

As Mantel puts it, Middleton seemed to have been “selected for her role of princess because she was irreproachable: as painfully thin as anyone could wish, without quirks, without oddities, without the risk of the emergence of character. She appears precision-made, machine-made”. Pakistanis like similar sorts of daughters-in-law, and so it would make sense that they would be attracted to the drama of the next one’s initiation.

As in Pakistani households, the second daughter-in-law faces fewer expectations; her husband is not the first son, not the golden boy. So it is with the British royals, whose second son has gone off and married an American woman, an African-American woman. Not only has she been married before (at a ceremony in Jamaica), she is (gasp), at 36 years old, four years his senior.

In this, the British royal family has proven more accepting than the persnickety and self-righteous in-laws of the Pakistani variety. Even without castles and jewels at their command, Pakistani in-laws would be enraged and throw a fit if a dear son showed up with a divorced older woman — who is also (gasp) dark-skinned — as a bride. For all of Pakistan’s adulation of the royals, their own pretences at noble lineage, and the veins of prejudice and the creepy predilection for the ‘girl bride’ in the country that the British made, are too strong. For Pakistani mothers-in-law, scheming and judging on sofas around the land, Meghan Markle simply would not do.

In the Western world, in Britain itself, the royals are vestigial relics of the past that exist mostly for spectacle, a sort of living history exhibit that represents the past and the bygone. Pakistan’s adoration of the archaic customs that play out each time there is a royal wedding, however, is firmly rooted in the present, in the idea that inherited wealth and stature must be the basis for the ordering of a society, and that everyone, regardless of what they actually feel, should behave according to a closely scripted role. There is no room for anything else here, and so a public spectacle devoted to inherited privilege and scripted roles becomes an affirmation of sorts, a confirmation that the Pakistani way is the right way.

It is not the right way; it is in fact a suffocating and constraining way. Like the royals themselves, who eventually are all revealed to be either unhappy, unwell, greedy or philandering, the innards of Pakistan have become rotten quite possibly because they often refuse to change. Daughters-in-law grow up to be mothers-in-law, continuing the reign of terror that they lived through into the next generation, men visit the same abuse on women, everyone smiles and nods and waves and disintegrates inside.

It would be lovely indeed, if royal wedding fever in Pakistan was just that, curious fascination for a spectacle, for beautiful dresses and beautiful people. It is not that; it is a moment when the archaic beliefs and practices that continue to order marital lives in Pakistan are revived, albeit for only a moment, by the British. For one moment, the way Pakistanis live and love now can be imagined as the way the world’s living royals do as well.

Source: dawn.com/news/1409418/loving-the-royals

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Two Steps Forward?

By Mahir Ali

May 23, 2018

THEY may not qualify as echoes of May 1968, but a pair of intriguing developments means that May 2018 could go down as a historic turning point in the political trajectories of at least two very different countries.

First and foremost, the Malaysian election result earlier this month was remarkable on several counts. It was the first instance of power democratically changing hands in that country since it gained independence in 1957, and that too in a region where lately elections have generally served to reinforce the status quo. Furthermore, the ostensible transformation has been led by a nonagenarian who, until the turn of the century, personified the status quo, in collaboration with his most celebrated victim.

Mahathir Mohamad, during his 32 years as prime minister, frequently lapsed into the authoritarian category, especially in terms of crushing dissent. His most prominent victim was his deputy, Anwar Ibrahim, with whom he spectacularly fell out following the 1997 Asian financial crisis. Facetiously charged with sodomy, Anwar was brutalised and incarcerated for the remainder of Mahathir’s tenure.

He was imprisoned again, on the same absurd charge, after winning more votes than another Mahathir protégé, Najib Razak. Last week, Anwar emerged from imprisonment following a royal pardon obtained through Mahathir’s intercession as the newly elected prime minister, after the multi-ethnic coalition that includes both men’s parties unexpectedly won the election on a reformist agenda.

Malaysia and Armenia may be poised on the cusp of change.

Cronyism was among the accusations by Anwar on which he fell out with Mahathir in the 1990s, but the latter’s political machinations were not guided by the goal of personal enrichment. Najib’s regime, on the other hand, has been cited by the US Department of Justice as kleptocracy at its worst. Raids on his properties in recent days yielded not only incriminating amounts of cash in various currencies but also a haul of Hermes Birkin handbags and various other luxuries. Who knows whether Donald Trump was aware of his DOJ’s verdict when he feted Najib at the White House and presented him with a signed photograph inscribed with the words: “To my favourite prime minister.”

Najib’s biggest scandal revolved around billions siphoned off from a state fund known as 1MDB, including some $700 million that ended up in his personal account — although it has been claimed that amount came from personal Saudi donors. It was apparently the 1MDB embarrassment that was decisive in Mahathir turning against Najib and successfully seeking reconciliation with Anwar. Even so, no one seriously expected the opposition alliance to triumph against the Barisan Nasional coalition headed by the United Malays National Organisation, given the latter’s penchant for bribery, manipulation and gerrymandering.

But it seems the tide had decisively turned, and it seems to have helped that the opposition coalition, Pakatan Harapan, had a familiar figure at its helm — at nearly 93, Mahathir looks at least 20 years younger and remains perfectly coherent in his speech, which is still characterised by the sharp tongue that made him an entertaining presence at international gatherings.

If Mahathir’s late-life resurgence lends some sort of hope to Nawaz Sharif, others such as Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri may be more moved by the example of Nikol Pashinyan, who was catapulted in the past few weeks from protest leader to prime minister in Armenia.

The impetus for change evolved last month when Serzh Sargsyan, who had exhausted his two terms as president, sought to parachute himself into the prime ministership of the former Soviet republic — which has followed the common trajectory of a failed socialist model morphing almost instantaneously into neoliberal authoritarianism. Wide­spread protests, mainly rooted in economic discontent, persuaded Sargsyan to bow out. But his party, holding a parliamentary majority, initially rejected Pashin­yan as a replacement.

During the second vote, there were an estimated 250,000 people in the square and streets outside parliament, awaiting its verdict — that is, close to 10 per cent of the nation’s population. Enough members of the ruling party caved in for Pashinyan to emerge as the prime minister. In that capacity, he has promised to call fresh elections as soon as conditions are conducive. He has also promised to liberate the Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh from Azerbaijan, and thereby to solve a dispute that marred the final years of the Soviet Union and has persisted ever since.

Of course, in both these instances, one must concede that the harbingers of hope may be short-lived. Armenia isn’t exactly out of the woods, and in Malaysia the longevity of the anti-Najib coalition is difficult to predict now that he is out of the way and quite possibly headed for the courtroom dock. The hopes that have been raised may be disappointed. But they might not. If it’s premature for anyone to jump for joy, there’s certainly no harm in keeping one’s fingers tightly crossed.

Source: dawn.com/news/1409423/two-steps-forward

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Art Lessons

By Bina Shah

May 23, 2018

“DO you know anything about aboriginal art? No? Well, let me tell you about it.”

These confident words came not from a museum curator in Australia, but from a young student of SMB Fatima Jinnah Girls School, a government’ school in Karachi. I was at The Second Floor to see ‘Taruuf’, an art show by the students, and speak to them about the artwork, but instead, I got a lesson in what investing in art can do for children at every level of society.

Since 2007, Shehzad Roy’s Zindagi Trust has been managing SMB Fatima Jinnah Girls School, which caters to those children whose parents can’t afford to pay for their education. Along with improvements in infrastructure, teacher training, and governance, as well as extracurricular activities like football, chess and life skills, an art programme was started here and at the Khatoon-e-Pakistan Government Girls School. Teaching art to the students would help them discover their artistic and creative talents and develop into well-rounded citizens.

Girls had created self-portraits inspired by cubism.

Teaching art in Pakistan is extremely difficult. Teachers are not drawn to the subject; there is a serious lack of exposure to art among educators. The Zia years effectively turned art from a necessary part of society into something evil and taboo. Tanya Shah, head of the art department at PECHS Girls School, recounts stories of parents not wanting their children to draw hands and feet because they considered it un-Islamic. “If you want to kill a society, kill its arts,” she says.

It was a real challenge to introduce art into a school that had never even had a drawing teacher, but the Trust’s head of art, Anam Khalid and her colleagues were determined to prove that art could be taught at a low-income government school, and taught well. Attitudes would have to be changed too: the girls “hated” art and never wanted to choose it as a subject, and parents were equally negative.

Shahida Abdul Ghaffar, a teacher at SMB Fatima Jinnah, spoke about the dearth of art in the school. “Before this programme, we were only able to teach the girls simple things, like drawing a Pakistani flag or the four provinces of Pakistan.” Even rudimentary materials were too expensive for children to buy and bring to class, but the programme supplied the paints, brushes, pencils and papers. Art became a weekly subject at both schools, with Ms. Khalid training teachers about different mediums, techniques, and famous painters. The teachers then passed this information on to their students.

Not only did students learn the art of different cultures and countries through the curriculum, but they learned art history as well. They went on field trips to “find art everywhere” — museums, heritage buildings, place of worship, galleries and universities. A huge art room was opened at each school, with students’ work displayed. Ms. Khalid reports that when parents walked in, they were bowled over by the art their daughters had created. Soon, parents were asking Ms. Ghaffar why she wasn’t assigning them more art homework; some even demanded that only art be taught to their girls.

The art programme had unexpected results: attendance went up, and so did enrolment. Student achievement rose in other subjects, too, because art was integrated into the entire curriculum. In biology class, studying mammals, students were told to draw an imaginary creature made out of two separate mammals.

Parents began to withdraw their children from low-cost private schools and register them in the government schools just so that they could access the art programme. Although it was only coincidence that the schools with the art programme were for girls, parents began to ask, “What about our sons? Can’t they learn art too?”

At the T2F exhibit, young girls in 7th and 8th class talked enthusiastically about pointillism, the life of Pablo Picasso (the four periods of his artistic career were explained very carefully to me), how optical illusions worked, and the origins of Pakistani truck art. Girls had created self-portraits inspired by Paul Klee and cubism; desi takes on the Mona Lisa; collages and pastel drawings. They knew more about art than I did.

The effect on the girls’ personal development might be the real miracle here: their minds began to open to the world, and to the beauty in it, but they also started to think about their place in the world and what they might accomplish.

Since the programme was introduced, some girls have graduated and begun studying at Karachi University and medical college. Others have come back asking to be taken on as interns so they can help with the art and football programmes (another success story waiting to be told). Art has made these girls bloom; imagine what it could do for every child in Pakistan.

Source: dawn.com/news/1409420/art-lessons

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Challenges to Democracy

By Zahid Hussain

May 23, 2018

DEFYING the doubters, the National Assembly will complete its five-year term next week. Notwithstanding the thunderbolts that frequently jolted the political process, the system has survived. Transition from one elected government to another now appears a reality, though there are still a few hurdles to cross.

It will indeed be a high point in the country’s rocky democratic journey. These five years like the previous ones have also been extremely tumultuous, in which yet another elected prime minister has bitten the dust. The unceremonious ouster of arguably the country’s most powerful elected figure continues to cast long shadows over the fragile democratic political process.

Already barred from the electoral process for life, the exit may mark the end of Nawaz Sharif’s long yet chequered political career, though not the end of the Sharif political dynasty. The elections would certainly lead to a changing of the guard but can that bring any qualitative transformation in the system?

It remains to be seen whether the much-touted transition could change the existing power dynamics and bring political stability to the country or would it result in further weakening of the elected bodies, with non-elected institutions filling the void. The apprehensions about installation of a hybrid political system with the military and judiciary becoming an informal part of the power troika are not without reason. In fact the country is already experiencing this creeping phenomenon.

Instead of an improved quality of democracy, Pakistan has been sliding in the opposite direction.

It is not just imbalance of power and persistent confrontation among various institutions of the state that has caused the disorder; the political leadership too is responsible for undermining the democratic process. Parliament has been reduced to a chaotic debating club with the leadership showing no deference to the elected house.

Members and top political leaders alike show little respect for legislative proceedings as attendance frequently falls way below the 25pc mark leading to premature adjournments and even prorogation. During the four years when he was in power, Sharif seldom attended parliamentary sessions. His slogan “give respect to the vote” sounds hollow, given his utter contempt for the elected forums.

Some of the opposition parties too have been responsible for undermining the role of parliament. The PTI boycotted the National Assembly for almost one year and Imran Khan never refrained from expressing his disdain for the elected forum. He rarely appeared in the house, even after the party ended the boycott.

Moreover, when they did deign to be present in the assembly, parliamentarians would hardly participate in debate, even on important national and foreign policy issues thereby rendering the legislative body ineffective. This has also led to the inability of the lawmakers to resolve political and institutional crises. Unsurprisingly, the country failed to make a steady transition towards improved democracy.

Despite the fact that Pakistan has entered the longest uninterrupted period of elected civilian rule in its history, democracy appears to be weakening. While elected governments and political leadership ceded space in policy spheres, the military has increased its overreach into areas outside of its professional domain.

With parliament and the civilian law-enforcement agencies having been rendered ineffective by the elected leadership, weak governance has allowed the judiciary to extend its role. Some judges too appear to have succumbed to populist pressures when they give mostly unwarranted observations during the course of judicial proceedings.

Lack of internal policy cohesion and focus on national issues has further weakened the democratic process. One of the factors obstructing the growth of a democratic culture and ethos has been the absence of democracy within the political parties. Most have turned into family enterprises or revolve around personalities.

There is no tradition of internal party debate on critical policy issues and it all depends on the whims of the leaders. Party elections are a sham and conducted merely for the sake of fulfilling a legal formality. The swiftness with which politicians change their party affiliations overnight for the sake of expediency, and the manner in which political parties woo so-called ‘electables’ illustrate the lack of principles in our political culture.

Instead of a steady transition towards an improvement in the quality of democracy, Pakistan has been sliding in the opposite direction more rapidly since 2013 when the PML-N returned to power and Nawaz Sharif was elected as prime minister for a record third time.

According to a report by the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency, while the quality of democracy in 2013 scored its highest in four years at 54pc, the scores slid 10 percentage points in 2014 to 44pc, rose a little to 50pc in 2015 and slipped again to 46pc at the end of 2016. The situation has become worse in the past two years.

The challenge to democracy in Pakistan has worsened because there is a lack of crucially required reforms. There has not been any substantive improvement in the fundamental functioning of key democratic institutions. The failure of parliament in resolving issues such as the Panama scandal and the inability of the government to take the lead in formulating national security and foreign policies have further eroded civilian control.

The government’s failure in institutionalising a consultative decision-making process too has been a major factor in the expansion of space for unelected institutions such as the military and judiciary. Another aspect of the systemic failure of democratic governance is its inability to deliver on critical economic, social and political issues. That has resulted in waning public faith in democracy.

These are the vital issues plaguing the country’s political process. The coming elections are critical to the future of democracy in the country. Following this exercise, the new parliament and the government will have to address these key issues in order to consolidate governance and deliver to the electorate. It is apparent that democracy cannot function without the rule of law. There is a need for fundamental structural reform to achieve these objectives. Will our leaders learn from their own shortcomings and take the country to democratic stability?

Source: dawn.com/news/1409417/challenges-to-democracy

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Trump’s Jerusalem Move

By Amanat Ali Chaudhry

May 23, 2018

What transpired on the fateful day of May 14 in Palestine could not have been put more symbolically and succinctly than it was in a cartoon published by The New York Times, in its international edition of May 16.

Depicting the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem, the cartoon showed the inauguration ‘celebrations’ taking place as ‘fireworks’ at the Palestine-Israel fence in Gaza went on, in which the Israeli forces killed at least 60 Palestinians including children, and injured thousands others in what has been termed the bloodiest day in Palestinian history since 2014.

The symbolism did not escape the eyes of the region’s keen observers, who cannot help but see more bloodshed and chaos in the coming months as the Middle East descends into more uncertainty. Trump’s move to shift the embassy is not an isolated incident, and is replete with grave implications, not only for the multilateral global system but also for the Middle East.

The Trump administration’s decision to walk the talk of opening the US embassy in Jerusalem on the day when Israel was founded 70 years ago was meant to convey a powerful message that with Trump in office, the Israelisation of the US is complete and all nuances of diplomacy are nothing in his global worldview, which is based on the principle of ‘might is right’.

On the eve of the US presidential elections, the US presidential hopefuls, belonging to both Democratic and Republican parties, wrestle with each other to over-commit greater loyalty to Israel. This is done to win over the crucial support of the powerful Israeli lobbies, including the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). However, the hopefuls somehow refrain from pushing the envelope lest the US loses its credibility as a broker of peace in a conflict that has defied all efforts at finding a permanent solution and which continues to serve as a reminder of the historical injustice done to the Palestinians.

When President Trump made the crucial announcement of relocating the US embassy in December 2017, it sent shockwaves across the world. Many of the US’ Western allies warned it of deviating from the policy of apparent neutrality, and that the deviation could upset the existing status quo in the Middle East. They reminded the US president of the international consensus regarding the decision on the status of Jerusalem: to be determined through negotiations between Israel and Palestinians themselves, following a peace treaty that would lead to a two-state solution.

Disregarding international opinions and apprehensions of his allies, Trump went ahead with his audacious plan and sent his son-in-law and daughter, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, to inaugurate the new embassy building. How crucial was the move for Israel’s years-long dream of Jerusalem being considered its capital – a claim severely contested by the Palestinians – was manifest in the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s triumphant remarks: “President Trump, by recognising history, you have made history”, and “We are in Jerusalem and we are here to stay.”

The Trump administration’s unilateral move has grievously hurt the US’ image of a neutral peace broker. It tore apart the longstanding consensus within Washington over the American policy on the Palestinian conflict. The message that the US administration has sent across is that the US, under Trump, is least bothered about optics and morality. It will do what it wants to do, no matter what the world thinks as long as doing so comes within the broad definition of ‘making America great again’, the slogan that has marked the current administration’s review of the US policies, including its engagement with the international community.

Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is yet another addition to the new and more threatening era of unilateralism. It is a move aimed at reversing the global consensus as the US, under the present administration, has unilaterally pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord, Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and more recently the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

This sweeping push towards unilateralism is rooted in the thought that the world has been ungrateful and unfair to the US, which has carried others’ weight for too long under the rubric of being the leader of globalisation. There is this feeling within the US administration that the cost for global leadership has severely impacted its own population, who have been facing the challenges of terrorism, insecurity, unemployment and economic losses.

This mindset also explains Trump’s erratic policy of trade with China, which he has singled out for leveraging bilateral economic relations to the long-term disadvantage of the US.

The second implication of the Trump administration’s Jerusalem move has to do with a total disregard, nay rejection, of the UN as the central arbiter of disputes between its member countries. The move has severely dented the UN’s credibility at a time when the international body is already struggling to remain relevant in an environment marked by reduced funding commitments by the sole superpower, and the increasing trust deficit of the member countries.

Despite China’s advocacy in favour of the UN’s system being at the core of consensus-building on key global issues, its gradual belittling augurs ill for peace and stability. Now this is a very serious and ominous development that should alarm the world community into deliberations to save the world that is already at a precipice. While some of the questions raised on the role of the UN, and calls for its reformation, may be logical, but the fact is that the world body has been the last ray of hope for the not-so-powerful countries, despite all its imperfections.

One way or the other, the UN has been the forum for correct diagnoses of the ailments afflicting the global community and articulating the right kind of responses, even though it has been found wanting in implementation of its resolutions for reasons which can easily be understood. The Trump administration’s move of relocating its embassy to Jerusalem will hasten the process of UN’s irrelevance.

The already turbulent region of the Middle East is now further exposed to the grave prospect of more disorder, chaos and violence. After Trump– to the complete bewilderment of the US’s European allies – scrapped the Iran nuclear deal painstakingly struck by President Obama and other Western allies in 2015, the Middle East has been set for a renewed competition of regional supremacy between Iran and Saudi Arabia. This war to acquire more turf will end up taking on a more sectarian colour, effects of which will be felt beyond the Middle East, exporting instability in other Muslim regions.

Trump’s Jerusalem move has made the OIC look more irrelevant and outdated than before. Though Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has been at pains to inject some vitality and direction into the pan-Islamic organisation, and has also presided over two extraordinary sessions of the OIC in Istanbul in a span of six months, the fact that Muslims together have been unable to draw up a comprehensive policy against Israeli oppression of the Palestinians cannot be masked.

The OIC’s helplessness in the face of combined challenges of Tel Aviv and Washington is stark. Other than issuing clichéd communiqués, the Muslim organisation has failed to make its presence felt, emboldening the Israeli prime minister to implement the policy of ‘systematic genocide’ of the Palestinians.

With the organised Muslim states failing to rein in Israel in the face of its policy of mass slaughter along the Gaza border, the resulting dismay among Muslims runs the risk of making some of them more susceptible to the message of terrorist organisations such as Al-Qaeda and Isis. The effects of Trump’s decision of moving the US embassy to Jerusalem will continue to be felt for a long time.

Source: thenews.com.pk/print/320137-trump-s-jerusalem-move

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Seeds Of Fascism

By Amjad Bashir Siddiqi

May 23, 2018

The wild and dangerous transformation of speech and dialogue from a subtle, nuanced discussion to a more popular “nonsensical screech of wild words” – punctuated by vitriol and rancour – is a high-risk game.

The gradual descent to outright profanity reeks of the kind of fascism that prevailed during Hitler and Mussolini’s era. The indulgence in fascist tendencies by a section of the religious and the political leadership breeds a culture of intolerance and dogmatism in an already volatile and deeply fractured society.

We have seen the behaviour of mercurial, eccentric leaderships that have employed demagoguery and espoused narrow nationalism laced with hatemongering. This was demonstrated in the hatred for and expulsion of fellow Europeans during the Brexit debates; the decision of the alt-right in France, Germany and the Netherlands to advocate Islamophobia and resist economic immigrants; and the support that Trump’s policies received from white supremacists in the US against blacks, Mexicans, and Muslim immigrants.

India’s Modi has used narrow Hindutva values to carry out beef-lynchings that victimise minorities. Even our own politicians – from Bhutto to Altaf Hussain to Imran Khan to Nawaz Sharif and Z A Bhutto – have exhibited fascist tendencies at one time or the other.

The people, who are reeling under miserable living conditions, consider this to be an expression of boldness and, therefore, idolise leaders who voice these views. Fascist leaders succeeded due to their skilful manipulation of the petty bourgeoisie’s frustrations and anger against the wealthy and the political classes through rhetoric that whipped them into a frenzy. The people were naively led to believe in a saviour who would address all evil and revive a glorious past. This saviour often demanded blind faith. There is a constant refrain to a glorious past that could be resurrected, drowning all sorrows in its wake.

And here we are with our own saviours. While Imran is not far behind with his ‘Mr Clean’ image, Altaf Hussain took personality cult as a legitimising technique to frenzied heights. And, in order to neutralise Benazir Bhutto’s influence in Punjab before the elections in the early 1990s, Nawaz Sharif agitated the narrow nationalistic slogan of ‘jag Punjabi jag, teri pag no lag gaya dag’ (Wake up Punjabi your honour has taken a hit). At times, even Z A Bhutto acted like a rabble-rouser and started the Federal Security Force, akin to Mussolini’s paramilitary ‘squadrista’ or the ‘Blackshirts’. He also had little patience for the opposition and took extreme measures to stifle it, which ultimately led to his downfall.

Like other nationalists, Altaf Hussain also employed racism, violence, and incendiary rhetoric to cultivate an image of Mohajirs being discriminated by Sindhis, Punjabis and Pakhtuns. Like the Squadrista, Altaf raised a militant force that resorted to the worst form of terrorism against other ethnic groups living in Karachi, rattling the city in violence and mayhem for decades.

Demonstrating street muscle is another characteristic of such myopic leadership. Some attack the Supreme Court while others storm PTV. The political disrupter, as Imran would like to call himself, also profits from the middle-class support base, and employs sit-ins as a pressure tactic. He also routinely invokes nostalgia, offering naive solutions to restore Pakistan’s past glory from the 1950s and 1960s by referring to economic growth and his plans to restore respect for the green passport.

The religious forces employ the same theatrics as are used by their more secular cousins. Tahirul Qadri is another such rabble-rouser who has used religious rhetoric and sit-ins as a weapon to force his agenda on the PPP and the PML-N governments. He often flies in from Canada and swiftly returns after his mission is accomplished. Society is being confronted by a volatile mix of fascist trends, manifested in the political and religious leadership, and religious zealotry as tools of political exclusion. This has pushed society towards the precipice.

We have been here before, as all of the regional and nationalistic political forces worked to reduce the influence of the PPP and the PML-N. Also in the repertoire were the Taliban and militant sectarian forces, including the virulent Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan. The latter helped Gen Zia reduce the PPP’s influence in Punjab. In return, its leadership managed to enter parliament as MNAs under the mainstreaming formula of the 1990s.

During the 2013 election, the Taliban targeted the ANP election campaign, killing several of their candidates and eclipsing its chances of any substantive success in the province. The PPP was also targeted. Now it looks like it is the PML-N’s turn to be contained in parts of Punjab by the JuD and the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan – groups that showed their strength during the NA-120 by-election.

As the general elections draw closer, the assassination attempt on Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, allegedly by an activist of the Khadim Rizvi-led Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, proves how lethal bigotry can be.

In the immediate aftermath of the Faizabad protests, we saw PML-N leaders being attacked by the religious zealots. This degenerated further when someone claiming to be a ‘spiritual personality’ summoned political leaders to profess their faith and set this as a condition to remain in an alliance with the PML-N.

Fascist tendencies and religious extremism have far more serious repercussions than those elements that are against the political setup. This will continue to hold social moderation hostage to the forces of chaos, triggering a social breakdown that will resurrect the devil that we have struggled to overcome.

All this is happening at a time when we are at the cusp of winning the struggle against retrogressive militants and marching towards a moderate future. Perhaps we have an overpowering death wish to surrender to the same extremist forces and knuckle-draggers that drive us into the swampy world of structural hypocrisy, jeopardising national security and making the social fabric all the more unstable.

French scholar Alexis de Tocqueville contended that liberal mores and traditions within society are the bedrock of democracy. We need liberal and progressive forces more than ever to address the situation. We should have devoted this time to ensuring social and economic justice, and legislating on personal liberties, justice and equality. But it seems our contrary impulses want to keep society in a fragile state.

Source: thenews.com.pk/print/320140-seeds-of-fascism

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URL: http://www.newageislam.com/pakistan-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/loving-the-royals-by-rafia-zakaria--new-age-islam-s-selection,-23-may-2018/d/115325




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