New Age Islam Edit Bureau
09 September 2016
The Man Who Is the Party
By Asha'ar Rehman
In the Modern World, Patriarchy Is
Very Much the Rule
By Aasim Sajjad Akhtar
Politics and Sedition
By Malik Muhammad Ashraf
The Corruption of Political Wisdom
By Durdana Najam
Picking Up Where They Left Off
By Faisal Bari
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
September 9th, 2016
A FEW friends have taken it upon themselves
to help us undertake eye-opening journeys into the past by frequently flashing
pages from old newspapers files.
One such Facebook post recently brought
back the essence of July 1948 captured by the front page of the famous daily
Inqilab of Lahore. The reader is attracted to a variety of stories spread out
with the minimum of fuss, not least among them a small item shedding light on
the democratic nature of the relationship between the founder of Pakistan and
the party through which he practised his politics for many decades.
It goes without saying that the party was a
vital link which connected Mohammad Ali Jinnah to the people and their affairs
less than one year after the creation of Pakistan.
The news item is related to the issue of
who should be in charge of the administration in Karachi. Muslim League Sindh
is reported to have asked the provincial set-up to not hand over the reins to
the federal government, which obviously had a claim on running Karachi because
of the city’s status as the country’s capital.
Work is now under progress to salvage the
Muttahida from the enormous weight of its sole maker.
Not only did the provincial chapter of the
League choose to assert its choice in the matter, it did so by doing something
that would be almost blasphemous in today’s political culture. In adopting its
stance, the party overruled the advice it had been given by the Quaid-i- Azam,
providing the news story published in Inqilab with the headline ‘Majlis-i-Amal
nay Quaid-i-Azam ka mashwara mustaard lkar diya’ ie the working committee (of
the Muslim League in Sindh) rejects the Quaid’s advice. The emphasis is on
That, by all signs, did not shake up those
minding the newsroom. They displayed the story, filed by the United Press two
days earlier — on July 5, 1948 — as an ordinary middle-of-the-page side story.
Their focus was far from Sindh and Jinnah sahib on bigger topics of the time,
such as Hyderabad (Deccan) and the riches it promised to those in possession of
There might have been some minor hiccups
faced by party leaders along the way caused by the less obedient of their
colleagues. There might have been some instances of small rebellions erupting
even when the all-powerful leaders shed old inhibitions imposed on them by
convention and chose to proudly wear more dramatic, even if perfectly
justified, titles, such as ‘supremo’.
But amidst all the changes — including
perhaps some positive ones — brought about by the demands of the times it took
a party in Karachi, a party with a mass following, almost 70 years later to
openly disagree with its Quaid. And this time, the news was duly flashed for
its unique occurrence.
By the time the party could muster and
borrow the strength to overrule Altaf Hussain, all old notions about the
working of political outfits had been forsaken for individual command —
dictatorship. The lessons and formulae about how parties empowered individuals
and how individuals were dependent and subject to the party’s will, had all
Work is now under progress to salvage the
party from the enormous weight of its sole maker. It is almost an impossible
task. You may take individuals and their once revered Rabita Committees out of
the Muttahida Qaumi Movement but you can only wish and hope to delete Altaf
Bhai and save the party at his expense.
The ideal of a modern running machine
consisting of educated middle-class cadres in a vibrant Karachi to lead the
country forward is as distant as it was when the MQM’s precursor arose in
Karachi’s campuses in the 1970s. What’s worse, the material to form a party
with some resemblance to the dictionary meaning of the term is that much more
difficult to find today than it was a few decades back. The sources have dried
up. Indeed, they have long been discarded.
The MQM’s current state fully elaborates
just how deep the problem is. But even those who must insist on saying the MQM
is more a mafia than a party will be hard-pressed to define and name a bunch
that could qualify for the exalted title. Amongst the various outfits that are
there, the PTI is the one which tried to develop the cadres and create a party,
encouraging a few amongst us to compare its organisational evolution with that
of the PPP in Punjab after its formation in the late 1960s.
As a measure of the rot and the wrong
precedents that have since been set, the PPP enjoyed the fruits of its
organisation in the 1970 election, whereas the PTI has been heard wondering
whether it had blundered by holding intra-party polls before the 2013 election.
There are the local thugs, the traders with
their biradaris and gangs to provide the so-called party its nucleus. There are
no student unions, no trade unions to speak of and the professional groups such
as those formed by lawyers are inward-looking, lacking the dynamism and
movement to push for a popular cause — as did Barrister M.A. Jinnah and his
party. The Quaid-i-Azam — and his typewriter — did so dominate the party
according to various accounts but the League was still sufficiently beholden to
the old principles of democracy to openly disagree with the leader from time to
Today, all laments about the opportunities
missed by Pakistan must end with what Mr Jinnah (given more time) could have
done to set the course right. An even bigger source of regret could be his
party’s inability to create the model of an organisation capable of making its
presence felt. The system must find that crucial element — a role for the party
worker — to evolve in the correct direction. The party is most unlikely to be
restored through a toppling of the supremo at the top. There is no option but
to begin at the bottom.
In The Modern World, Patriarchy Is Very
Much The Rule
THE world is dominated by men. It has not
always been this way — throughout recorded history there have been societies in
which women have exercised significant power over both their own lives and
those of men. In the modern world, however, patriarchy is very much the rule.
While it is possible to identify pockets in which men and women are relatively
more equal, they remain the exceptions which make the rule.
As male domination goes, Pakistan is up
there with the worst. A casual perusal of daily newspapers, TV bulletins and
social media sites confirms this; not a day goes by without report of abuse
against women, including murder, rape and disfigurement. Meanwhile, the
systematic discrimination against women in public and private spheres is so
taken for granted that it is virtually invisible.
The fact that more and more is said about
the status of women and girls in this country speaks for some kind of change,
however nominal. Public discussions about male domination are the first step
towards addressing what is a deep, structural problem. Having said this, the
‘debate’ is limited to a very small cross section of society. It often feels
like those talking about patriarchy and the need to challenge it are speaking
Certainly, it would be impossible to
suddenly involve those who are deeply hostile to even the idea that women and
men are equally human. The sway exercised by mullahs and so-called ‘tradition’
over a large majority of people in this society means that many of us actually
believe that women are born inferior to men and that they are fated to have
certain social roles — indeed, reactions to women who transgress established
boundaries suggest that we also feel entitled to undertake punitive actions in
the name of maintaining moral order.
Public debate on male domination is limited
to a small circle.
It is indicative of just how deeply
patriarchal norms are internalised within us that many women are active agents
of male domination both vis-à-vis their understanding of the world and their
actions within it. This deep internalisation is reflected in how women interact
with one another as well as in their deference to men, and this is why those
who challenge patriarchy assert the need to ‘liberate’ women from their mental
chains, so as to be able to stand up to the everyday oppression that they
Those who are suspicious of the feminist
cause — men and women alike — tend to see it as an attempt to turn all women
against men, a characterisation which is both ridiculous and inaccurate. It is
precisely the fact that we are all products of patriarchal structures that
there is no question of propagating a simple, no-holds-barred war between men
and women. It is the task of conscious men and women both to understand and
challenge the structure — which, in turn, is upheld by men and women both.
Yet there is little question that the
primary beneficiaries and defenders of male domination are men. And this is why
men are likely to react negatively to the cause of women’s liberation, to one
extent or the other. After all, relinquishing a position of privilege —
especially that which is seen as ordained — is far from easy.
There are, of course, some men who consider
themselves enlightened, who take up the cause of women (sometimes despite their
suspicions of ‘feminism’). Many husbands and fathers accord relative freedom to
women and girls in the home which then translates into longer-term gains. At a
more general level, progressive men are active participants in various
political and social movements challenging patriarchy.
I would count myself as one of the latter.
But I still feel hesitant in calling myself a ‘liberated man’. Having been
politically active for many years, I can safely say that my understanding of
and commitment to the feminist cause has evolved considerably over time, and is
likely to do so further. I am increasingly aware of just how deeply I have
internalised patriarchal ways of being. To be ‘liberated’ is not a discrete
event, but a process that unfolds over an extended period of time.
Indeed, there is a danger that men who see
themselves as liberated can overlook the most obvious transgressions.
Unfortunately many progressives can talk, think, and act in ways that are not
always consistent with their overt commitments. We may believe that we are
enlightened because we don’t engage in the barbaric practices of unbridled
misogynists; that we fight for women’s causes in public; that we sensitise
other men to the feminist cause. But the fight does not end there. In fact the
most important part of the fight is in our daily engagements, in our everyday
conversations, in reining in our convictions that our opinions matter more.
Since the ‘debate’ is still largely amongst
ourselves, it is worth remembering that patriarchy begins at home, and
liberation does too.
While the public response to the
anti-government rallies in Lahore and Rawalpindi on the 3rd of September
organised by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT),
and Awami Muslim League has not been so overwhelming and spontaneous as the
organisers expected, there is nevertheless a probability that things might take
an ugly turn when the PTI and PAT, possibly supported by other political
parties, stage the announced Dharna (sit-in) in front of the private residence
of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Lahore.
There are indications that these parties
would go to any length to see the dismissal of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz
(PML-N) government. There is already a discernible campaign to seek military
intervention, as being openly demanded by Tahir-ul-Qadri and Sheikh Rashid with
a nod of approval from Imran Khan. That clearly is an act of sedition in terms
of article 6 (1 & 2) of the constitution that reads: “Any person who
abrogates or subverts or suspends or holds in abeyance, or attempts or
conspires to abrogate or subvert or suspend or hold in abeyance, the
constitution by use of force or show of force or by any other unconstitutional
means shall be guilty of high treason. Any person aiding or abetting (or
collaborating) the acts mentioned in clause (1) shall likewise be guilty of
Inviting military intervention is
tantamount to subverting the constitution. Who cares about the constitution,
anyway? That is the way our politicians have been behaving and paving the way
for dictatorial rules and military interventions with disastrous consequences
in regard to strengthening of democracy and state institutions as well as rule
of law in the country.
It is a typical pattern. The demand for
military intervention is being made by political ‘parasites’ like Sheikh Rashid
and a religious scholar Tahir-ul-Qadri who has no political stake in the
country, and is only here to play the role of a spoiler. The former has always
thrived during the undemocratic dispensations or borrowed support from
political leaders like Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan. He surely has no stake in
the continuation of a democratic system. Khan is making a big mistake by
forging alliance with them for which he might have to repent in the future. If
he intends to remain relevant to the political landscape of the country he must
revisit his strategy of besieging the private residence of the prime minister,
or endorsing any calls for a military intervention.
Unfortunately, some media persons and TV
channels have also joined the chorus for intervention by the army. Perhaps
politicians, media outlets and anchors demanding a military intervention feel
encouraged by frequent statements of the COAS and press releases of ISPR on
national issues, laced with ‘political’ overtones. Media as a representative of
society is under obligation to uphold the constitution and support democratic
rule in the country, because it is only during democracy that it enjoys
unfettered freedom of expression.
Polarisation of media and some media outlets
becoming a party in the confrontation between political forces is indeed an
ominous development, which can encourage non-democratic entities to make their
move. I think media has lost its sense of proportion, and some sections of it
have intentionally put blinkers on their eyes to perpetuate their partisan
role. Is it not amazing that some of the channels have been and continue to
have exclusive hour-long interviews of Sheikh Rashid to make their audience
endure the ordeal of loud statements of a man who only has one seat in
parliament, and even that courtesy of the PTI? There is surely something
terribly wrong about this exercise.
Tahir-ul-Qadri has non-political
credentials but, surprisingly, he is also getting undeserved media coverage
like Sheikh Rashid. The whole episode has an aura of a conspiracy like the
previous agitation by the duo of Khan and Qadri when they staged a Dharna in
Islamabad. Qadri’s dubbing the prime minister as an ‘Indian agent’ and a
security risk for the country is probably the most preposterous allegation made
against a person who has thrice been elected prime minister, and whose party is
the most popular political entity in the country.
The PML-N government may have many
shortcomings, but there is no denying the fact that it has to, a great extent,
been able to tackle the formidable challenges it inherited. Terrorism has been
checked in its tracks; economy verifiably has been revived; Karachi is fast
returning to normalcy; insurgency in Balochistan has been contained; and government
remains committed to take the fight against terrorism to its logical
conclusion, thanks to the supporting role played by the security establishment
and law enforcement agencies that have rendered unprecedented sacrifices in
defeating terrorists. They indeed deserve unqualified gratitude of the nation.
It is said that the worst democracy is
better than the most benign dictatorship. Pakistan’s salvation, progress and
chances of earning a respectable place in the comity of nations lie in more and
more democracy. Mohammad Ali Jinnah envisioned Pakistan as a democratic entity.
The march on the democratic path and consolidation of its gains largely depends
on the state institutions strictly adhering to their constitutional role.
Interventions and transgressions into the territory of other institutions
invariably lead to chaos and disastrous consequences for the country. The
people need to guard against the designs of those who are demanding a military
intervention. It is also obligatory on parties represented in parliament to
make sure that the system remains on course.
The military establishment also needs to
clear the haze by giving a shut-up call to those who are rooting for a military
intervention, instead of embarrassing the government through frequent ‘indiscretions’,
which also descend into the realm of a kind of intervention in the domain of
the executive. The demand for a military intervention and attempts to
destabilise the elected government through violent and unconstitutional means
also constitutes an affront to the mandate of the people who are the ultimate
arbiters in regard to who governs the country.
There are no two opinions about the fact
that Pakistan needs drastic changes in the system of governance. Those changes
and reforms can only be brought through the forum of parliament. There is a
need for all political forces to show their commitment and sincerity in
reforming the system that breeds a culture of graft, entitlement and has
inbuilt avenues of corruption, instead of rocking the ship of democracy. Panama
leaks or no Panama leaks, corruption needs to be eliminated. But there has to
be a constitutional and legal method to go about it. Even at present a number
of avenues are available to the agitating politicians and parties to seek
redress of their grievances, and they have already approached certain forums in
this regard. It would, therefore, be advisable for them to stick to that
course, simultaneously joining forces with other parties and government to
reform the system. There is certainly no quick-fix solution available to fix
the maladies afflicting the system or tackling corruption.
The duo is back. Both have a similar
agenda. They both, however, have chosen to strike at different levels. Imran
Khan wants the Panama scandal to be probed, and the accused, especially the
Sharif family, be convicted. Tahir-ul-Qadri wants the Prime Minister (PM) tried
under treason charges for having links with India. Khan wants the prime
minister’s removal, to begin with. Qadri does not just want PM’s removal; he
also wants to have him slandered. It is not new to consider an incumbent prime
minister a security threat for the country. Benazir Bhutto had been relegated
to this realm at one point. Pervez Musharraf too would have been given the
label had the Article 6 of the Constitution been allowed to be applied. Or
perhaps the judiciary had been given a fair chance to grind their ax against
the former president.
That Musharraf had been permitted to leave
the country and any negative provocation against the former army chief and the
president was dismissed appears bizarre when the same treatment is denied to a
democratically elected head of the state. Does the difference lie in the
institution standing behind the political and the army leadership,
respectively? Or does the difference lie in the malice that has eaten into the
political milieu and not the military? Or is it only a perception that has
played out too well to make one bad cop look good while the other just bad? We
cannot deny that the army would defend Pakistan against its enemies on the
borders. As it has been doing. The sacrifices given so far by the soldiers
cannot be questioned. Musharraf’s decision to join the US against the al-Qaeda
and Taliban after 9/11 and to storm the Red Mosque turned the boys we had
nurtured in the backyard into militants, or what Hillary Clinton had termed as
snakes. The snakes threw venom at their masters relentlessly.
Politicians have become saner since the
last coup. The Charter of Democracy (CoD) that the Pakistan People’s Party and
the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz created had made one difference: politicians
now unite whenever they hear the boots coming. Other items in the CoD have been
ignored. The masses are easy to con, perhaps. On Panama leaks, government is
not in the mood to make a judicial commission. Instead, an accountability bill
is being prepared to give overarching powers to investigation agencies. The
Panama blame would be tried in this new mill. The tendency to protect one
another against the army, and letting the malice of corruption survive would
only take this country backward.
Politicians are voted into office not only
to enjoy the perks or the grandeur of the power. The first responsibility of a
politician is towards his constituents, which requires state institutions to be
strengthened. It is only through the consolidation of public institutions that
a government retains the right to govern. A politician in parliament speaks to
his voter through laws that make the system more flexible, practical and
Lately, when the Sindh government
demolished the offices of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) built on
encroachments, a sudden clamour was heard from political parties to respect the
mandate of the MQM. Some suggested going easy on the MQM, and giving them time
to relocate. The MQM had been in absolute power in Karachi for the last 25
years. It may have brought the middle class to the assemblies, becoming a
catalyst for change in the political milieu that had been ridden by the feudal
class. But the fact that MQM turned its leadership drawn from the middle class
into fascists and made them worse exploiters than the feudal lords cannot be
ignored. Karachi has bled because of the MQM. It bled even when Musharraf was
In his recent statement, Musharraf said
that promoting the MQM was the political decision he needed to take to keep the
wheel of statecraft moving. The question is if the army was to run the country
using political wisdom, what was the fun of staging a coup and replacing the
system? If the next was not better than the previous then what was the
hullabaloo all about? If keeping the MQM in the political loop was important,
if closing eyes to its militant activities necessary, and if keeping the MQM
intact was essential in Sindh why did we need a new set-up? In another
statement, Musharraf said he had nothing to do with the May 12, 2007 incident.
Political wisdom is not exhibited when it comes to shielding dirty linen of
others sharing a pie in corruption.
In the political wisdom of some sources,
Tahir-ul-Qadri’s rejoinders or Imran Khan’s street presence is critical to keep
the pressure on the Sharifs. Flowing from the same source is the political
wisdom of spreading uncertainty among the people through media. Will there ever
be the day when political wisdom would benefit the country, which would require
some wise men thrown to dust?
ALBER dropped out of Grade 8 about six
years ago. His family circumstances were such that he could not have continued
in school. He had to get a job, as a helper at a photocopying shop, to be able
to contribute to the family income. He found himself without work three years
later when the shop closed down. He has been out of a job since then.
Alber wants to go back to school and
continue studying until he completes his Intermediate. But he does not have any
opportunity to do so. With no job, little money at home and almost no support
from any other source, he does not see how he can re-enter the education stream.
Alber has tried to enrol in vocational
training programmes provided by the government. It has not worked so far. He
was not accepted in some of the programmes as he had not passed his middle
school examinations when he was forced to leave. He felt that many of the
courses he could get into did not offer good job prospects so he decided not to
spend his time, money and energy in acquiring non-marketable skills.
Where should Alber go? What can he do? It
seems that, like millions of youth in the country, Alber’s only choice is to
continue looking for jobs in the informal sector of the economy and spend his
working life there. If he is lucky he will be able to find some stability of
job and income. If he is not, he will end up with the millions of unemployed
and frustrated people that Pakistan has been producing for quite some time.
Many among our youth who have dropped out
of school want a second chance at education later in life.
Millions of children in Pakistan, even
today, never see the inside of a school. But equally, if not more tragically,
of the ones who enrol in Grade 1, millions drop out of school before they reach
matriculation level. Out of 100 children who enrol in the first grade, it is
estimated that only four to six children reach institutions of higher learning.
Many among our youth who have dropped out
of school, for whatever reason, want a second chance at education later in
life. Data from one youth survey shows that more than 60 per cent of young
people who had dropped out of school before reaching the level they aspired to
wanted another chance to get educated. Given our population base, this means
millions of young people.
Where we have been making efforts at
increasing enrolment rates through various reform efforts in the education sector,
we have not yet concentrated deeply on the issue of children who have dropped
out of schools and now want to re-enter the education space. There are a few
non-formal education models that allow children to come back, but these
programmes are very small and do not have substantial government support.
What should a 15-year-old who dropped out
of Grade 4 a few years back do now? Should he or she try to enrol in a regular
school and interact with students who are 10 years old? Most schools will not
allow that. But even if they did, this would not be the solution to the
problem. It will create disruptions in regular classes and will not be good for
the child either. More importantly, if the child could come to a regular
school, he or she might not have dropped out in the first place.
Zaheer is a peon in an academic
institution, Bashir works in a motorcycle repair shop, John is currently
unemployed and looking for a job, Amna volunteers as a teacher’s assistant in a
low-fee private school, and Latif makes and serves tea in an NGO office. All of
them are young, energetic and intelligent. All of them had to leave off
studying. All of them want to go back. None of them sees a way of being able to
do that. Becoming private candidates for higher examinations is not a viable
option for any of them: they cannot afford the cost of books and coaching
lessons, and those who have jobs cannot afford to take time off from their
The Punjab government launched the Punjab
Education Endowment Fund (PEEF) a few years ago to ensure that students who do
well in at the matriculation/intermediate level but do not have the resources
to continue their education further get scholarships to continue. PEEF, by most
accounts, has been quite successful and has provided scholarships to thousands
of deserving students so far.
Could provincial governments come up with a
similar programme for youth who are looking for a second chance in life?
Instead of spending money distributing laptops or setting up expensive Daanish
schools or even giving five chickens to each female student in school (to teach
kitchen skills), a support programme that allows second chances to youth could
have significant benefits for the millions looking for such opportunities.
These opportunities could consist of pathways that allow the youth to complete
their education and/or acquire vocational training after attaining some minimum
level of education.
One-time errors of omission or even
commission should not have consequences that can never be reversed or
addressed, especially for young people. Whether circumstances have led to
dropping out or it is the young people’s personal choice to do so, if they
learn better later, it should be possible for them to find pathways that allow
them opportunities to address the deficiencies in their education or vocational
But they cannot do this on their own. They
need government support to be able to break out of the usually vicious cycles
they are caught in: unemployment or poorly paying jobs that have no future
prospects leading to low incomes, leading to no opportunities for growth. A
major rethink is also needed by our educational and vocational training
institutions and programmes to be able to come up with ways that could cater to
this category of youth.