Assault on politics

10/27/2019

The battle lines are drawn and as was much predicted and assumed, the government has decided to take a hardline stance against “Maulana’s untimely assault on Pakistani politics”. At the heart of Maulana’s current political predicament is his enlarged and inflamed ego which in recent days has consistently stood at cross-purpose with Pakistan’s current and very critical interests. But this won’t bother Maulana. He only wants to showcase not only to the Pakistani establishment but the entire world that he cannot be politically sidelined and all roads leading to any political reform, engagement or change would have to lead through him and not around him. Unless the government’s negotiating team and the opposition’s Rahber Committee can come up with a political surprise, strike a deal and prevent this anti-government protest, Maulana’s “Azadi March”, will soon be “road-bound”.
Interestingly, in a week that is raining “political relief” for former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his party, the Lahore High Court (LHC) granted him bail in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case and the Islamabad High Court (IHC) has sought his medical report on the bail plea seeking the suspension of his sentence in the Al Azizia reference. Although he is not well and is currently in the hospital, the growing political indicators suggest that if the court allows Nawaz Sharif to proceed abroad for treatment the government may also feel relieved in a “court promulgated” and government face-saving ouster of Nawaz Sharif from the country. Also making huge headlines is the prosecution’s failure to make a strong case that resulted in the “Sahiwal’s suspects acquittal”. These court decisions remind me of our Prime Minister’s often referred to “Chinese corruption eradication” movement under President Xi Jinping. In the year before his takeover, only three Chinese officials were prosecuted and punished on corruption charges and as of now over 2.4 million have been investigated and over 1.2 million punished in the CCP (Chinese Communist Party), whose membership today stands at closer to 90 million. The list includes over two dozen military generals as well. So, for our Prime Minister and all the students of politics who keep referring to the Chinese model of political success in which China is demonstrating “authoritarian modernisation”, the process of judicial accountability is playing a huge role. The 100th anniversary of CCP’s creation will take place in 2021 and by then China is all set to achieve the goal it set for complete poverty elevation. On the contrary, in Pakistan, not one case of political prominence and political corruption seems to have been finally settled. For the political elite accused of corruption in Pakistan, the often witnessed route to culpability is “from the court to the prison at the hospital and on the flight to freedom abroad”. Now back to Maulana’s Azadi March — the subject on which I originally sat down to write.
I am not sure what the leadership of major political parties will sell to their constituencies and political audience, but as a student of politics, I am convinced that in the long term anyone who has jumped on “Maulana’s protest bandwagon” is a political loser. While the general trend in politics around the world — baring a few countries — is to separate religion from politics, our politicians are instead reinforcing religion’s deep engagement and involvement in Pakistani politics. All this is for self-service and has nothing to do with the actual direction politics should be taking in this country. One word that aptly describes Pakistani politics is “failure” and all those reinforcing this failure by supporting Maulana’s protest are doing no good service to this country.
Because I teach at a university and because I interact with students daily, I feel more discouraged and disappointed on the way the so-called defenders of religion are now running their “religious shops” and selling their product on the roads and through the platform of politics. Should religion be outside on the road, serving the interest of a politician? My fear is that in this conflict between politics and religion, both will end up losing. While the job of the teachers is to nurture, nourish and develop a breed of students that have a very strong faith not only in God and his many blessings that he keeps showering on us but also in their own abilities to become very responsible citizens of the state. The teacher also makes them very conscious of the great role they must play in being part of their families’ and friends’ lives. Encouraged to be at peace with themselves and remain calm, they are groomed to harbour harmony, tolerance and patience as the great values on which they should build their lives. I think a teacher’s job is not complete after the students end their university studies. It is complete only when the graduating students responsibly integrate into society and are able to perform efficiently and competently their many functions as responsible citizens of this country.
These students were brought out from religious seminaries by the Maulana are subjects who have responded to their teacher’s call. These “call-giving teachers” are the actual culprits of society. As much as there are a political and military mindset and mentality there is also this teacher’s mindset and mentality. Teachers — whether religious or non-religious — who don’t think or demonstrate through their actions their desire to make their students into responsible citizens of the state cannot be called teachers at all. All such teachers participating in this anti-government protest and playing an active role in bringing the students of their seminaries out on the streets are not teachers at all.
The dilemma is a word that describes a situation that warrants decision on the available yet difficult alternatives, one being worse than the other. The political dilemma the current government faces is not of its making. It is reflective of who we are and the kind of values we believe in and vividly demonstrates the way we have evolved to become a society. A government with a reformist agenda will always have its plate full with the politics of agitation and protests — one only hopes it continues to find a way forward and learn, realign, correct its political bearings, but march on.