Mar 29, 2009

The daily tutorial on arrogance management

Two years ago Pakistan threw up a unique movement, it was liberal, secular, democratic and plural, it engaged the nation and unlike other battles being fought in Pakistan this one's weapons were concepts. The lawyer's movement, as it came to be known, has been criticised on many fronts, for being used, no hijacked, by political parties for their own gain, first by the PPP to negotiate political space with a military director and then by the PML-N who lacked an election slogan. Once the PPP moved on and the movement's goals clashed with the party's leaderships personal goals, the accusation was that it had been taken over by rightist forces. If truth be told the politicians have much to thank the lawyers for, but it is not in their nature to do so. The movement set the tone for our political forces to do the right thing and our parliamentarians to exert themselves and do something that will bring real change. There was no need for them to hide behind fear now, the undoable had been done!Through all this we saw the growth, development and contribution of the media and what became known as civil society. The media was the darling of those opposing the government of the day. I have heard those who today veil threats of censorship in calls for self-regulation wax lyrical about how the media's contribution to democracy was invaluable. As the media began to play a more assertive and investigative role, the once much derided civil society moved out of their comfort zones to be recognised as a force where "people power defeated state power". So here we are two years later, the movement saw the second reinstatement of the chief justice, and while everyone claimed his restoration as his own nobody stopped to think for a minute as to who the real victor was. Sadly our politicians do not take time out from their personal agendas to pause and think which in turn may lead them to the realisation that it was Right that won. Principle won over compromise, expediency, wrong, un-constitutionalism, brute force and more. There was a need to do the right thing and once it was done the nation let out a collective sigh. The stock market soared; suggesting political stability and consequently confidence in the market. Even the cynics were smiling. If ever hope had been rekindled it was now. And it was something to build on. But before you could say chief justice the squabbling had started again.The PPP spent a year in office before it bowed to public pressure and did what it said was not possible, and then unleashed a wave of unconvincing propaganda as to its intent. Showing no embarrassment, they did not stand on any point of principle. This old-style politics will not wash today. Politicians may have selective memory but we certainly do not and if there is a case of amnesia we can always relay on media archives. The judges were not the Musharraf government's only legacy; there is an empty treasury, an untenable security situation, internal political strife and a very unpopular war that must be dealt with.A year in government and nothing to show for it other than bickering, fighting and jostling for power. In all this education, health, security, the rule of law, poverty, unemployment and more have been ignored. Suicide bombings increased, and so did drone attacks. And it became glaringly apparent that we lacked any kind of credible and effective leadership. Everyone was running around doing their own thing, policy was missing in action and no one took ownership of what passed for policy. The buck having been continually passed around really needed to stop somewhere.Where are the so-called secular liberal forces? They seem to be missing in action. And this is brought home by the story of a young foreign correspondent who fell victim to a teargas shell near the Lahore High Court on March 15 and found, when he regained consciousness, that he had been rescued and revived not by his friend Zammurad Khan of the secular liberal PPP but by Mr Liaquat Baloch of the right wing Jamat-i-Islami. Yet, a few hours later when the announcement was made by the prime minister to restore the judges, Mr Zammurad Khan, hitherto on the wrong side of the tear gassing, was seen taking a posse of PPP workers to the chief justice's house. This is not leadership. This is fraud, a fraud on the people. Government spokespersons sound so angry all the time. Who are they angry with? Topping the list it appears is the media. But the media is only holding them to the same account that it held the previous government to. At that time it was hailed as a champion of democracy by the same angry lot. If they weren't so busy accusing others they might actually see that are vacating the political space their party should be occupying. They are allowing right wing and extremist forces to occupy it in their stead. Swat has been surrendered, what next?A lawyer friend, Nadeem Ahmed, sent me the following email: "I have always believed that if, God forbid, this nation were to fail one day, then, contrary to what is generally believed, it would not be because of people's intolerance but purely because of excessive tolerance, tolerance bordering on pathetic cowardice, tolerance that is a product of just a whimpering, shameless attempt to persist in biological survival, regardless of the fact that this survival takes place amid a dark and ghostly multitude of ugly injustices, abuse and exploitation that have been haunting this nation for the last sixty years. It is this kind of crouching keenness to survive at the biological level of the animal kingdom that makes it impossible for men and nations and their leaders to stand tall with honour and confidence against injustice in all forms and shapes."Fortunately amongst those seeking to survive at the biological level, there are those too who stand tall. We need them to come forward now and lead the way in this very difficult time and let the likes of Maulana Fazalur Rahman be a reminder of a bygone era.By Ayesha Tammy Haq

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