By Harris Khalique
Who wouldn't want to be sovereign? Every state wants to be independent and every individual wants to be free. We are born free. It is our birth right to remain free all our lives, to do what we wish to do without being cumbersome for the community in which we live and the global human society of which we are an integral part. We should be free without being violent in our pursuits and by acknowledging that all humanity deserves the same rights and privileges which we demand for ourselves.
But this world is an unjust place. It begins with the family – the first oppressive social institution, particularly in conservative societies like ours. Then we come across stringent values in our communities, perpetuated by the powerful in the name of morality, so that their grip on our lives is not weakened.
Coming to Pakistan as a state, we have laws that discriminate against many of our citizens. Dispensation of justice in favour of the disadvantaged and realisation of things that are good in our constitution, like Article 38, to give an example, remain a distant dream. Nevertheless, we continue with the resolve to change the status quo.
Some concerned citizens of this country, public intellectuals, a section of civil society and many in the media, continue to struggle. Progressive forces are disjointed and puny at the moment, but they are there. A regaining of social and political consciousness can be witnessed in different quarters of our society, including young people after a period of disinterest and lull for almost twenty years. The change is good but hasn't borne fruit yet.
Then, there are foreign forces which uphold carefully designed international institutional arrangements biased towards maintaining power of the rich nations over the poor. But I do not blame them for our ills, for they act in their own interest. It is up to us to articulate our interests better, come to a stage where we are able to negotiate our terms from a position of strength and while siding with the weak and the disempowered, grow to become strong and powerful in the comity of nations.
Now, the question is, how do we come to a stage like that? It is going to be a long haul, but not as long as some analysts would like us to believe. The recent debate over the Kerry-Lugar Law, passed by the US Congress and endorsed by President Obama, has to be taken to a different level if we are serious about our prosperity and sovereignty.
One, the criticism that the law receives in Pakistani media is misplaced, out of context and of a knee-jerk type. There are parts of the text where the language is inappropriate in diplomatic terms, but it is up to us to refuse it. But could we ever do that? Never. Be it the incumbent PPP, the opposition PML-N or someone like Musharraf, they would have accepted it. Read the terms of the World Bank, IMF and ADB loans we accept.
Why? Because we have never been sovereign, we were never serious in changing the cruel economic order in our country which systematically marginalises the majority, we never let the interests of the common people of Pakistan be served by reforming agriculture, promoting industrialisation and making quality education available to all children. Whose sovereignty our television anchors and their guests are harping about? The landless peasant of Nawabshah, the poor shepherd of Kharan, the bonded brick-kiln worker of Muzaffargarh or the terror-stricken young woman of Swat?