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Pak Tea House » Politics » A case for evolutionary change

A case for evolutionary change

By Saad Hafiz:

The recent “anti-establishment” rallies confirm that Pakistanis are more politically activated, politically conscious and politically interactive than ever.  It is heartening to witness the quest for personal dignity and economic opportunity in a country painfully scarred by memories of decades-long domination by the “status-quo”. The pattern is also consistent with the political turmoil and stirrings against the established order so widespread today around the world. The youth in Pakistan are particularly restless and resentful and politically alert and engaged.  The demographic revolution they embody is thus a political time-bomb, as well.  The rapidly expanding demographic bulge in the 25-year-old-and-under age bracket is creating a huge mass of impatient young people. Their minds have been stirred by sounds and images that emanate from the region and beyond and which intensify their disaffection with what is at hand.  It remains to be seen whether the recent social consciousness presents a greater or more direct challenge to entrenched and centralized power structures or it will “fizzle-out” like earlier “anti-establishment” awakenings.

It is tempting to think that Pakistan harbours revolutionary impulses that could trigger a radical transformation of politics and society.  Some may argue that Pakistan needs a revolution to overhaul the oppressive culture of corruption and impunity that continues to enrage the Pakistani masses today.  The people are victims of the same indignities that incited revolt in the Middle East: corruption, oppression, and injustice.  Successive despotic dictatorships and dynastic political governments have made the masses feel helpless and ineffectual.  A pertinent quote from Friedrich Engels applies to Pakistan: “We find two great gangs of political speculators, who alternately take possession of the state power and exploit it by the most corrupt ends — the nation is powerless against these two great cartels of politicians (add generals) who are ostensibly its servants, but in reality dominate and plunder it.”

Having said that, it is unclear whether the country would benefit if the re-discovered “peoples-power” is translated into a major shift and change, or revolution, in the political, social and economic realms.  It can be argued that the evolutionary democratic path would be far more preferable.  The recent upsurge in social consciousness is an opportunity to maintain pressure on the entrenched and centralized power structures through the ballot box to address the extraordinarily high levels of inequality in society.  Along the way, Pakistanis can help disprove Giuseppe Prezzolini, who said that “representative government is artifice, a political myth, designed to conceal from the masses the dominance of a self-selected, self-perpetuating, and self-serving traditional ruling class.”

Pakistan has the edifice of a democracy in place with a functioning legislature, independent judiciary, lively media which operates relatively free of state control and multi-party elections which are fiercely competitive. Pakistanis have solid party associations and have several organized national parties and numerous regional political parties with very strong following. This is a genuine foundation for a democracy: organized political parties and their base is an absolute precondition for any viable democratic system.  On the flip side, Pakistani democracy is a system that mostly serves the interest of “the all ambitious, prosperous and self-confident elites”. The challenge is for the prevailing democratic dispensation to evolve from just representing the elite to becoming broadly participatory as well.  Any society which claims adherence to an inclusive, participatory democracy would demand nothing less of its elected representatives.

The process of “democratic legitimation” in Pakistan will require: First, the state’s acknowledgement that it regards the citizens as the foundation of its rule and the “ultimate seat of all powers that it exercises.”  Second, that a bond links the populace to the state via the notion of citizenship: a set of general and equal entitlements and obligations vested in individuals with respect to the state, as well as the content of society’s activity and outputs. Third, “the rule of law” exists.  Law is brought into the “organization of political power and the modes of its exercise,” establishing what Max Weber called “legal-rational domination.” Fourth, opposition to the state, debates and contestation over policies, critical orientations, and expressions are legitimized and institutionalized — indeed, they are regarded as productive.  This in turn is linked to the idea of the public sphere: recognition of the rights of assembly, association, and petition. Fifth, there is the established institution of representative government based on free and fair elections.

As this happens, Pakistan itself is at a pivotal moment in its history.  The current government, ineffective as it may be, is the first government in decades that is almost there, almost about to finish its five-year term.  The upcoming May elections have the potential to begin a tradition of civilian government and peaceful transitions between democratically elected administrations.  A mass potentially violent revolution is the last thing Pakistan needs at this stage.  The best path forward for Pakistan, reformative as it might be, is not to ask and hope for a mass revolution but the continuation of the process in the form of timely held general elections. Only democratic continuity will enable Pakistan to strengthen its civilian institutions and build its political and public sphere.


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121 Responses to "A case for evolutionary change"

  1. tajender United Arab Emirates Internet Explorer Windows says:

    kaalchakra says:
    March 1, 2013 at 11:10 pm
    HP, tajender

    That article on Suhrawardy and Liaquat Ali Khan is instructive

    KAAL,……sarat bose forefathers were mployees of afghan muslim rulers.that is why they understand muslims more than others.suharwrdy and brhmns were both was honest other was hiding among common man by speaking bengalee.muslim rulers of bengal did lot moire for bengal than crook brhmn,who always looted state by siding with winners.

  2. saad Cayman Islands Google Chrome Windows says:

    Romain sb: We enjoy debating the past but seem to have learnt little from it. Divisive, abusive and maximalist discourse does not add anything to this board.

  3. kaalchakra United States Google Chrome Windows says:


    Agree with you. Amazing that more Indians don’t know enough about Sarat Bose. The name ‘Bose’ tends to be unfortunately associated only with Neta ji, but Sarat Bose, through his family and associates in Bengal, has played a greater role in shaping our debates and discussions. This is a good thing, and needs to be highlighted. Often we look at these debates – which make us shake our heads in wonder – without knowing where the beliefs and passions spring from. I find the great man Sarat Bose to be an absolutely fascinating figure who left a far stronger legacy than most of us Indians realize.

  4. romain United States Internet Explorer Windows says:

    Saad sb,

    i would rather see the fights on boards like this than on the border.

    The issue is how to move forward

  5. heavy_petting United States Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Vish, Sorry I missed the following message,
    “Wasn’t the Bengali speaking Sheikh Mujib, who eventually became independent Bangladesh’s first Prime Minister and later lifelong President, one of the ‘very active’ participants of the Muslim League on Direct Action day? He did all this under the able guidance of the Urdu speaking Bengali??? Shaheed Suhrawardy.”
    Vish, frankly, to evaluate any subcontinental politician’s overall behavior I would discount the politics that took place in the period 1946-48. Even so, Sheikh Mujib was then a student leader, basically a muscle man and bodyguard of Suhrawardy during the DAD riots. So naturally he was ‘very active’ on 16th August, 1946, as was the great S. P. Mukherjee and thousand other Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims of Calcutta. But right after partition, the same Sheikh Mujib the muscle man ended up rescuing many a stranded Hindu Bengali in East Pakistan from the claws of the rampaging Muslim mobs that arrived from India. But Vish, the greater point I wanted to make was in response to an unfortunate comment from Kaalchakra the worshiper of the ancient Hindu Goddess Na-Iti, and that was that Bengali Muslims of Bangladesh, generally, are not disrespectful to Hinduism and Dhaka Durga and Kali Pujas are some of the biggest festivals in that country, while the belittling of the Hindu religions and customs that KC speaks of may be more true of the north Indian (and Calcutta) Muslims who are generally Urdu speaking.

  6. kaalchakra United States Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    heavy_pandya ji, I don’t know which goddesses you keep speaking of, but I worship them all and none :)

    It’s completely irrelvant whether anyone respects durga or disrespects kali. The only point to be grasped is that TNT was about constitutionally mandating power into the hands of Muslims over Hindus, or constitutionally removing power from the hands of permanent majority Hindus. Bengali Muslims had been most active in this regard and had, using a combination of politicking and violence, perfected the system better than did the later-comers jinnah et al.

    In post 1947, Mujib was SUPPOSED to rescue Hindus according to TNT. Jinnah, some say, failed to do so, and TNT failed in West Pakistan.

  7. kaalchakra United States Google Chrome Windows says:

    oh sorry, that is heavy_petting, not heavy_pandya.

  8. heavy_petting United States Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Kaalchakra ji, I was just referring to the attributes of the ancient Hindu goddess/philosophy Na-Iti Na-Iti you were discussing the other day, which apparently so confused our dear old Rex Minor ji in his quest of Hinduism that he found solace by leaving this wonderful blog. Anyway, that’s a minor matter and you are of course at liberty to worship all or none of the Gods and Goddesses including Goddess Nefertiti as you please. But coming back to the important issue of the Bengali Muslims it may just have missed your attention (in your single minded devotion to Goddess Nefertiti no doubt) that the Muslims in Bengal already formed a permanent majority in their province and did not need a separate Pakistan to exercise their “constitutionally mandated power” over the Hindus. The Muslims of north India, who quite possibly had a very low opinion of Goddess Nefertiti and vice versa, were not in a position as in Bengal and Punjab and thus went for the kill under the glorious terms and conditions of the Two Nation Theory.

  9. kaalchakra United States Google Chrome Windows says:


    Muslims of Bengal had single-mindedly pursued the communal award. Then, they supported Cabinet Mission Plan. Only Sarat Chandra Bose and his henchmen were willing to guarantee constitutional power supremacy to Bengali Muslims – their brothers. If you do not think this constitutionally guaranteed power over/from Hindus is what Jinnah was after everywhere else, you are at liberty to do so.

    The fact that even as majority Bengali Muslims had pursued constitutional supremacy should tell you something.

  10. heavy_petting United States Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Your knowledge of communal award is only matched by your knowledge of everything else!
    “Muslims of Bengal had single-mindedly pursued the communal award.”
    Really? Who pursued them? Can you name names?
    “Then, they supported Cabinet Mission Plan.”
    Who are “they” who supported the Cabinet Mission Plan? Again, can you name some names?
    “Only Sarat Chandra Bose and his henchmen were willing to guarantee constitutional power supremacy to Bengali Muslims – their brothers. If you do not think this constitutionally guaranteed power over/from Hindus is what Jinnah was after everywhere else, you are at liberty to do so.”
    Do you know the terms in that plan? Do you even know the plan proposed joint electorate for election of representatives?
    “The fact that even as majority Bengali Muslims had pursued constitutional supremacy should tell you something.”
    No it doesn’t tell me anything because no such thing happened. The Communal award was a Muslim League demand and they had no presence in Bengal in 1932! Your incoherent rambling does tell me however that you should restart with those pills and go a little softer with the human sacrifices made to your Goddess Nefertiti.

  11. lalubihari United States Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    KC Bhaiya

    Zara bataiyega Sarat Bose paida kahan hue the aur kaun si Bhasha bolte the. Agar nahi pata hoga to hum se pucch lijiyega. Unko do baar laat khani padi, kaise aur kab inquiry kar lijiyega..

  12. beacon India Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Islam is a closed religion. It was finalized the day Mohammad died. It can never be changed, reformed, made progressive. There is no possibility of any evolutionary change in islam.

    Karl Popper wrote a book “The open society and its enemies”.

    This book applies to islam and Mohammad and kuran very much.

    Popper meant it in the 1930′s against bolshevism (Stalinism), Marx, Hegel, Plato.

    In those days (1930′s) islam’s fascism had not become so strong and known world-wide. Today we can say correctly that islam, Mohammad and kuran are the bitterest and most dangerous enemies of an open, honest, relaxed, peaceful, progressive society.
    Finalism is fascism. Islam is a finalist attitude and ideology. A muslim can never be really open-minded, honest and tolerant.

    Islam and its agents are going to bring much more destruction upon us.

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