The writer is of the view that ideology of a country does exert a multi-faceted impact on a country. The cataclysmic rise of Tehrik Labbaik Pakistan bears out this fact. The deprived people, with wistful eyes, look toward the TLP as a ray of hope. Pakistan’s predicament is that a handful of chiefs and chieftains created by the British raj still dominate its parliament. They have no penchant for undertaking land/capital reforms or undertake pro-poor legislation. To change the status quo a revolution is needed, that is nowhere in the offing.
Every country has an ideology, explicit or implicit. A country’s institutions get adapted to its ideology whether it accelerates or retards economic growth. Though Pakistan has to conform to interest-based international economic system, it did take measures like redesign ting “interest”, as “profit loss sharing”, and introducing Modarba, Mosharika, etc.
Karl Marx abhorred “ideology” as a tool to perpetuate domination of the proletariat by the classes. The US ideology legalized “slavery” until anti-slavery laws were enacted. George C . Lodge and Ezra F. Vogel (eds.) discuss impact of ideology on nine countries (UK, USA, Japan, Germany, France, Taiwan, Korea, Brazil, and Mexico).
We are concerned with Pakistan. The way a politico-religious party, Tehrik Labbaik Pakistan, shook formal law-and-order apparatus of the country has stark lessons for impact t of ideology in Pakistan. A sit-in could paralyse a formal structure of government. It may have to give in to some demands willy- hilly. The legislature that makes laws for the country may become a pawn to the party that commands infinitesimal influence within the parliament but tremendous influence without.
What counts is not political power measure in terms of numerical strength in the parliament but the number of hooligans on the street. Our prevailing climate is well epitomized in Jean Bodin’s dictum majesta est summa in civas ac subditoes legibusque salute potestas, that is ‘highest power over citizens and subjects unrestrained by law’. Bodin explained power resides with whosoever has ‘power to coerce’. It does not reside with electorate, parliament, judiciary or even constitution. In the past, our bureaucrats, judges, politicos, and even praetorian rulers fought tooth and nail to prove that le pouvoir belonged to them.
Significance of `Street Power’
Decades ago, ZA Bhutto was hanged. His supporters still remember call his hanging a judicial murder. He was hanged though his party enjoyed grassroot support. But it lacked nerve to bring millions on the streets. Similarly, three-time prime minister Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif could not attract . In stark contrast, It was not the law, but street power that got the doomed leader , Mujeebur Rehman acquitted. Roedad Khan, in his Pakistan: A Dream gone Sour writes `Agartala Conspiracy Case was withdrawn, not because the prosecution case against Mujeeb was weak, but because over a million people were out on the streets of Dhaka’. Roedad says, ‘Bhutto was a doomed man, once it became clear that that he continued to remain popular with masses even after loss of office and that nothing could stop him from staging a comeback in the free fair and impartial elections which Zia had promised to the people of Pakistan’.
When leaders like Bhuttos and Sharifs become irreverent to masses, non-political or non-elected entities ascend in the asymmetry to make them irrelevant. According to Asghar Khan’s We’ve Learnt Nothing from History: ‘Bhutto …told me that he was sure that if I joined hands with him…We can then rule together’. The people are stupid and I know how to fool them. I will have the danda (stick) in my hand and no one will be able to remove us for twenty years”. Bhuttos are hanged and Sharifs ousted or exiled Bhutto was a pseudo-democrat contemptuous of the vote. So, a million pseudo-supporters sat at home instead of coming on to the streets.
As such, it should not be surprising that a handful of TLP people could immobilize the government so easily.
No` leader’, just sand dunes
Aware of the selfishness of the Indian people, the British created a class of chiefs (chieftains) to suit their need for loyalists, war fund raisers and recruiters in the post-Mutiny period and during the Second World War. Peek into the pre-partition gazetteers and you would know the lineage of today’s’ Tiwanas, Nawabs, Pirs, Syed Faqirs, Qizilbash, Kharrals, Gakhars, and their ilk. A gubernatorial gazetteer states, ‘I have for many years felt convinced that the time had arrived for the Government to try to introduce some distinction for those who can show hereditary services before the Hon’ble Company’s rule in India ceased. I have often said that I should be proud to wear a Copper Order, bearing merely the words ‘Teesri pusht Sirkar Company ka Naukar’.
Some pirs (shrine holders) and mashaikh (religious scholars) even quoted verses from Holy Quran to justify allegiance to Englishman (amir, ruler), after loyalty to Allah and the Messenger (Peace be upon him)). They pointed out that Quran ordained that ihsan (favour) be returned with favour. The ihsan were British favours like titles (khan bahadur, sir, etc), office of honorary magistrate, assistant commissioner, etc. Gandhi astutely perceived that Indians themselves allowed themselves to be colonised for their own material interests. He lamented that Indians had become ‘sly sycophants and willing servants of the Empire thereby proving to the world that they were morally unfit to serve the country.
Winnable candidates without street power
About 460 scions of the pre-partition chiefs along with industrial barons created in Ayub era are returned again and again to assemblies. Like sand dunes they keep changing their parties depending on direction of the wind, However, it is questionable whether they could amass people like the TLP can, on the streets. The TLP draws its support from urban centres and the martial belt Jhelum onward.
Lack of political participation alienates people
Demokratia (power of the people) could never equalise citizens. However, all democracies envisioned ‘opportunities for political participation to larger proportions of the population’, and across-the-board accountability. Democracy is a progressive effort to equalise citizens before law, rather than legalising mafias.
During Aristotelian age, the city states participated well in decision making. But, as population, grew they left participation job to their representative. American political dissident Noam Chomsky calls even American people ‘a bewildered herd’. Michels’ Iron Law of Oligarchies mentions an inherent flaw of present-day democracy. The Law states that all complex organisations, including `democracies’, regardless of how democratic they are in the beginning, eventually develop into oligarchies.
Michels observed that since no sufficiently large and complex organisation can function purely as a direct democracy, power within an organisation will always get delegated to individuals within that group; elected or otherwise.
The American founding father James Maddison presented idea of a senate as a bulwark against vulgarities of Aristotelian unicameral legislature, a house of the common men (akin to House of Commons, a Lok Sabha or a National Assembly).
What a pity that demokratia (power of the people) never succeeded in equalising citizens in Pakistan. Most nominees, even those of the Naya Pakistan party, are filthy rich. Even our lower house has no place for paupers. Then who would do pro-poor legislation? Evolve a national healthcare and education system? Ensure basic facilities and justice at doorstep?
Media as the tertiary wing of the parliament is docile. Since creation of Pakistan, there has been little pro-poor representation. A political order and culture, dominated by feudal, industrial robber barons, tribal dynasties or their extended clans, and mullahs, fostered clienteles’ politics. Taxes become regressive, throttling the poor, and sparing the rich (owners of plazas, car fleets, ‘farm’ houses, posh idyllic mansions including those at politicians, Clifton, Sea View, and elsewhere at home and abroad).
There is abhorrence to taxing the network of supporters. A tendency to rely on or blame Uncle Sam for the country’s problems, leverage Pakistan’s geographic location to attract foreign funds instead of tapping own resources, including its rich tax base. Creating divisions in society by popularising extremist versions of role of Islam, justifying persecution of minorities.
According to the Uited nations’ Development Programme 2020, the feudal aristocracy and industrial robber barons together enjoy privileges of whopping Rs. 1094 billion. The feudal enjoyed Rs. 370 billion while the business tycoons Rs. 724 billion. Being perched in the parliament, they remain the holy `untouchable’.
Obstacle to land/capital reforms
Pakistan’s Constitution gives paramountcy to Islam. Islam is itelf the most progressive religion. But, the problem is that , unlike Iran, Pakistan has no supra-constitutional authority to overturn such Islamic legislation which proves to be practically against broader public interest (maslaha mursala). A case in point is Qazalbash Waqf v. Chief Land Commissioner, Punjab. Judgment in the case was pronounced on August 10, 1989 (made effective from March 23, 1990).
A 3-2 vote judgment of the Shariat Appellate Bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan blocked land reforms in Pakistan. It uncannily strengthened feudal aristocracy. Pakistan can’t do away with all jagirs as did India way back in 1948 because of the afore-quoted judgment. Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani writes in his lead judgment: “ 1. … Everything in the world actually belongs to Allah and he has granted humans the right to utilize them within the limits of divine laws. … There are certain obligations on the person who uses the land. The right to property in Islam is absolute, and not even the state can interfere with this right. 2. Islam has imposed no quantitative limit (ceiling) on land or any other commodity that can be owned by a person. 3. If the state imposes a permanent limit on the amount of land which can be owned by its citizen, and legally prohibits them from acquiring any property beyond that prescribed limit, then such an imposition of limit is completely prohibited by the Shariah.”
The two dissenting judges, Nasim Hassan Shah and Shafiur Rahman argued that a limit on land holdings was necessary to reform society and alleviate poverty.
Conclusion: Need for a “social movement”
In an interview with Al-Jazeera, the UNDP assistant secretary general, lamented that Pakistan’s power structure is so deep rooted that only a “social movement”, euphemism for revolution, could change the status quo.
The bulwark against reforms is the aforementioned judgment in Qizilbash Trust case. Could our parliament reopen the case to align it with its dream of a Medina welfare state? Medina state, like Singapore, owned all land. Are jagirs a divine or a British gift? How did the filthy rich, the feudal lords and the industrial robber barons come into being? If accumulated wealth in a few hands is rooted in wrongdoing, a considerable chunk of it should be mopped up. Peek into the pre-partition gazetteers and you would know the patri-lineage of many of today’s Tiwanas, Nawabs, Pirs, Syed, Faqirs, Qizilbashs, Kharrals, Gakkhars, and their ilk. Taqi Usmani perhaps overlooked that a feudal aristocracy was created whose generations ruled post-independence governments. Read Zahid Hussain’s article, `House of feudals’, in the April 1985 issue of the defunct Herald. Is it anathema to look into the origin of land grants or wealth. It is eerie that the government could not stop Grand Mufti Taqi Usmani from supporting the TLP.
Bhashan Char Relocation: Bangladesh’s Effort Appreciated by UN
Bhashan Char, situated in the district of Noakhali, is one of the 75 islands of Bangladesh. To ease the pressure on the digested camps in Cox’s Bazar and to maintain law and order, Bangladesh has relocated about 18,500 Rohingya refugees from the overcrowded camps to the island since December last year. The Rohingya relocation plan to Bhashan Char aligns with the Bangladesh government’s all-encompassing efforts towards repatriation. The initial plan was to relocate 100,000 of the more than a million refugees from the clogged camps to the island. From the onset of the relocation process, the UN and some other human rights organizations criticized the decision pointing to remoteness and sustainability. UNHCR showed their concern over the island’s susceptibility to seasonal storm and flood. They proposed for a “technical assessment” of the Bhashan Char facilities.
An 18-member UN delegation visited Bhashan Char Island on March 17 this year to have a first-hand assessment of the housing facility for the Rohingya forcibly displaced Myanmar Nationals (FDMNs). Shortly after the UN’s visit, a team with 10 diplomats including heads of missions of embassies and delegations from Turkey, the EU, US, UK, France, Germany, Japan, Australia, Canada and the Netherlands also went to the island on April 3 to appraise the facilities. All the members of the technical team opined that they are ‘satisfied’ with the facilities in Bhashan Char. The experts of the UN told, they will hand over a 10-page report of their annotations and they have already submitted a two-page abridgment. On April 16, they released the two-page synopsis after a month of the visit. After the three-day study of Bhashan Char by the UN delegates, they recommended the Bangladesh government to continue the relocation process to the island in a ‘phased manner’. The team twigged three points – education for Rohingya children, increasing heights of the embankments and better communication system. The Foreign Minister of Bangladesh A. K. Abdul Momen concerted to take the necessary measures to create a safe and secure environment for the Rohingya refugees until the repatriation takes place. The relocation is not the solution of the Rohingya crisis rather the over emphasis of the relocation and facilities inside Bangladesh is protracting the crisis and distracting the attention from the broader emphasis on the repatriation to Myanmar.
The UNHCR and other concerned parties should plan for a long run repatriation process. Repatriation is the only durable solution, not the relocation of the Rohingya refugees. For the time being, resettlement under the Asrayan-3 project is an ease for the FDMNs but in the long run the Rohingya crisis is going to turn as a tremendous threat for regional peace and stability. Besides, resentment in the host community in Bangladesh due to the scarce resources may emerge as a critical security and socio-economic concern for Bangladesh. It is not new that the Rohingyas are repatriated in Myanmar during the Military rule. Around 20,000 Rohingya refugees were repatriated to Myanmar in the 2000s. The focus of the world community should be creating favourable conditions for the Rohingyas to return safely regardless who is in the power seat of Myanmar-civilian or military government. The UN should largely focus on repatriating the Rohingya refugees in a “phased manner”, let alone deciding their concern in the camps and the Bhashan Char. After the praiseworthy relocation plan, they should now concentrate on implementing speedy and durable repatriation. Proactive initiatives are essential from all walks for a safe and dignified return of the FDMNs. To be specific, the relocation is a part of the repatriation, not the solution of the problem.
Afghan peace options
President Biden’s decision to withdraw unconditionally all foreign forces from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021 will leave behind an uncertain and genuine security concerns that ramifications will be born by Afghanistan as well as the region.
The Taliban seems least interested in peace talks with the Afghan government and appear determined to take control of the entire afghan government territory by force during post-withdrawal of American forces. Short of the total surrender, Afghan government has no possible influence to force the Taliban to prefer talks over violence. Resultantly, the apprehensions that Afghanistan could plunge into another civil war runs very high.
The consequences of yet another civil war will be deadly for Afghanistan and the whole region as well. Among the neighboring countries of Afghanistan, Pakistan will bear the severe burnt of an escalation of violence in particular. A civil war or possible Taliban takeover will surely upsurge and reinvigorate the Islamic militancy in Pakistan, thus threatening to lose the hard won gains made against militancy over the past decade.
The afghan and Pakistani Taliban, nevertheless, are the two sides of the same coin. Coming back to power of the Taliban in Afghanistan is surely emboldened and revives Pakistani Taliban and other militant outfits. Moreover, spread of violence not only reduce all chances of repatriation of refugees but possibly increase the inflow of refugees from Afghanistan to Pakistan.
Furthermore, worsening of the security situation in Afghanistan will jeopardize the prospects of trade, foreign investment and economic development initiatives such as china-Pakistan economic corridor. The chances of Gawadar and Karachi port to become a transit trade route for the region and link the energy rich region of central asia will become bleak until a sustainable peace and stability is achieved in Afghanistan.
It is against this background that the successful end of the intra-afghan talk is highly required for Pakistan, for its own sake. Officially, Islamabad stated policy is to ensure the afghan-led and afghan-owned peace solution of the afghan conflict. It helped in bringing the Taliban on the negotiation table, which finally resulted in the signing of the Doha deal between US and Taliban. Further, Pakistan has time and again pressurized the Taliban to resume the dialogue. Moreover, Islamabad holds that, unlike in the past when it wanted a friendly regime in Kabul, it aims to develop a friendly and diplomatic relation whoever is on the power in Kabul.
Notwithstanding the stated policy and position of the Islamabad, the afghan government and the many in the US remains dubious of Pakistan’s commitment. Against these concerns, Islamabad categorically stated that it does not have complete control over the Taliban.
The success of the peace process will require coordination and cooperation among the all regional actors and the US and afghan government. Pakistan’s role is of an immense significance because of its past relation with the Taliban. There is no denying of the fact that Pakistan has not complete control over the Taliban. Despite, it has more leverage than the other actors in the region.
The Islamabad’s willingness to use its influence over the Taliban is her real test in the achievement of peace process. However, Pakistan has successfully used its leverage and brought the Taliban on negotiations table. Although, history is the testimony of the fact that mere cajoling won’t dissuade the Taliban from unleashing violence.
The prospects of intra-afghan talks will develop in success when the cajoling strategy is backed up by with credible threats of crackdown which may involve denial of safe heaven to militant leaders and their families, stopping medical treatment, and disruption of finance etc. on the other hand, strong arm tactics fail to bring the Taliban to the table, then Pakistan should make sure that its territory is not used to carry out attacks in Afghanistan.
The afghan peace process has an opportunity for Pakistan to bury its hatchets with Afghanistan and start its diplomatic journey with a new vigor. While Kabul every time attach its failure with the Pakistan and shun away from its responsibility of providing peace to people of Afghanistan, it has a fair point about our pro Taliban afghan policy. Now that the US is leaving Afghanistan, it is high time that Pakistan bring forth a shift in its Afghanistan policy. Sustainable peace in Pakistan, especially Balochistan and ex-fata region is unlikely to achieve without Pakistan contributing to peace in Afghanistan.
Pakistani Fanatics and their Foreign Policy Overtures
A prudent leader ought to have regard not only for present troubles but also for future ones. They must prepare with every energy because, when foreseen, it is easy to remedy them; but if you wait until they approach, the medicine is no longer in time. Through not having been foreseen, they have been permitted to grow in a way that everyone can see them, there is no longer a remedy. These words are famously attributed to 16th-century Italian Philosopher Machiavelli, advising the ruler about statecraft, in his Magnus Opus, The Prince.
A similar kind of ignorance and obliviousness against which Machiavelli was warning to the ruler of the state was reflected by the government of Imran Khan when protests by a radical religious organization (TLP) shook the country from 11-20 April. Previous to this latest episode, TLP has also staged various sit-in and violent protests by which they effectively froze all life in twin cities as well as in various cities of Punjab.
2017 Faizabad interchange protest was the zenith of its anarchical behavior. In that protest, TLP demanded the resignation of the law minister altering the oath declaration in the election bill 2017. Preceding, the court heard a plea on the stated matter. Justice Qazi Faiz Essa while hearing a plea on the case, remarked; “The ambitious leadership of a fledgling political party [TLP] projected itself as the defender of the Muslim faith. They provoked religious sentiment, stoked the flames of hatred, abused, resorted to violence, and destroyed property worth Rs.163 million.” Another takeaway from the ruling of the Supreme Court goes like, “Protestors who obstruct people’s right to use roads and damage or destroy property must be proceeded against by the law and held accountable.”
Qazi Faiz Essa’s observation is enough to make a viewpoint on the organization. It is recommended that steps must be taken to curtail the reach of TLP. But allowing its leaders to further myth-spin bogus and inflammatory narratives, catch the attention of masses, effect normalcy in the country, and take hostage federal and provincial capitals many times after that shows sheer incapability on behalf of the state.
Moreover, the recent episode is also another criticism of religiosity interwoven within Pakistani society that has been exploited by opportunists to gain the support of the masses since its birth. TLP, an amalgamation of religio-political narrative, first appeared on the scene when it demanded the release of Mumtaz Qadri, the person who assassinated Governor Punjab Salman Taseer for criticizing blasphemy laws. After the execution of Qadri, Rizvi laid the foundation of Tehreek-E-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYR) for the purpose to protect the Blasphemy laws of Pakistan under the banner of protecting Honor for Prophet (PBUH). TLP is the political wing of TLYR which emerged as the 5th most popular political group in the electoral race of 2018. These numbers are a barometer to show that the party has gained considerable support among the masses for its narrative
Though the rise of TLP is attributed to fault lines within the domestic political culture of Pakistan and cultural cleavages that exist in the society. The recent protests were the result of its activeness in international affairs relevant to its narrative. The group tried to dictate the foreign relations of Pakistan. In the latest episode, TLP took on the streets again and demanded severing diplomatic ties with France. In the short aftermaths of TLP protests, European Parliament has adopted a resolution calling the review of the GSP+ status of Pakistan for abuse of blasphemy laws and expressed deep concerns over prevailing anti-French sentiments.
To add insult to injury, all of this is happening at a time when Pakistan is looking to create a soft image for herself, seeking an effective role in regional and international organizations for political and economic benefits, lobbying to move out of FATF grey list, and initiating an international campaign to unmask Indian state-sponsored terrorism in Kashmir, etcetera. Unfortunately, this has seriously jeopardized our pursuit of national interests and can nullify progress.
Disrespect for the Holy Prophet (PBUH) is an issue sensitive to all Muslims but there is always a better way of doing things. The goal should be to stop disrespect and blasphemy and not forging further cause of hatred. On the other hand, the French president defended the acts as Freedom of Expression – a value so dear to the west – so even if Pakistan sends the French Ambassador back and suffers all the losses, is there any assurance for improvement in a situation regarding blasphemous content? What will be the next step of TLP if this continues? What will be the alternatives for Pakistan after that? Surely, this calls for some reflection on self-proclaimed defenders of religion. Government, on its part, must opt for softer and diplomatic ways in reaching out to France and making them realize the severity of the issue for Muslims.
To sum up, State ought not to be bogged down by religious pressure groups and fanatics like TLP for the reason being that they have not understood long-term national interests. Pledging to Khadim Rizvi on moving the parliament about French ambassador was never a wise act. One should have been vigilant enough to access the Omens. Furthermore, the government must impart this to such groups that they must not test the nerves of the state. It is in the interest of the state as well as government to not let things slip out of hand and go this further hereafter where one more episode similar to this makes international isolation inevitable.
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