A State Without A Society
23 May, 2007
By Muhammad Ahsan Yatu
Evolution taught many species how to live as social groups. What made humans a super species was that they transformed their social groupings into society and also evolved state. It was done through politics, a social instrument, which is peculiar to humans only. Politics also maintains a progressive social equilibrium through management of both state and society. It is not simply for nothing that the politicians are the most honoured humans. They become most dishonoured also, when they disgrace politics.
It is not simply the feelings of sympathy and ‘sanctity of judiciary’ that have made the ordinary Pakistanis to stand by the side of the chief justice. He has become an icon because people saw in his resistance revival of political hope. That the MQM behaved differently and did not side with the chief justice is because it has a political hope of its own in the leadership of Altaf Hussain. The MQM confronted the others and supported Pervez Musharraf as a disaster management strategy. It perhaps presumed that the way the caravan of revival of political hope was moving, it would damage the local political structure that it had built through its efforts of decades. The strange behaviour of localised politicians does them too often more harm than good, and the same is true about the rulers whom they support. If the MQM had sided with the chief justice, it would have become a major party right away. President Musharraf too would have escaped the credibility loss caused to his government due to the MQM rally.
The PML (Q) is still supporting the President, but support of stalwarts is of little worth in critical times. The PPP and the PML (N) have as many stalwarts on their side. They too proved useless as they failed to maintain the political momentum and that provided an easy time to an inefficient government. In fact stalwarts from opposition or government have common interests. Not all of them can be accommodated in any government. Hence some are sitting in the opposition and are waiting for their turn. This has been a routine since sixty years. Slowly and steadily people have become aware of this game. They know that the political parties including army are working for the interests of various social groups and institutions and have no commitment with the masses. That is why when Musharraf replaced Nawaz Sharif there was no resistance. Musharraf did not receive a warm welcome either. The people knew about the real intentions of the generals also. Yet, change in governing faces has its own dynamics. It silences the people at least for couple of years. Musharraf regime not only did the same as the others before him had done, it also managed the social dynamics in a way that it looked as if the people will remain silent for ever. Before the reference against the chief justice, Pakistan was passing through its most terrible times. In spite of the unimaginable increase in corruption, joblessness and poverty, the people were not ready to rise on the calls of their ‘leaders’. Religious leaders too had failed, because almost all Pakistanis knew and about their links with the agencies, army, America and Arabs.
So the people in spite of yearning for change were sitting silent in their homes. The chief justice’s response to the reference and determination to fight back, gave them a political hope. Irrespective of who is supporting or opposing him, his response is certainly a nation energizing exercise; though, finally it would not satisfy the peoples’ objectives. What is needed is a political path. Resistance for a specific purpose, sanctity of judiciary, could be a beginning, but it is likely to disappear after the present crisis ends. The elitist supporters of both sides have common stakes. All of them want to keep control over their share of resources intact. So unless resistance is taken as an essential and eternal instrument for social change, status quo will stay. The fact is that we do need politics to transform the present social groupings into a society and to turn the existing state into a viable progressive state, but it is not that easy. There are hundreds of hurdles to emergence of politics.
We became a nation due to the partition of India, and inherited from the British a state (governing system), but without a society. In the context of united India we were a part of a well-established society, which had from Qallat to Assam and from Karakoram to Kerala a clear identification. Despite thousands of social groups and contradictions, all of us were Indians; Indian Hindus and Indian Muslims, and Indian jat and Indian gujars, and Indian Pathans and Indian Tamils etc. After partition we should have become Pakistani Muslims, Pakistan Hindus, Pakistani gujars, Pakistani Jats, Pakistani Pathans, Pakistani Bengalis etc., and that we did, but a hostile environment distracted us. Partition led to massive killings of minorities in both Pakistan and India, and that subsequently led to huge migrations. Almost all Hindus and Sikhs left West Pakistan and a good percentage of Indian Muslims mostly from East Punjab and the UP migrated to Pakistan. Migration did not affect the Indian society — partly due to vastness of India and millennia old geopolitical configuration, and also due to the political and economic bond provided by the Indian National Congress, various leftist political parties, labour and student unions, and a well grown capitalist class — but it finished the pre-partition society in the Western part of Pakistan, and we failed to evolve a new one.
The exodus of non-Muslim entrepreneurs, businessmen and traders did most of the damage. The Muslim league did the rest. It acted right from the beginning as a feudal, pro-rich and ethnic entity and lost its credibility not only among Bengalis, Sindhis, Baloch and Pukhtoons but also among common Mohajirs and Punjabis. Within months we became a terribly divided people with no political bond and without a society. All that the new nation was left with was either a crowd or the old and new social groupings, and a crying society in East Pakistan.
There are only two ways to evolve the society. First, leave the affairs to evolution, to natural course. It would take centuries. Second, turn to the western/modern means, to participatory economy; it means engaging the people through participatory politics not only in the growth of economy but also in fair distribution of the wealth thus produced. Had we done so, it could have transformed the social groupings of West Pakistan into a society and the state of Pakistan into a wise entity. Industrialisation by a democratic government was the solution.
Our ruling elites represented a minority of Pakistanis. They comprised of various social groupings such as land-based stalwarts, who were averse to land reforms, and the Mohajir-Punjabi dominated civil-military bureaucracy, which was more interested in its own survival and consolidation of its hold over state power. The only means they thought would help them were the American support, and continuity of pre-partition rhetoric — sticking to the concept of a metaphysical identity, the two nation theory. They knew quite less about how to run a state and how to transform the social groupings into a society. It was not their fault. They were not politicians. And the politicians that we had were labelled as the Indian and Russian agents or anti-Pakistan.
Our friends the Americans came to our rescue. Massive external aid helped us to a have a bit of industrialisation, but it did not do any good due to many reasons. It was done by the generals and not by the politicians. It was also confined only to one city. Moreover it was done through the worst form of capitalism. The result was that in spite of economic growth, poverty increased and the wealth got concentrated in the hands of a couple of dozens of families, who using other means robbed the common man of whatever he had even before the industrialisation. The end results of General Ayub’s industrialisation drive were that there were not many domestic purchasers left, and the economy had to face constant recession. So we could not evolve a society even through industrialisation. Rather, we became more divided. Even our existence as one nation crashed. What emerged was a stronger than before ethnicity, which was reinforced further by General Ziaul Haq and continues to have its hold over our social scenario. It is not the MQM only that is using the ethnicity as a political tool. The cool reaction of the Punjabis, the Mohajirs and the Sindhis to the killings of the Baloch and their leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti is enough evidence of the hold of ethnicity over our minds and souls.
The present army-led regime strengthened the social groupings further. Before 9/11 it could not do much to improve the situation. It was short of funds. After 9/11 there was lot of wealth around and country saw a bit of prosperity due to aid, grants, remittances and borrowings from open markets, and also due to the growth in services sectors. The external loans too were either readjusted or waived off. But again the prosperity entered the homes of those who were already rich; or who were close to the high-ups, be they gentlemen from the army or the supporters from ethnic and other social groups. During the seven and a half years of present regime ordinary Pakistanis stood completely ignored.
Never before were the things as bad for the common folks as they are today. Never before were the people as hopeless as they are today. Yet, the human beings are the political creatures. Their urge for change cannot be suppressed. They cannot be silenced for long. Political path must be paved. A fragmented populace must be re-arranged and shaped into a society. The state must end tribalism and feudalism and turn to massive industrialisation and social sector development. Who will do it and from where will the capital come. The capital will come first from reducing the spending on defence and administration by at least fifty percent; afterwards the foreign investment too will follow. Not all forms of government can do it. Sixty years of exploitation has left nothing with the people, hence a social democratic government is the only choice. The question of all questions is from where the social democrats will come. If the MLs, the PPPs, the MQM and the MMA, the IJI, the Lashkars, the Jaish, the Sipah and the Taliban can emerge from nowhere, why cannot a social democratic party come from somewhere? It will be worthwhile to mention here that in spite of the effects of the migration and the efforts of the Generals, the bureaucrats, the feudals, the filthy rich, the Arabs and the Americans to eliminate it, the progressive political legacy that the British had left behind remained alive, not at any organisational level, but at the level of individuals certainly. It proves its existence time and again, despite hundreds of hurdles: The peoples’ support to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and to the chief justice are old and fresh examples.
Had our friends the Americans not supported General Ayub and his creation, the convention Muslim League, and instead guided us to have a functional democracy, their help in industrialisation would have done positive things to this country. What the Americans did was their prerogative, Pakistan is not their country. It is we the common Pakistanis and the special Pakistanis — the people in uniform and the 1.5% rich — who have to be good to ourselves, otherwise what to talk of state, society and social groupings, we may lose our worth as individuals also.