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Manners: Aitzaz’s architecture of agitation

10 December, 2007

By Muhammad Ahsan Yatu


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It is irony of the Millennium that the ambassadors of many Muslim majority countries had meetings with Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif on upcoming elections in Pakistan? The visit of the Turkish president too was regarding the same subject. This new kind of mega ‘Muslim’ intervention mostly from undemocratic nations in our affairs is in addition to the one from the democratic West and the US. The question is what is Pakistan, a country, a theatre or a laboratory? Are the outsiders trying to show the world and us that the  ‘nuclear’ Pakistan is so disturbed a place? The more we think about ourselves through our own misdoings and also through our connections with the outsiders the more painful it becomes to digest the discovered answer. 

This imported pain is over and above the one that we have from the insiders. It is not about the Swat Valley insurgency launched by the unfriendly Taliban; neither is it about the Waziristan deals made with the friendly Taliban that created nothing but dilemmas; nor is it about the growth of robbery or our present day economy; this pain comes from our own commentators who tell us that the lawyers’ resistance will end if it fails to get support from the political parties. It may face temporary setbacks, but a rational movement does not end forever.  And no rational movement, no matter who starts it, is apolitical if it has social/collective relevance. 

The Judicial activism that began with the suspension of the privatisation of the steel mill and the suo moto actions was expression of acceptance of social responsibility in very difficult, sad and silent times. Only the brave and the committed could do it. Though all of us knew what has been happening to us and around us since the last eight years, buried under the burden of miseries we were just silent. There was complete collapse of administrative structures as for as honesty and efficiency are concerned. Most state functionaries, from top to bottom, were not interested in their routine jobs unless bribed or pressurised. So, never before did the common people feel as alienated as during the past eight years. This culture of bureaucratic greed and apathy had created infinite problems for every body. In the absence of politics, the silent people had to seek solutions through the courts. There was no other way out. What else could they do, and where else could they go?

What the judges did was that they tried to fill the political vacuum while remaining within the constitutional limits.  Instead of looking into the causes of the emergence of the judicial activism and hence into the miseries of the people, the non-political executive heads of the state, the prime minister and the president acted repulsively, and that created the chaos. It would have been safe even for the state to correct itself through one of its organs, the judiciary. The judicial activism would not have brought about much needed revolution, but the ouster of the judges and resulting lawyers’ movement may, and that is why our all-major political parties — which are as pro-status quo as the king’s party — are not in favour of the boycott of the elections. It is the fear of massive rigging only that may keep them away from the elections.

Aitzaz Ahsan knows that his community’s movement has not born out of nothingness, it has behind it not only the cause of the deposed judges, but also a social relevance. The people are yearning for change in the system. They are looking for the saviours. They will come out the moment the ousted Supreme and High Court Judges and Aitzaz and other lawyers are freed. But there is other side of the story as well. Aitzaz is right when he says that the peoples’ political energy is likely to be consumed by the elections. It is on this premise he has developed his architecture of agitation.

Aitzaz’s idea will come into action if the major political parties participate in the elections. His plan is to engage his community, media, civil society activists and the common people in another kind of agitation, a quasi-legal battle. The plan will seek commitment from the candidates to support the cause of the judiciary and the lawyers’ in the parliaments also. The candidates would sign the oath in presence of public. The entire exercise, if not interrupted, is likely to prove as big as the elections. Imagine thousands of candidates and their supporters reaching the district courts or selected places through out the country, and guess the intensity of active collectivism and who will win the final round. Even the supporters of MQM and Muslim League (Q) will join this splendid show of commitment with the national cause. 

The exercise, however, may raise such questions as, will a weak state tolerate such captivating agitation, how would the ‘empire’ quartered in Rawalpindi react to the situation, and how would the mafias behave? Given the disgrace Pakistani ruling elites, both military and civil, are facing internationally and internally almost on daily basis due to the constitutional violations, the weak state will not most probably make more violations; and the ‘empire’ too will prefer to stay away from the political arena — developments to that effect have already started taking somewhat shape.  However, the mafias may try to resist the movement by engaging the militants and in the manner as they did to Imran Khan in the Punjab University Campus.  Again the collective action of the society is the answer to the activities of the mafias.

What if the judges are not restored even after the elections?  Not all of us would sit silently. We will not move backwards by a hundred year as Mr. Justice (deposed) Khalilur Rehman Ramday recently said. We will not allow ourselves to be swallowed first by the assets multiplying mafias, terrorists and militarists, and then by the black holes of history. The resistance will continue till it succeeds. Soon after the elections ‘Judicial Bus Movement’ too will start. Pakistan is not Georgia, Ukraine, Venezuela or India, as five martial laws and pro-status quo leaders have shattered the political will of Pakistani people, but the damage has not been done to that extent as Aitzaz is assuming. We will not take months to regain our energy if it is lost in the elections. Perhaps Aitzaz, like many others, thinks that we should not waste time and opportunity. This is a valid argument. We are already late by sixty years. Aitzaz’s architecture of realistic agitation is reflection of our new mannerism that, indeed, has social and not rhetorical or opportunistic relevance.

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