Pakistan’s Fatal Revolution Viral


Having been dragged by the horses ridden by politicians and military despots through the mud for 63 years, the notion of a revolution has not failed to enter the mind of Pakistanis as a saw to cut and break free from this chain of humiliation manacling them.

Recently this feeling and thought has become stronger in Pakistan by the intensity of its pervasiveness fueled by the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt. Pakistanis reason the absolute and dire need of a revolution in their country by stating how either they’re in the same or worser conditions than that of the two Arab nations.

 

 

One might question them, have they followed the events or studied the situations in both the aforementioned countries? Egypt is under the tyrannical rule of an obstinate dictator since he assumed power on October 14, 1981.

With an already-imposed Emergency Rule since 1967, Mubarak exercised his totalitarian muscle a great deal by depriving Egyptians of their basic human rights, suspending their civil liberties, stunting their social growth, curbing any freedom especially freedom of expression by strict and savage means   with an era that ensued of fraudulent elections, inflation, poverty, political persecutions, unemployment, corruption and illegal arrests. Om id Dunya has been survivng under a brute.

Reflecting was the case in Tunisia under the grip of Ben Ali.

While inflation and poverty et al maybe the similarities between Pakistan and Egypt, there’s a visible contrast in between which includes the chiefly important political landscape and the Civilian-Military imbalance of power.

People in Pakistan demand a revolution but a revolution against what? A Government they themselves elected in 2008? What a farce!

 

 

If its to remove the ‘American Puppets’ that ‘have sold the nation’s dignity’, who elects them again and again after getting carried away in the flow of emotionally-charged election speeches of the puppets? The very Pakistani nation now rallying for an uprising!

Pakistan suffers and continues to do so but largely because of the nation itself (minus the years of the forcibly saddled authoritarian rulers to our backs).

With an attitude of placing petty allegiances to parties over the country, dangerous divisions into sects, ethnic separations, indifference towards the erosion of Pakistan’s heritage, abandonment of culture due to sweeping shame felt in owning it and a despicable and damaging ‘conspiracy mindset’ that is developing which ascribes anything that happens in the land of 796,095 kmof area as a work of ‘vile foreign forces’ – to rife dishonesty from the farmer to the Parliament and a frazzled moral and social fabric – Pakistan in no way can afford or requires a revolution with these  inadequacies.

The entire world has witnessed the surreal, perfect religious harmony amongst the Egyptian Muslims and Coptics during the January 25 revolt. While Muslims prayed, Christians formed a human ring around them for protection.

When the Muslim Brotherhood members raised Pro-Muslim slogans at Tahrir Square which implied that Egypt was for Muslims only, they were stopped by Egyptian Muslims who declared Muslim and Christians are all Egyptians and a new shout:

“Egyptian people here we stand,

Muslim Christian hand in hand!”

During the prayers at the Square, priests and imams prayed for Egypt together. When the Imam was leading the prayers, Christians’ repeated after him in louder voices so that all Muslims could hear.

Even gender boundaries transcended as women and men prayed together.

Can this ever be the case in Pakistan where there is a stark wave of subliminal intolerance being infused into even the minds of the educated? Had it been that Muslims and Christians had stood together to pray, the Mullahs would’ve raised the cry of blasphemy and a deluge of fatwas would’ve swept the country. Had they seen women praying with men, threats would’ve tumbled down upon all those who participated in it.

Egyptians showed their awe-inspiring sense of nationhood by forming committees to clear the areas where they protested every morning after millions had gathered there the night before.

Groups were organized to guard the museums and properties and possessions of people, while all those who were skilled in their professions came running to provide help and assistance to their fellow countrymen – such as the doctors who aided the injured freely.
Does Pakistan need a revolution to adopt this spirit?

Did not this nation pull down Musharraf?

We’re not worthy of a change with our stagnant ways which smell of stench.
And thats where and what we have to change.

With the nation sunk in disagreements and tiffs,  wide possibilities of religious exploitation leading to extremism, some insisting the system of democracy should continue and the others pressing on Khilafat to be installed, even if a revolution takes place – anarchy, looting, killing would envelop the country and all hell would break loose with the advent of a civil war.

Pakistan would fall apart if a revolution takes place.

The solution is to let the democratic system go on, no matter how defected it seems to be currently. It will naturally strengthen the vital organs of the state (Judiciary, Media etcetra) to an extent that they start ironing out the loopholes in the institution of democracy itself in Pakistan, clearing the path for it to operate as it should.

 The failure of individuals in the system to deliver should not make one ascribe those to the system.

Too many times in Pakistan’s history have democratic governments been overthrown and at the end, such a mess had been carefully crafted that it proved to be the perfect excuse for the boots to come marching in.

Systems can not be overhauled for individuals. Democracy is a culture along with being a system, that needs to be cultivated. It requires time which this nation, that has resisted years of several dictatorships, refuses to give.

To see how democracy functions if facilitated with patience and continuity, one must not look any farther than India.

The nation must also aim for unity, an evolution, an intellectual revolution and aspire to establish the values Jinnah and Iqbal had wanted for their Pakistan.

 

Pakistanis must change their attitudes and themselves along with rationally analysing the situations to bring about a difference in their country, for virals can never be the remedy for any ill, in this case, the ills of Pakistan.

– Hafsa Khawaja

From Fascination To Inspiration : What Tunisia’s Revolt Signifies & Teaches Us



 
Seldom does the world get to witness nations standing up to take hold of their country from tyrannical heads and their atrocious hands.

Recently it did, watching in fascination as Tunisians came out on the streets to revolt against the corrupt and autocratic government of Ben Ali, their President in power since 1987.
 


What eventuated this uprising in opposition of unemployment, inflation and for civil liberties that lead to Ben Ali absconding the country just after 29 days of unrest as a young, jobless man Muhammad Bouazizi.
 
International Business Times writes about him under the title  ‘The Story of Mohammed Bouazizi, The Man Who Toppled Tunisia’ :
 
“Mohamed Bouazizi was a 26-year-old Tunisian with a computer science degree.

Like millions of angry and desperate Tunisians, he faced the unpleasant combination of poor employment prospects and food inflation. Moreover, the Tunisian government was seen as corrupt and authoritarian.
By December 17, resentment against authorities has been brewing for a while.
To make ends meet, the unemployed Bouazizi sold fruits and vegetables from a cart in his rural town of Sidi Bouzid, located 160 miles from the country’s capital Tunis. He did not have a license to sell, but it was his sole source of income.

On December 17, authorities confiscated his produce and allegedly slapped his face.
Bouazizi became incensed.
                                                                                                                                                          

He then drenched himself in gasoline and set himself on fire outside the governor’s office. Bouazizi survived his initial suicide attempt. After being transported to a hospital near Tunis, he was visited by President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali before passing away on January 4.

 

 

After his suicide attempt, unrest broke out in Sidi Bouzid. The police cracked down on the protestors, which only fueled the movement. The revolt eventually spread to the capital city.”
 
For decades, many a nations under totalitarian regimes have eagerly fancied the idea of a revolution – waiting for the ‘right time’ and a leader to take them forward to actualize it but Tunisians have shown that when it comes to taking back the ownership of their country, no nation needs a leader rather their actions have asserted the reality that nations are their own leaders.
 
Those who had been following the unfolding of events in the Arab country since December had their thoughts about the marches, protests and riots dangling between doubts over their success yet the citizens of Tunisia proved that it is people like them who deserve a country and freedom – for they value and fight for it and in the end, the power and will of the people is what will always surface to reign high.


 
Award-winning columnist and an international public speaker on Arab and Muslim issues, Mona El-Tahawy has penned-down a notable piece on the happening in The Washington Post:
                                                                                                                                                              

For decades, a host of Arab dictators have justified their endless terms in office by pointing to Islamists waiting in the wings. Having both inflated the egos and power of Islamists and scared Western allies into accepting stability over democracy, those leaders were left to comfortably sweep “elections.”
                                                                                                                                                      

Ben Ali was elected to a fifth term with 89.62 percent of the vote in 2009.


All around him is a depressingly familiar pattern. Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi (68 years old) has been in power since 1969; Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh (64) has ruled since 1978 and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (82) since 1981. Algeria’s Abdelaziz Bouteflika (73) is a relative newcomer, having been in power only since 1999. Not so much fathers as grandfathers of their nations, these autocrats cling to office – and are increasingly out of touch with their young populaces.

No doubt, every Arab leader has watched Tunisia’s revolt in fear while citizens across the Arab world watch in solidarity, elated at that rarity: open revolution.”

This is not only a matter of much relevance and significance for Arabs but also countries like Pakistan, which today staggers towards the precipice of danger finding it hard to balance the burden of terrorism, inflation, poverty, rife corruption, institutional dysfunctions etc – hoisted on its back by years of military rule and political tug of wars for control of the state.
                                                                                                                                                           

One hopes that the result of the Tunisian rebellion and revolt is a domino effect. Are Egypt, Algeria, Jordan, Syria or Pakistan next? After all, the nations of these countries do possess simmering feelings of frustration and have been forced to swallow too many bitter pills over the years.
                                                                                                                                                              

Every population is as capable as that of Tunisia to kick start a movement of dissent yet what most of them lack currently is the will, unity and valor of the Tunisians to exercise this, for which they must be saluted.
  
An Egyptian friend and youth pertinently comments on the whole situation:
                                                                                                                                                             

All we lack is the start. What started it in Tunisia is one of the most commonly incidents that you can see daily, a simple man burning himself up protesting for being unemployed, which led to one of the biggest protests in the Tunisian history…

We also need to realize that its our own countries not theirs (rulers), so every right in these countries is ours, not them being so ‘kind’ giving them to us. We should be the feared side.

While it may be too soon or facile to term this revolt a complete success, it has come to symbolize what can be labeled as an inspiration for countless countries and future order of events.
 

 Vive Le Tunisia!

 

– Hafsa Khawaja

The Chain That Shackles Us – Poverty, Inflation and Child-Labour


We as Pakistanis have developed the habit of being unappreciative and ungrateful to what we have around us. Humans, as we are, are ravenous beasts wnating ever more. Recently, I heard a couple of young people I know whine and complain about not going to a posh restaurant where they wanted to dine but instead were going to a restaurant of equivalent standards. This made me ponder, have we ever seen what lies around us?

According to information available with WFP, the number of food insecure people in Pakistan has increased from 35 million to 45 million during and after the 3-F (food, finance & fuel) crises.

Also Pakistan ranks fifth among countries having the highest number of hungry people (to an estimate), with women and children among the worst affected.

A recent incident clearly paints the picture of desperation that has developed between people : in Karachi, women were killed due to a stampede as they all tried to acquire bags of flour.

The inflation rate in Pakistan was 13.68 percent in January of 2010. Inflation rate refers to a general rise in prices measured against a standard level of purchasing power.

In our country, around 85 per cent of the population lives on income less than two dollars a day and food costs are more than 50 per cent of the monthly expenses. And a surge in food prices has adversely impacted the food security situation in the country, resulting in poor children being deprived of the right of education just for the cause of working to do menial jobs at tender ages to help their families meet their ends.

According to a newspaper:

“Many wealthy Pakistanis employ children as servants, often to help with their own youngsters, a relatively common practice that Pakistani law does not prohibit. Slight and shadowy figures at the edges of birthday parties and nights out in fancy restaurants, these young servants, who rarely earn more than $50 a month, form a growing portion of Pakistan’s domestic labor force.
It was raw need that brought Shazia into the house of Chaudhry Naeem, a prominent lawyer who lives in a wealthy neighborhood in this leafy city in eastern Pakistan.
She received $8 a month to wash his floors, his cars and his toilets, her mother said, money that went toward paying off a family debt”

Inflation and poverty has lead to one of the most serious issues of child labour in Pakistan. As known to all, our population in the rural areas due to their lack of education and understanding, increase the number of children in their households as to strenghthen their man-power and with the envisagement that they’d be helped by their very children to facilitate them in times of need and by working.

Such was the case of Shazia Masih, a thirteen year old girl who worked as a maid for Former President of Lahore Bar Association and was tortured to death in Lahore. The girl worked for a mere amount of money for her family, that many in Pakistan would squander in a day.

The Senate was recently informed of 3.3 million children in Pakistan as child-labourers.
A report was published in 2009 :

“In Pakistan children aged 5-14 are above 40 million. During the last year (2008), the
Federal Bureau of Statistics released the results of its survey funded by ILO’s
IPEC (International Program on the Elimination of Child Labour). The findings
were that 3.8 million children age group of 5-14 years are working in Pakistan
out of total 40 million children in this age group; fifty percent of these
economically active children are in age group of 5 to 9 years. Even out of these
3.8 million economically active children, 2.7 million were claimed to be working
in the agriculture sector. Two million and four hundred thousand (73%) of them
were said to be boys.”

Child labour is also associated with physical, mental and moral exploitation of children. Not only is the child-hood of these children crushed and drained away but their mental growth is also stunted. These children when once, start working for their ‘Sahabs’ or ‘Bajis’, are blatantly mistreated and remain underprivileged of their rights. They are often beaten up as ‘punishments’ for little mistakes that these children might commit such as stealing. And why wouldn’t they?

*A child as defined by UNICEF is anyone under the age of 18.

When these children see us, of their very own age group and yet living a luxurious life and more fortunate, they start buliding grievance and grudges inside them that can be stated as a reason for the rise in crimes of murder, robbery that these youths later commit.

Though child labour is an entirely different issue in itself, my intention behing writing this is that the next time one of us begins to gripe about a meal not cooked of our choice, be thankful and remember the many children in Pakistan who sleep without a shelter each day, with hunger pangs resting in their stomachs and no hope for a better future.
Look around yourselves and aim for a change by working in your own capacity to put an end to the suffering of those who are victims of such atrocities or impoverished in any shade for every one of these issues are inter-linked and if we don’t break this chain, no one will.

Hafsa Khawaja