Monday, August 20, 2007
Viewpoint – Jiye Gandhi
We need more Gandhians in Pakistan.
[By Maryam Arif; she hails from Lahore]
Pakistan paindabad, not the blog site but the concept (Long live Pakistan), depends on critical self-analysis on our parts. We are critical, but the analysis is missing, as far as the general public, particularly the Pakistani youth, is concerned. I feel the need to justify everything that doesn’t translate to “All hail the land of the pure.” This is a dilemma not unique to us, but is found in societies where the concept of nationalism is the result of a process other than an organic, bottom-up struggle.
While this hypothesis requires further research and analysis, I have some points to discuss. My question is why do we get so defensive when it comes to issues like nationalism, identity and our ideological past? I think this close-mindedness is very dangerous. Everything either starts or ends with “Insha’allah,” and the saying that God helps those who help themselves goes largely ignored.
Where do we find activism in our youth today? The lawyers’ movement was unprecedented in the history of this country, for as long as I have been around at any rate. They gave us something to be proud of; a golden opportunity to finally take an active part in politics- and what did we do with that opportunity? We lost it. We let the lawyers parade in their suits till they won their case, part of it, and then we let them shut up and leave us alone.
Where was the youth involvement in this movement? How many of us even thought about reminding the lawyers that their struggle was not based on a one-point agenda? It could have become our movement if we had taken charge of it, or even showed an active interest in the weekly protests. Alas, we lost a chance to bring to trial the “kala coats.”
Are things so much better in India? Well, there is definitely more activism. There are several reasons for that – political awareness, a history of upholding democratic ideals, and faith in voters’ power to bring about change from within the system. In my opinion, the most important factor is the Gandhian tradition. It is a tradition of grassroots politics; of reaching out to and connecting with the masses.
Gandhi’s is a legacy of peaceful protest – long marches, long fasts and long struggle. To this day most Indians look up to this leader who was a people’s person, one who led by following.
Where is that legacy to be found in Pakistan? Ours has been a politics of the army and an aristocracy that made every effort to remain aloof from the common people and their problems. What we need are Pakistani Gandhians – activists who believe in the politics of resistance and perseverance. Don’t think I’m anti-Pakistan for saying this. Or go ahead; think what you will but the fact is that Gandhi is not just an Indian leader. He is one of the most prominent personalities of the sub-continent.
How do we honor this great leader in our country? We reduce him to a footnote in our history books. I learnt more about Lords Curzon and Mountbatten (even Lady Mountbatten and her affair with Nehru) than I did about Gandhi or other activists of the Indian sub-continent.
Being Muslim is only a part of our identities. Does faith require us to give up other aspects of our selves that make us complete human beings – people who learn from history and take an active role in shaping their societies?
I rest my case. I hope that you will take it up with your friends. All is not lost.