Wednesday, January 14, 2009

2009 Happy Pakistan Series – Yes We Can!

2009 Happy Pakistan Series – Yes We Can!

A Karachi blogger writes exclusively for Pakistan Paindabad.

[Text by Kazim Aizaz Alam; picture by Sajjad Ali Qureshi]

I think Pakistan has made remarkable progress in the last couple of years in terms of civil society activism. 2009, I hope, will see more participation of human rights groups and civil society activists in the Pakistani body politic. I believe that any positive change in Pakistani society can come only through citizens' involvement in the political process.

Last year we had a general election that was, according to foreign observers, transparent to a considerable extent. That was meant to be a transition from dictatorship to democracy. Although our hope for an independent judiciary still remains unfulfilled, the elections proved that we as citizens are not completely helpless. In the last two years we learnt how to register our protest and anguish as a nation against the excesses of the government.

Unlike in the past, Pakistanis are not going to tolerate corruption and mischievousness on the part of the government anymore. Just to quote an example, a few months ago one PPP federal minister used an illegal electricity connection to hold the wedding ceremony of his son in one of Karachi's up-scale areas. As a resident of the city, I know this is a common practice, and a minister celebrating his son's wedding at state expense is not something unheard of in the past.

Yet, civil society groups like the People's Resistance came out on streets demanding a public apology and compensation for the stolen electricity by the minister. Newspapers did follow-up stories on the issue and TV channels kept on playing clippings of the wedding venue in order to shame the minister into extending a public apology. Within two weeks, the minister came on TV and showed the copy of an electricity bill that he said he had paid to the Karachi Electricity Supply Company.

On the face of it, this example may seem just one small instance where a powerful political figure bowed to pressure from the public but in actuality this shows that we as a nation have regained confidence in political activism. I believe that the cure for many an issue facing Pakistan lies in citizens' willingness to demand their rights and protest against repression. The state of apathy that we lived in for so many years now seems to have vanished.

Like every Third World country, nepotism is common in Pakistan. But we saw a public outcry recently when the daughter of the sitting chief justice of the Supreme Court was given 21 extra marks so that she could secure admission in a medical college. When the scandal came in the news, a number of politicians termed it a 'non-issue'.

Going by the past record of our judiciary and political class, that was indeed a non-issue. But it blew up a storm among civil society and the public started holding the chief justice up to ridicule. Everyone is now demanding his resignation and letters to the editor have appeared in newspapers calling for a social boycott of the CJ's family. What the politicians supporting the chief justice for a vested interest could not comprehend was that how the award of mere 21 marks to the child of the country's chief judge could trigger such a massive reaction from the general public.
Pakistan's civil society underwent a reformation after the deposed chief justice, Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, said no to a dictator in uniform. He set an example of refusing to give in to a tyrant's diktat. He became the impetus for change. He has inspired a vast number of people to stand for their rights regardless of the likelihood of their success.

Hope is what we need most. People had lost faith in the state of Pakistan but the historic lawyers' movement -- which was both non-violent and secular to the core -- has rekindled their hopes for a better society.

This year may not bring any material improvement in the lives of ordinary Pakistanis but it is surely going to make us a people able to at least stand for our rights and demand equal opportunities for everyone. In Dalai Lama's words, "With realisation of one's own potential and self-confidence in one's ability, one can build a better world."

[The author runs a blog at redkazim]


Anonymous said...

NO YOU CAN'T! And don't take me to be a pessimist for saying this!
400 schools were ordered shut in Swat Valley of Pakistan by the Islamic Millitants or better known as the Taliban: Hows that for NO YOU CAN'T!

Anonymous said...

One does not become a pessimist for telling an unfortunate fact -- conceded. However, one certainly is a defeatist by laying down all of his or her arms in the face of aggression.

Taliban and Islamic militancy are a threat as religious extremism is threat everywhere no matter its in green, white, or saffron. I don't undermine the extremist aggression. We, here in Pakistan, are trying to fight this menace at all levels.

Only when we will say that we don't consider the Taliban a threat to Pakistani society and the rest of the world, then and only then can you say that 'we can't.'

Anonymous said...

One does... after 60 + years of Independance; what has Pakistan gained except being notorious for all the wrong reasons?
Education, health, industry, social security, upliftment have all taken a back seat these six decades!
Are you implying that India is a 'defeatist' for having towed a tolerant line against Pakistan and not being aggressive at all? Know what? You're lucky that we havent and that you term us as defeatists. BUT; its about to change; as you mentioned Saffron, White and Green,

I'll quote Zulfqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) here:
'My nation will eat grass but will produce the Atomic Bomb'!
He was damn right... Pakistan has been reduced to that and maybe more!
Majority of your brethen consider Osama and the Taliban to be Messiah's of Islam; so I think it can be said without doubt that you dont consider them to be a threat! And thats where I say it again with utmost conviction "NO YOU CANT"!

George Satyadas said...

I sense a tone of bitterness in Bruised Indian's comments, and I am afraid that a lot of people in both the countries are bitter. However, negativism, hatred and and intolerance have only victims and no winners. Love, tolerance and forgiveness are from God. People of India and Pakistan must forgive one another, love one another and help one another. That is the only way to build a better future for our peoples who face similar problems.

May God bless India and Pakistan. With His help, yes we can in India and Pakistan.

Anonymous said...

You understated & underestimated me; am not bitter. AM LIVID! Am proving to be more of a Hindu Fundamentalist than a tolerant human. You see, there is not one, but two daggers in my back; leaving me bloody and am frantically trying to get them off. I got stabbed when Vajpayee went with the bus but came back with elements from Pakistan who piggy backed till Kargil.
I got stabbed yet again, when Shah Mehmood Qureshi was here and he brought 10 terrorists as gifts from Pakistan for Mumbai. And this is just the recent past...
Talking about love, George, am afraid is not going to get you to score any brownie points or have me for one, succumb to your prayer!
The future, seems bleak Sir.

Again, the pessimist in me is taking over; "No one's going to bless anyone here!"

Anonymous said...

@ Red Diary:
I am a pessimist and you are defeatists! You laid down your arms in the face of aggression(Taliban). Now, I can say it again ; NO YOU CANT!

Hassan Masud said...

If only India stops playing with the Taliban in our Swat n Fata fields and stop supplying them wid military training and advanced weaponry in Afghanistan (obviously for the purpose of creating unrest in Pakistan) can we hope for better relations between the two countries.
This will obviously be good for the anti terrorism fight that we have been fighting fer quite sm time now.

You try to tow a less tolerant line towards our country and we will surely reply to you in the same vein. dont forget this my brother indian.

And you are so wrong wen saying that we consider Taliban our Messiah. Pls correct your facts and then come back n talk.

Vishal said...

@ Bruised Indian: DO you only remember two daggers in your back..... may be you forgot countless daggers of destroyed temples of native Indian religions in the hands of followers of imported faith, forceful conversions over 900 hundred years. I am sure you know how cancer spreads, cancerous cell multiply by themselves, those who were converted 900 years ago, forced other to convert other after every one or two generations and so forth and they still are waging wars with the world, with Hindus, with Christians, with Jews, with Buddhisht. What is common among Chechnaya, Kashmir, Pakistan, Afganistan, Iran, iraq, Indonesia's Acheh, China's Xinjiang Ugyurs, Israle, 9/11 in USA, 26/11 in India, bombings in Spain and London metro train, Sudan, Ethopia, Philippine's Mindanao. This cancer needs to be stopped. Thos who have held daggers, must be stopped and cleansed.


Hassan - For heavens sake - get it out of your head - WE ARE NOT BROTHERS! I for one dont take you to be one; atleast not a person who thrives and binges on conspiracy theories set abound by people like Zaid Hamid and his ilk!
FATA and Swat have Indian presence or hand? Prove it! The world community laughs at your stupid dumb findings; BUT for the sake of an argument - lets assume / presume this is true. Have you ever tried to understand why is this happening- cause your violent way of life. The way you have caused Pain to India and her people we are just returning it back in kind! I WISH THE FEW PREVIOUS LINES WERE TRUE. I DONT CARE WHAT GANDHI HAD TO SAY ABOUT THE WORLD GETTING BLIND; I DONT CARE WHAT THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY'S RESPECTFUL ATTITUDE TOWARDS INDIA IS, I JUST WANT TO SEE ALLAH'S AZAAB ON YOUR NATION / LAND (OR MAYBE NOT- CAUSE NOR I OR MY COUNTRYMEN ARE LIKE YOU PEOPLE.

AS FAR AS LAKVI, MULLAH OMAR OR OBL ARE BEING CONSIDERED AS MESSIAHS - baaahhhh; forget it! Its just like banging our heads against a fucking wall!