Monday, September 1, 2014

Pakistan's Contain(er)ed Revolution

When real revolutions happen in significant countries - as in Iran in 1978 or Egypt in 2011 - millions of people pour out on the streets throughout the country and bring everything to a standstill. In the current "revolution" underway in Pakistan, activity is limited largely to a couple of square kilometers in Islamabad and a few specific locations in other cities. The number of people involved at any one location has never exceeded about 40,000 (combined), and currently is far, far lower. And even among these, many come in just for the music concerts. The revolutionary leaders sit in their airconditioned, bullet-proof containers, delivering periodic sermons consisting of vague generalities spiced up with colorful or apocalyptic language. The followers, ragged after weeks of revolutionizing, are roused to dramatic but ultimately ineffectual frenzies. Tear gas fills the air; rubber bullets fly; people get beaten and beat up policemen. TV anchors and analysts cheer or excoriate this or that side. In the rest of the country, life continues as normal, albeit with an undercurrent of tension.

What this shows above all is that the parties leading the revolution do not, in fact, have the mass support they had claimed. In the case of PTI, it may have convinced tens of millions to vote for it, but of these only a very small fraction feel strongly enough to heed its revolutionary call. That's not how real grass-roots revolutions work. It is the classic sign of an "astro-turf revolution".

There is no doubt that Imran Khan has the personal support of millions of Pakistanis, but it is now clear that these come mainly from a few highly influential but numerically small segments of society: The educated urban middle and upper-middle class, expatriate Pakistani professionals, and perhaps some segments of the armed forces. The first two - especially their youthful cohorts - are very vocal and able to generate large amounts of cash, but numerically they are no match for the silent, mostly lower and lower-middle class, often rural followers of other major parties such as the PML-N or the PPP. Nor are they as committed to their leader in deed (as opposed to invective) as MQM followers are to theirs.

It is true that almost all successful revolutions are driven by the social segments where Imran Khan has his greatest following, but there are two important differences. First, in most of those cases, these segments form a larger proportion of the country than in Pakistan. In countries like Iran and Egypt, the populations as a whole are much more educated and, in Egypt's case, much more urban. Second, the remaining segments of society in these countries are not as much in thrall to reactionary forces as in Pakistan, where vast majorities of them vote based on feudal allegiance, religious affiliation, kinship ties, and personal loyalty to politicians. These large population groups are thus largely immune to the rationally-grounded message presented by leaders such as Imran Khan (in his case, very imperfectly). Revolution will occur in Pakistan only when a leader connects with almost the entire population at such a visceral level that people willingly give up their allegiances of generations upon generations to follow the new leader. In a religious, conservative society like Pakistan, the only basis for such a movement is religion, which is also the most dangerous - especially given the religious strains lately ascendant in Pakistan. It is worth remembering that even in Iran and Egypt, the revolutions brought forth rulers who were religious fundamentalists, not liberal democrats. And in Egypt this led directly to the failure of the revolution.

 Thus, it would perhaps be just as well if the Great Pakistani Revolution is postponed until a time when religious fervor has been diluted by modernity, or until people are so fed up that they are willing to look at radical new alternatives rather than seeing solutions from the distant past. Meanwhile, we still have "democracy" - or at least something that looks like it - if we can keep it.

Pakistan following "Bangladesh model"

.....According to the PTI president Hashmi, a script for such a move was laid out well in advance......"When Imran laid out the plan, I said to Imran, 'Khan sahab what are you doing?.....He said, 'I am telling you there will be elections in September and everything has been worked out'"......
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What is being proposed is a rule by zero-corrupt technocrats acting in the best interests of the nation (without being harassed by ankle-biting, low-information voters). We wonder why such a common-sense approach has not been acted on before  in Pakistan, and elsewhere, and why there is a lack of durable, successful techno-dictatorships (Chicoms are probably the closest to this ideal).

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It is notable that Pakistan now (publicly) aspires to follow the example of Bangladesh, when right after Partition-I she imagined herself (with some justification) to be the new Medina in South Asia. 

One more point of interest (for parochial Bongs): a look at the map above and we note the likelihood of Bangla herself experiencing a coup in 2014, along with sister nations Nepal, Burma, Pakistan and Afghanistan. It was a hundred years ago when the freedom fighter from Maharashtra, Gopal Krishna Gokhale noted: "what Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow." This dictum updated for the C21 may read as "what Bangla thinks today, South Asia (sans India) thinks tomorrow." We speak in jest, of course.
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Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) President Javed Hashmi's startling claims of a scripted political crisis being engineered in Pakistan has led to widespread speculation among analysts that a version of the 'Bangladesh Model' may be in the works.
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"They have stormed the PTV office"

.....200 supporters of Qadri seized the PTV building......"They have stormed the PTV office"...news anchor said just before the screen went blank....."PTV staff performing their journalistic duties are being beaten up".......Khan, who like Qadri has since 15 August been living on the streets.....frequently alluded to a "third umpire"....send Sharif home...veiled reference to the army.....
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This is looking like the beginning of the end. How long is it before Nawaz Sharif departs for Saudi Arabia. This guy is likely to be de-throned for the third time...this has to be a record of some sorts. The closest analogy we can think of is from the fictional depictions of Latin America a few decades back when there would be a musical chair full of supreme rulers which ever way you look.

One thing is for sure, we would not like to tangle with that youngster - the one in the fore-ground with an intense look and a thick stick - down a dark alleyway.

Here is our revenge in a teacup proposal. After the PTI-PAT combo comes to power, can the Sharif brothers return the favor by invading the inner sanctum with their supporters? The country will by then have moved to a permanent chaotic state. The new mind-set is as follows: why bother to co-operate in the national interest, when you can be in opposition and have fun all the time.
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Anti-government protesters pushed further into sensitive areas of the Pakistani capital on Monday, briefly taking over the state broadcaster and forcing it off air.
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Sunday, August 31, 2014

This is Rape Culture

The untold story of how a culture of shame perpetuates abuse. I know, I was a victim:
It was with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes that I read about the horrific cases of abuse and neglect revealed in the Rotherham report this week.
Much of the media coverage has focused on how men of mostly Asian descent preyed on vulnerable young white victims. The details of this abuse are awful. But what has largely been ignored is the report’s finding that sexual abuse has been systemically under-reported among Asian girls due to deeply entrenched cultural taboos – obscuring the reality that there is a similarly rampant problem of minority girls being abused by members of their own community.
I have first-hand knowledge of this problem. I’m coming forward to publicly share my own story in the hope that I can encourage others to do the same and help tear down the wall of silence that perpetuates further abuse.
I grew up in a small community of a few hundred British-Pakistanis in Skipton, less than 60 miles from Rotherham. When I was 10 a neighbour started sexually abusing me. Paralysed by shame, I said nothing. ... It was only after a decade away from Skipton that I was finally able to garner the courage to return and testify against my abuser. When I first told my mother about the abuse I’d suffered, she was absolutely devastated. The root of her anger was clear: I was heaping unbound shame on to my family by trying to bring the perpetrator to justice. In trying to stop him from exploiting more children, I was ensuring my parents and my siblings would be ostracised. She begged me not to go to the police station.
I don't need to get into details with the audience of this weblog to know where this attitude comes from. Readers will be aware that it transcends religion and religiosity, though it is bound within the cultural matrix of which religion is part and parcel. My mother, who condemns Western immorality and libertinism, has expressed sadness that a pedophile who preyed upon girls within her social circle had to flee to Bangladesh, because of the shame it brought upon his family. That's a culture for you.

Babri Masjid Part-II (just say no)

....Ram Pal who raises pigs, said, “We celebrated Holi and Diwali along with Christimas.....people were asking....If you’re a Christian, how can you be a Dalit?.....danger is that the re-converts will seize the church and put up a temple.....“We will not let another church come up....there is no Christian left,” said Rajeshwar Singh....
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Just say NO to any C21 sequel of Babri the horror movie. The powers that be are of the opinion that beating up on minorities will help win elections. This is from the Gujarat playbook but the success there was more out of a sense of Gujarati asmita than Hindu pride. Already there is evidence (recent by-polls in Uttarkhand, Bihar, and Karnataka) that a backlash is taking shape. Finally, people who live by the sword must be prepared to die by the sword as well...a number of ruling party leaders/workers in UP have been murdered in the past few weeks.

As far as the Valmikis (Dalits) are concerned, the important question is how they survive in difficult conditions not their status as Hindus or Christians or Muslims. Religious status is not helpful for improving social status....otherwise there would be no need for separate Dalit Christian burial grounds and Dalit Muslim Mosques.

Religious conversion is a dangerous game and we are ambivalent about the ways to deal with this "problem." A true liberal will be for the freedom to convert (and re-convert). Also if we were truly disadvantaged we would be happy to take money from all of them buggers and adopt a new religion every week (that will teach them).

As an aside, we would love to hear Prof. Kancha I-laiah defending pork eating as a millenium old Dalit tradition and his plans to support the cause of the pig-farmers - the Valmiki community - by launching a national pork festival (just like the beef festivals he supports with so much enthusiasm).
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