Thursday, February 7, 2013

Islamabad Declaration: Intimations of Revolution!

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By Guest Writer

 Dr. Suhrab Aslam Khan

Mirroring both a leading national daily’s banner headline, “A revolution that did not happen”, the morning after as well as the counter-revolutionary currents already strong since Independence, circumstances preceding & accompanying the Islamabad Long March Declaration of 17 January have been disputatious. However, those should not fail to draw attention towards the vital national approach of pragmatism in these critical times. The key term pragmatism refers to the realistic solving of problems, which requires practical & sensible approach, instead of proceeding according to fixed understandings, ideas, or beliefs. The national dialectic––ongoing since Dr. Qadri’s 23 Dec. address and subsequent Long March, as reflected from various write-ups in the printed media or conversations on the tele media––underscores the dire necessity for the indicated pragmatism. For the noted distractions concerning the Muslim cleric’s past & his present conduct and statements have so engrossed the collective imagination as to allow the valuable aspects in the present national political activism with revolutionary potential to recede from the focus.
Naturally, this brings us to the vital issue of assessing the political movement initiated by Dr. Qadri from the standpoint of a political revolution. Prior to this specific step, it is called for that the actual as well as potential gains acquired by the protest movement are to be identified.
The Declaration was signed by the PM & Dr. Qadri, along with nine other signatories of prominent political standings. Under the first of its five (5) major heads, the declaration covered the pre-clearance of the candidates under Articles 62 & 63 of the Constitution to determine the eligibility of candidates by the Election Commission (EC). Under the subsequent three heads in the Declaration, the appointment of caretaker PM, composition of EC, and references to various laws relevant to electoral reforms were covered. The agreed measures, related to the different legal aspects involved, were to be taken up with a number of leading lawyers by the federal law minister, and the results were to be reported before the meeting on 27 January with Dr. Qadri in Lahore.
The Declaration, negotiated & signed before the televised view of the people at large, in itself is of revolutionary significance. This in particular applies to the fact that the persisting inadequacies in the national electoral system have been indicated as has been the need for their redress demonstrated through an agreement. Such a view may be arguable, given the fact that the nation is not wholly appreciative of the revolutionary process. It was not for this reason alone that some of the national political parties abstained from reinforcing the long march. This was despite the fact that those political parties—viz., MQM, PTI & JI—publicly declared their fundamental consonance with the agenda that was motivational in the organization of long march. The revolutionary significance of the declaration is underscored by the fact that it will serve as the guiding landmark in streamlining, stabilizing & securing the national democratic process. Superfluous it is to state, such an outcome of the declaration, of course, would depend upon its understanding in the right sense, and the support it would receive in the nation.
The revolutionary significance of the declaration is to be appreciated in terms of the potentials—that is, the possibilities to be realized—it harbors towards successfully addressing the “root of things”.  During the unfolding of the political history of the nation, the unconventional & preemptory dismissal of the prime minister during 1953 by the Governor General, Ghulam Muhammad is widely considered to have set the stage for political instability in the nation. Once the national political scene is surveyed since then, the fundamental error or motivational factor that was functional in that initial diktat, namely, preference for vested interests over national interests, of course, in contravention of the law, is discernable in all other major political deviations at the national level. In alternative terms, a holding of general view of prominent political turns––rather than be engrossed in the particulars of the various political deviations, such as military or civilian rules––during the history of the nation, allows the formulation of precise generalization. In common parlance, the same amounts to “taking wood for trees”. This meaningful overall view of the national scene during its political history discloses the growing disrespect for the rule of law and spreading indulgence in the corruption of various kinds—for instance, political, financial, legal, religious, bureaucratic, etc. The noted dual national evils are two sides of the same coin, and essentially comprise the “root of things”. Because other major wrongs & evils in the society stem from the indicated root as do the insecurity & instability of the constitutional order that has often enough been disrupted in the past.
A writer of acclaim, while assessing the problems confronting the nation, recently observed that governance & justice have been allowed to become “subject to belief”, which has resulted into a possibility of their “subjective interpretation.” A mote intelligible expression for the same statement would be that the extra constitutional interventions in the outlined domains are of supernatural origin, for those fall within the sphere of “belief”. The Greek genius Plato in the Laws recorded that where there was no law, there was no God. As a logical derivation of this observation, it is easy to infer that in the absence of Divine grace, the vacuum is left to be filled by its antithesis, or evil, given the fact that the world is comprised of pairs of opposites, and nature ordinarily does not allow vacuum to exist. Thus already referred “root of things” in the society, as the cause of national travail, in itself is at once a reflection as well as consequence of the existing divine antithesis.
The status quo of national politics in the historical sense has been bidimentional, that is, civilian dispensations were substituted by military set-ups, & vice versa. The binary status quo has proven injudicious, for it has not only failed to solve the nation’s lasting internal as well as external issues––for instance, faltering economic development, lingering disputes of Indian Occulted Kashmir, Siachin, etc.––but it has compounded the issues overtime. The immediately preceding two political rules, namely, military dictatorship of Gen(R) Musharraf and the recent democratic dispensation are case studies in respect of the resolution of national issues. As a matter of mere indication of the pointed out political dysfunction of the two last consecutive political rules, serving as a general index of all the preceding dispensations, the following examples can be cited. The Indian presence in Afghanistan with its development of strategic objectives there as well as terrorist infiltration in Baluchistan, and the acutely worsening national economic woes are the illustrative instances.
The ensuing national elections in a cautious & calculated way are projected to result in a dispensation of political coalition. For no single political party retains the national following as to emerge with a political mandate claiming absolute majority. The future coalition rule is also deemed to be constituted by at least a few political parties. The areas of agreement among the coalition partners will be smaller than the area of disagreement, which will pose substantial difficulty in addressing the “root of things”, already stated.
With this in view, a rare opportunity has crystallized as a consequence of long march to address the root of things, and to lend that process a direction & momentum to continue. Other prominent items as constituent of the signed Islamabad Declaration are ancillary to the outlined objective. This indeed is the revolutionary potential inherent in the Declaration, as it provides a legitimate, actionable plan towards the attainment of the noted objective––namely, to successfully address the “root of things”––which as a fact of history is an indispensable feature of Political Revolution. For the national political system, which is already a democratic dispensation—at least in process, if not according to results—is not in need of a radical alteration. However, the same cannot apply to the prominent political actors in the system, and this crucial political dimension is accessible to revolutionary approach as a result of the recent Declaration.

Special Thanks to:

Dr. Suhrab Aslam Khan,
Chairman, Pakistan Ideological Forum,
42-B, Phase III, Link Road, Model Town, Lahore.
Mob: 0333-4307471
31 January 2013