Corruption, immorality, indiscipline, lack of ethics and empathy, lust for power and money, incompetence, nepotism are just few of the many foul ingredients that make a rotten meal. A meal that has been fed to Pakistan for past 68 years. Pakistan is sick, has been for a long time, and now the sickness is getting worse. There are parts of its body that are more infected than others, there are more than one kinds of infection and they are far from being contained.
We Pakistanis are getting desperate for a change, a positive change in fact. Our desperation motivates us to cling on to any and all signs of hope. Be it in the form of a religious scholar – his words not mine – turned revolutionist, or a sportsman and philanthropist turned politician. I don’t care if Imran Khan’s or Qadri’s rallies have a million participants or a thousand, for every one of them is as Pakistani as our Prime Minister, maybe even more than the PM. I can’t be sure of the intentions of these two leaders, but am sure that a majority of their followers are only motivated by the hope of a better Pakistan. I am in complete agreement over the assertion that democracy does not exist in Pakistan. I am even skeptical of the correctness of prescribing democracy as a medicine to cure Pakistan’s sickness. Even if it were the correct prescription, the current state of democracy is quite similar to a fake medicine. I wonder if we can call this a democracy in the absence of local governments – declared mandatory by the Constitution, and an integral part of any democratic system. Having said that, I am afraid the form of protest adopted to allegedly rid our democracy of its shortcomings is as polluted as our democratic system.
A march of the masses to Islamabad and then sit in to force the government to take immediate effective measures are conceptually the most effective forms of protest. No disagreement there. But are they actually marches?
A long march, as a political concept, came into being in 1934 by Mao Zedong’s long march (The Long March) that spread over a year and covered a distance of almost 6000 miles. The march began with around a hundred thousand participants and ended with only less than twenty thousands. Many perished and those who survived managed to bring a significant change in China, pros and cons of that change are not under debate here.
The trend of calling your protest a long march is becoming more and more popular. Nwaz Sharif’s march for restoration of judiciary, last year’s long march of Tahir ul Qadri or this week’s Azadi and Inqilab marches are nowhere near, in comparison, the Long March. First off when you travel in vehicles it is not a march but a roll. So the Azaadi and Inqilaab rolls may not be able to fetch results similar to Mao’s March, if not for the ‘divine’ intervention.
The bullet proof container was invented by the People’s Party when Muhtrama Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan before the 2008 general elections. She was justified for taking the security measures, so are Imran and Qadri. But when a leader separates himself from his followers, his leadership is compromised. When you make the people feel that your life is more important than theirs, you ought not use words like revolution. When you ask your followers not to worry for their lives for you are prepared to sacrifice your own, you ought not travel among them yet surrounded by security personnel and in a bullet proof container while they travel with you unprotected and exposed to any terrorist attack. I am not saying Qadri or Imran should not value their lives, am just saying that they should not try to create a perception that they do not. If you are prepared to sacrifice your life and the lives of your followers for a ‘greater cause’, then be as vulnerable as they are to death. Because if you actually want to bring a system of equality then you must show, by your actions, that the value of your life is not more than that of a common man.
I do not think that the Azaadi and Inqilaab rolls will bring any change without an intervention by the establishment, for such intervention will compensate for the shortcomings in their polluted protests. Nor am I very hopeful that either of them can bring the change that they promise. The primary ingredient of a just society is equality. If you do not believe in equality, you cannot promise it. Equality, in its essence, is the equality of the value of our lives.