Injury, fine, but why the insult?

Ayaz Amir:

Staging the kind of farce which goes by the name of democracy in Pakistan is an injury to the Pakistani people. In my lifetime I don’t see this state of affairs improving, the army giving few signs of vacating the political heights it has conquered.

If there is going to be no democracy, and ISI and MI are to constitute the real election commission of Pakistan, no point in ceaselessly fretting. But denying social freedoms is adding insult to injury. If we are incapable of working democracy, subjecting the sorely-tried people of Pakistan to ceaseless doses of morality amounts to giving them the worst of all possible worlds: no representative government.

The denial of democracy is enough. Why must it be supplemented with turning Pakistan into a Sahara of the spirit? There are other climes and countries where generals have called the shots, whole swathes of Latin America, for example. Many of the conquering Latino generals committed horrendous human rights abuses, in Chile, Argentina, etc. But even when the worst of this repression was going on, no one banned the tango in Rio or ordered bars and clubs to shut down. When dictatorship ruled the roost, you were all right and could do what you pleased, as long as you kept your distance from politics.

Commander-in-chief Fidel Castro has been lord of Cuba since 1959, which must be some kind of a world record. But despite the cult of the revolution and the existence of a one-party state with zero tolerance for dissent, Cuba is one of the great fun-places of the world. It was like this in the old communist bloc as well. No political freedom and no criticism of the ruling party but all the fun you could rake in. Consider our plight: no head for democracy, and little taste or zest for pleasure.

Pakistan was not always so discontented. Dubai was a fishing village when Karachi was one of the great, fun-filled cities of the East. As for Lahore, it was a magnet attracting people from all over Punjab. Then to our lasting ill-luck occurred the Puritan Revolution which changed the country’s face, putting false pontiffs in charge, from whose lips poured forth a spurious morality. Hatched in the throes of the anti-Bhutto movement of 1977, this reactionary movement is now in its 28th year. Nearly three decades of concentrated falsehood. It would cripple far stronger nations and if Pakistan has withstood the ravages of this tide, it says something for the resilience of its people. But the price of withstanding has been heavy. We have to get rid of the social and moral dictatorship. We don’t have to invent a new liberation. The seedbeds of liberation are there, buried under the moral rubble of the last 30 years. Remove the rubble and if nothing else happens, Pakistan at least will become a more cheerful place. For all its sins, Pakistan did not deserve General Zia-ul Haq and his fake Islamisation. All we have to do is agree upon a single-item agenda: do away, expunge from the law books, all of Zia’s decrees and ordinances. Gen Musharraf could have done this in the first flush of his coup when a good section of the Pakistani people looked upon him as a deliverer. But he missed his moment and got embroiled in other things. Even so, the social liberation of Pakistan must be the nation’s first order of business. Afterwards who knows the search for constitutionalism may prove less elusive than it has been these past 57 years.

Ayaz, a columnist for Dawn, writes for THT from Islamabad