Islamabad : After victory in the elections, Prime Minister Imran Khan announced that it is time to sheath swords and get down to work, his target being the urban youth that remained engine of his drive for a change. ‘The swords,’ observed Dr Muhammad Zaman, a professor of sociology, “have not been sheathed yet.”
Dr Zaman founded the Department of Sociology at Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU) and has been representing Pakistan at multi-national research forums in German and other European countries. Talking to The News, he said that Pakistani society has had forceful anti-status quo movements at almost equal intervals of 10 to 15 years.
“But the problem is that leaders of these movements have led the society towards violence, explicitly and implicitly. Because of these transformative movements, the society has suffered a lot,” he said.
To start with, the movement for creation of Pakistan changed the fabric of the society once and for all, he said. “We then had a forceful movement led by Gen Ayub Khan. It transformed the society and precipitated the process of industrialisation. The country witnessed a flurry of development projects but the masses lost the sense of ownership to this development,” he said.
He said Ayub Khan used to speak of his opponents, mainly politicians, in a very strong language, whipping up hatred against traditional pillars of power like big land lords and pirs or spiritual leaders in the society.
There then came a time when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto adopted a more aggressive public posture, using stronger language against Ayub Khan and his rivals. Riding a wave of populism, he managed to send Ayub Khan packing. The society grew more aggressive than ever under Bhutto after the country was dismembered, he said.
Violent trends and intolerance was growing while the leader was gaining more and more popularity at that time, Dr Zaman said. Gen Ziaul Haq, later, upped the ante by hanging Bhutto. Attempts were made to give populism an international dimension, he added.
At the start of his rise as a national leader in early 90s, Nawaz Sharif was no stranger to adopting an aggressive posture about his political opponents, not least Benazir Bhutto. “Gender and religion both were exploited to make political gains. Even leaflets were thrown to demean Benazir in the country,” he said.
Although the PPP and the PML-N both had had battles, it seems both parties have matured enough with the passage of time. They no more adopt very aggressive postures, he said.
Talking about the PTI, he said the positive sign is that the party leadership is aware of their responsibility to lessen the level of aggression in society. He said there is need to find ways to harness energies of the party youth on social media where naked slurs are flown across party lines. The society is going digital and there is a need for the government to understand this dimension to achieve sustainability and peace, he concluded.