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February 8, 2015

‘Civil-military relations still orchestrate today’s politics’


February 8, 2015

Pakistan has been making news with respect to its evolving political dynamics especially since the emergence of the lawyers’ movement. With many accepting it as a genuine revolt by a vital institution of the establishment, some called it a movement orchestrated by the state itself.
The debate took another interesting turn after the country witnessed an elected government completing its tenure for the first time in 66 years. However, the quagmire in which the succeeding government found itself was yet another stark reminder of the ambivalence encompassing our civil-military relations.
These varying opinions were discussed by speakers at a discussion titled “The changing face of Pakistani politics” moderated by renowned politician and media person Mahtab Akhbar Rashdi.
In response to the moderator’s question whether the state had started off on a flawed foundation or was it possible that things had actually changed, renowned columnist, human rights activist and secretary-general of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan IA Rehman was of the opinion that instead of ridding ourselves of religious politics, the state took refuge in it and entertained it to an extent where it became impossible for us to detach from it.
The masses were suppressed instead of being given the space to exercise their democratic right and were made a fool of in the name of democracy. “The only difference is that then we were overtly being ruled and now we are covertly being ruled by the military,” he claimed.
A member of the Supreme Court Bar Association and a known advocate of human rights Asma Jahangir while referring to a large number of people who attended an earlier session on Habib Jalib, a left-wing political activist known for his revolutionary poetry, said the number of people who knew about him was in itself a great change.
“We have improved in some ways but deteriorated in others,” she said, adding that our economic, social and

political growth depended on how strong willed we were to bring a change.
Commenting on the youth’s indifference towards politics she said they were not being trained properly by us, hence it was wrong to blame them for a lack of interest. She said politics today was a bandwagon where a person surrounded by the most corrupt leadership was accepted as a messiah against corruption.
Speaking of religious hatred, she endorsed Rehman’s opinion and said the only way out was to separate religion and politics.
Former ambassador to the US Abida Hussain said the change in today’s politics was marked by a more conscientious civil society as compared to previous years. She lauded the role social media played in changing the narratives of people.
However, she was quick to add intolerance as the nation’s major problem after an attendee stood up mid-session and objected to her addressing the audience in English instead of Urdu.
Responding to Mehtab’s question over how much of a pivotal role did diplomacy play, she answered that it was nonetheless a pivotal part of politics but could only reflect the internal situation of a country. “Diplomatic skills were limited to the extent that they cannot alter a country’s situation,” she said.
Scholar, researcher and a visiting professor at the Habib University Sahar Shafquat, currently researching the lawyers’ movement, said that for a person who came for a visit to Pakistan after emigrating from the country years ago, nothing had changed. “The faces are still the same whereas politics still revolves around two institutions,” she said.

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