Friday April 19, 2024

On a decline?

By Mubarak Ali
May 07, 2018

Generally, when historians analyse the process of decline of any society, it is necessary to compare it with the period of its rise, maturity and creative achievements. Decline can only be understood after studying the evolutionary process of how the institutions of a society gradually decay.

For example, in the case of the Romans, the Arabs and the Mughals, we have full historical record at our disposal. With the help of that, we can easily determine the stages of their rise and fall. However, the case of Pakistan is different. The country emerged as an independent state after Partition in 1947, inheriting the existing colonial structure of the state, which included the army, the police, intelligence agencies, bureaucracy, legal system and the judiciary.

The object of the colonial state was to extract as much revenue as possible. To achieve this, the colonial power maintained peace and order in society to legitimise and popularise its rule. The British successfully ruled over India following this model of government.

When we study the history of Pakistan after its independence, to understand it better we need to divide it into two periods: one from 1947 to 1970 and the second from 1970 to the present. In the earlier period, no attempt was made to understand the aspirations of the provinces and the hopes and ambitions of ethnic and religious minorities. This lack of interest hampered the building of a nation which could include all provincial nationalities and minorities on the basis of equality. The consequences of ignoring the identities of nationalities, their history and culture created a sense of deprivation as well as mistrust of democratic institutions. These circumstances and provincial identities overpowered the national one, and political conflict ensued between the centre and the provinces. This undermined the national identity, which caused political instability, insecurity and chaos.

The relationship between the people and the state was broken. People no longer relied on the protection of state institutions, and accumulated wealth by hook or by crook in order to survive. The colonial institutions were readjusted according to the interest of the ruling classes for their personal gains and not for the welfare of common people. The 1958 military dictatorship, the 1965 war with India, and the 1970 general elections – and, consequently, the war of 1971 – completely broke down the political, social, and economic structure of the state.

After the emergence of Bangladesh, the Pakistani state constituted afresh. However, the outdated institutions of feudalism and sufi-ism remained in power and continued to dominate politically. The measurement to determine the decay of any society is to analyse the role of moral values. In view of this, when we analyse Pakistani society, we find that morality becomes the hindrance to a successful life. Only those individuals and groups who violate moral values and adopt immoral practices get success end up becoming role models.

Once moral values are disregarded in political life, the cohesion of society is broken down into pieces and the implementation of these values become impossible despite religious teachings and legislation. Traders and merchants are busy producing and selling fake medicines and food products without any sense of shame and guilt. Doctors are taking unreasonably high fees from patients, who can’t even afford to eat a nutritious diet, and private education institutions are coercing parents to pay high tuition fees for the inadequate education their children get. We have also witnessed strikes called by doctors, lawyers, clerks, teachers, traders and peasants who are on the streets protesting against the state. The state and its institutions have completely failed to control the situation despite having used all methods of violence against protesters.

One of the signs of decline is that society has failed to create fresh ideas and concepts in literature, philosophy, social and natural sciences. As a result of intellectual bankruptcy, society becomes mentally colonised by foreign art, literature and culture. The lack of intellectual creation and political degeneration makes society unable to understand and solve its problems.

The decline of Pakistani society is fully displayed in the kind of language which is spoken by politicians and intellectuals during discussions, debates and talk shows on TV channels. There is no refinement and sophistication while addressing each other. We have even seen them resort to fisticuffs at times. Even the institution of parliament is not spared and riots break out spontaneously; this behaviour maligns parliament’s grace.

Our education institutions are also affected by this process of intellectual degeneration and consequently have failed to produce any thinker or philosopher. In the absence of quality education, we have to rely on foreign experts to guide us in case of various crises. Those societies that cannot determine their own destiny disappear in the mist of history miserably, leaving no trace of honour and respect.

The writer is a veteran historian and scholar.