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June 3, 2015



A post ‘war-on-terror’ Pakistan?

In social, economic, political and even descriptive ways, Pakistan seems to have entered a post-WoT era. In 2013, the first ever civilian-led electoral transition ushered in a new government and marked the emergence of a third major party, the PTI.
Soon after, miscalculating its own rhetoric of a Naya Pakistan, the PTI launched a Purana Pakistan formulated attempt at a dharna-coup. Led consciously by its populist but neophyte leader, Imran Khan, the historically amnesiac PTI received the rude shock that many Pakistanis actually recalled and rejected the political derailment of democracy of the 1990s.
The fact that the coup-attempt was foiled has led some to argue that perhaps, we are on some post-establishment-interventionist path. Optimistic or not, the failure of the coup allowed for a critical shift – given the Imran Khan insistence at the time of peace talks with the Taliban and his historic policy stance on the WoT.
That the PTI didn’t win the 2013 elections may have been the best bet towards pushing Pakistan into a post-WoT possibility.
Meanwhile, elections of the lapsed local bodies have been held in two provinces; the ECP is a meaningful institution now; political rivalry is now peppered with provincial competitiveness over tangibles such as taxation, economic plans and service delivery, rather than abstract accusations of corruption and bank defaults. An activist judiciary is now more introspective over the constitution and the separation of powers. Military operations, albeit with inadequate transparency, have in Fata and Karachi plugged conflict, insurgency and even made incursions into the political party armed-wing/terrorist nexus.
Women’s surge into political and specular fields such as the media and market-place is unprecedented; contraceptive use and demand for female education is increasing dramatically; some victims of rape demand justice publicly rather than burying it under some false blanket of shame. Some women are

even willing to use medical legal forensic evidence strategically to prove sexual violations by men. This is a significant subversion of the ‘double-jeopardy’ possibility under the Zina laws, whereby failure to prove rape could and was used by the state as evidence to indict victims of the crime of engaging in extramarital sex (prior to the 2006 Women’s Protection Act).
Working-class women health workers have gotten the Supreme Court to notify a liberal government to pay their salaries and regularise their exploitative labour; the Council of Islamic Ideology can and is being challenged publicly (often by men) for its repeat attacks on women and minorities. The Islamists’ anti-state, institutionally-strong Lal Masjid allegiance to Daesh has been seriously challenged by young idealist-citizens and, cyber activists are exposing the moral fakeness of Old Government by stepping into the real legal world and challenging its censorious policies.
Unelected and free-wheeling male-only ulema have been accused by ruling conservative government officials for their criminal nexus with jihadists and for the hate-preaching education spread by many madressahs. The music and film industry grow despite Islamists’ threats and vigilantism. Investigative journalism has led to criminal action against spurious enterprises and noone is entirely shielded by the vague support of ‘The Establishment’. Intelligence agencies have been pressured to respond defensively to suspicions from citizenry over the assassination of activist women, and crimes against minority sects are leading to actual arrests.
Interestingly, after Operation Zarb-e-Azb, we seem to be post-drone politics too. No more protests – not a peep – from the anti-imperialists, including from Imran Khan and the almost comical ideological inventions pinned on him by a bunch of post-9/11 ragtag PhD-radicals. Scratch the surface of these new-age ‘radicals’ and they’re all masqueraded Insafians – that is, postmodern, nationalist, ahistorical, lifestyle-liberals-cum-Muslim-conservatives. This will bear well for Imran Khan in the years to come but it will only be a matter of time when the already dharna-revealing and compromised Naya ideology will ultimately and simply expose itself as sexed-up conservatism.
The above are not listed as causes of celebration, nor are the counter-factuals deliberately being ignored. They are simply recalled here to reflect on the kinds of indicators of change that do not fit outdated analytical frameworks – the kind which insist that we are paying the price of Gen Ziaul Haq’s regime, or the army-invented mujahideen policy, or the madrassah-inspired jihadist nonsense. Instead, through independent factors of globalisation and the growth of awareness of rights and desires to express freedoms and consciousness, a new generation and its politics has surfaced.
For our purposes, a genuine and organised faith-inspired violent ideology and technology has successfully reached out and mobilised hate, vigilantism and violence amongst educated, young and often, middle-class Muslim men and women around the world. This has belied all the deflecting excuses offered through abstract theories over how poverty, injustice, tribalism, lack of education, racism, Palestine and Kashmir are responsible for faith-inspired terrorism. This false analysis has blinded and confused us over the entire WoT years.
The political economists will bear witness to economic drivers of such shifts. So we need to admit that much of the post-WoT shift is not in contradiction to a capitalist economy. Most of this change will benefit and clear the space for free-market economies to thrive. This explains Malik Riaz’s not-so-coincidental entry into Karachi on the backs of the operations, and the PML-N’s infrastructural juggernaut projects in Punjab.
For all their tiresome calls for Naya Pakistan, the PTI too, is only following suit but with a social welfare angle – hospitals, schools, law and order but nearly always, the emphasis is on infrastructure rather than quality. Ironically, the social welfare department in KP is non-functional and there are no people’s rights-based movements or successes to report there. Top-down and technical mechanisms and cash hand-outs do not empower people – the translation of rights needs human management.
The local government structure is the precise and credible place for the emergence of service delivery. Unfortunately, there is no identifiable interest or leader in the PTI focussing on women’s or minority rights but instead, these are wrongly subsumed under charity and left to conservative, faith-based and male-determined cultural norms.
If we can recognise that citizens are politically engaged and pushing towards a post-WoT Pakistan, through whichever channels they negotiate, all that the government needs to do is facilitate such progress by delivering services, including rights-based ones, without impediments. All that the state needs to do is provide security and justice, without getting into the business of governance or the people’s choices in reclaiming their vision of a post-WoT Pakistan.
The writer is a sociologist based in Karachi. Email: [email protected]