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Saturday, 25 December 2010

Learn from experience

2006: Female cadets at the Quaid's tomb
The following is my article published as Friday Feature in Dawn on December 24, 2010. Some of the wording may vary from the printed version.
The year 1987 was memorable because even those segments of the population who had not been much interested in politics during the various struggles for the restoration of democracy earlier in the decade were now feeling restless. This presumption was corroborated by the historic turnout during the elections that followed a year later. The elections of 1988 were the second occasion in the history of Pakistan where the results, however rigged they may have been, were at least accepted by all major contestants (the first such occasion were the elections of 1970).

In the light of the ideals indigenously developed since 1887, and the goals achieved through them, there are reasons to believe that the new goal that had appeared before the nation in 1988 was actually “emancipation” rather than anything else. This goal had to be achieved through the “inner synthesis” of diverse political experiments carried out in the previous twenty years. The ideal of to be pursued whilst in quest of the goal was “Learn through experience.”

Emancipation was the new goal. This may be concluded from the fact that according to the generally accepted views, conventional democracy (i.e. Western democracy) pre-requires a high literacy rate, which did not exist in Pakistan at that time (nor does it now). If so, then the masses had less reason to care for such democracy and more to care for the other, indigenous, variety that had already been idealized by them: it had been taught to them by the most influential teachers, preachers, poets and artists for more than a thousand years. It was the spiritual democracy, envisioned by the more genuine schools of Sufism in the past, and more recently turned into a political idea by the likes of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, Shah Waliullah, Waris Shah, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, Ali Brothers and Allama Iqbal. (For a detailed outline of this development, see the previous articles by the present writer published in this newspaper).

In The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam (1930-34), Iqbal stated that for a Muslim, this idea was “a matter of convic¬tion for which even the least enlightened man among us can easily lay down his life.” Hence, the indigenous conception of democracy does not pre-require literacy or formal education, but only spiritual emancipation. Does it not seem natural that the true aspiration of the masses can only be this indigenous variety of democracy? It does not degrade them because of poor literacy rate. It has been ingrained into their consciousness by the best-loved poets and teachers in more than a thousand years.

Just as conventional democracy pre-requires literacy and education, the indigenous variety calls for spiritual emancipation (in the above-mentioned passage, Iqbal goes on to say, “in view of the basic idea of Islam that there can be no further revelation binding on man, we ought to be spiritually one of the most emancipated peoples on earth”).

Spiritual emancipation, in this sense, means emancipation in all spheres of life rather than just one. Artistic and literary, social and political, religious and legal, education and psychological emancipations collectively amount to spiritual emancipation.

In retrospect, we may recognize that we started pursuing this goal in 1987. Unlike some of the earlier goals, such as Muslim nationhood, separate electorates and Muslim homeland, the goal was not clearly stated on this occasion. Beginning with the election of a woman prime minister ahead of any other Muslim nation, the journey towards emancipation was carried out, perhaps, unknowingly for the most part. The quarrels between Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, the work of the human rights activists and the feminists, the so-called enlightened moderation at the turn of the millennium, the emergence of an all-powerful media with its good and bad influences, and the uneasy alliances with the Western powers may all have contributed towards the achieving of our goal. The strongest factor, however, was undoubtedly the “inner synthesis” of the diverse political ideologies that had been tried out since 1967.

In the absence of a well-stated ideal, the only ideal to be pursued was to learn from experience. This was also important because the emancipation that we were trying to achieve was unprecedented. It was a long-cherished goal that had never become a reality for our society during the long centuries of tyrants and despots. Therefore, the best way forward was to learn from experience.

The benchmark came in 2006, when judicial activism of the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Chaudhry, prevailed upon the combined whim of a native military ruler and the sole super power on earth, and made them answerable in a court of law for “the missing persons”, most of whom were not only insignificant citizens, but also disfavored citizens.

As if to symbolize the ethos of the past twenty years, six women cadets and a Sikh gentleman cadet were seen among the contingent that took over guard duties on the mausoleum of the Quaid-i-Azam on 25 December 2006. The 130th birth anniversary of the founder of Pakistan was indeed a good day to mark the end of a stage in the history of the nation, and to start preparation of the next stage. “Emancipation”, which was the goal achieved in the past twenty years, was soon going to become a tool for achieving the next goal, and a new ideal would then be pursued.

1 comment:

Muhammad Hamza said...

umm...
yea..Emancipation is the tool,the only one there is,apart from blood and swords,to bring a positive change in our beloved nation.