Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Consensus Literature

Pakistani literature cannot be restricted to those who imitate whatever change occurs in form and style in the West (whether Russian West or the capitalist West). That is sentiment, not thought.

I believe that democracy applies to everything, including literature. Hence our "literature" is not those highbrows who never meet the approval of the masses. Our literature after Iqbal, according to me, is national songs, popular film, film poetry, mystery literature, digests, etc. These are "democratic" art forms.

The job of the intellectual is to interpret the consensus of the people rather than importing values from abroad and imposing them. That is just another form of "ascetism" (rahbaniyat) and is typical of decadent periods when nations decline in power - and it became standardized in the West only when their imperialism got thwarted. But we won an empire just when they lost it, so how can our lives be parallel?

Blind imitation of the West eventually leads to hostile reactions against West itself: in Pakistan we find that those who are most cynically anti-West are usually the ones who are not in touch with the vernacular spirit. The vernacular spirit in Pakistan is not cynical. It values its freedom and is bent upon developing its own potential rather than blaming others. The verncacular spirit is still in touch with the ideal of Quaid-i-Azam Jinnah, "peace within and peace without."

Monday, 25 February 2008

Destiny and Free Will in Pakistan

It is true that we are free to make our choices and what we get in life is to a large extent their consequence. However, history would be an oversimplified business if free will were the only factor to be shaping it.

In life we sometimes see our best efforts come to nothing – “and, in this upshot, purposes mistook falling on the inventors’ heads.” The twentieth century Western literature developed a tendency to overemphasize this aspect and conclude that life was “a tale told by an idiot… signifying nothing.” Our poet-philosopher Iqbal (1877-1938) offers us a way out.

According to him, everything has a fixed destiny and therefore you can change your destiny by changing yourself: when you change yourself you become eligible for a new destiny. Nations, on the other hand, have "final" destinies that may not be altered easily. Individuals are free to choose what part they want their nation’s destiny to play in their lives.

By this logic, whatever implications there are of Election 2008 will get implemented (and I offered my interpretation as “3 aspects” in the previous post). Whether we, the individuals, benefit from them or not depends very much on our own actions and on our readiness to be "connected" to the collective consciousness of the nation.

In other words, Pakistan will arrive where it is headed to but we need to see that: for our own sakes.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

3 Aspects of the Election Results

The verdict of Election 2008 seems to be: (a) innovative; (b) Islamic; and (c) internationally relevant.

What is being interpreted as “sympathy vote” for Pakistan People’s Party may as well be the people’s inclination towards a “blind date" (PPP being the only major party which is compelled to give a new prime minister since the assassination of its leader Benazir Bhutto on December 27). The verdict has given a second place (but not a second chance) to Nawaz Sharif and also some breathing space to President Pervez Musharraf.

Contrary to headlines in the moderately enlightened media, Musharraf allies didn’t face the voters’ “wrath”: PML (Q) is down but not out. Add to this the seats won by the MQM plus some of the independent candidates, and the message to Musharraf seems to be that he can stay but as a dignified onlooker. Conclusion 1: leadership with consensus, and please try to be innovative!

Regarding the Islamic identity, PPP has been the overtly “pro-West” party and its success does not match the collective pool of seats won by Nawaz, MQM, the religious element, PML (Q) and others who fall back on somewhat similar vernacular identities despite their many differences. Conclusion 2: it still is the “Islamic Republic” of Pakistan (and unity in such diversity may be discovered most effectively through the ideals of the founding fathers).

On the issue of Pakistan’s involvement in global politics, when Bill Clinton visited Pakistan on March 26, 2000 (18 months before 09/11), he did some straight talking through a live television broadcast. With dignified silence we listened, for the sake of whatever was true and apt in what he said. Now, with dignity again, our collective consciousness seems to be sending back Bill’s message to his successors in case they need it as much as we did (or just in case they need it more): “With the right vision rooted in tomorrow's promise, not yesterday's pain – rooted in dialogue, not destruction, Pakistan can fulfill its destiny as a beacon of democracy in the Muslim world.”

Mr. Clinton promised that if Pakistanis chose this path, “The United States will walk with you.'' Through Election 2008 the people of Pakistan seem to be stating that the US can make use of the same virtues (i.e. “the right vision rooted in tomorrow’s promise, not in yesterday’s pain – rooted in dialogue, not destruction”) in order to fulfill its destiny as a beacon of democracy in the world. Conclusion 3: “if” the Americans choose this path, Pakistan will walk with them (
P.S. We hold these truths to be self-evident).