The things that pass for civil society

Scattered amidst our ‘civil society’ are people who look something like this:

Consider this column today by retired bureaucrat Roedad Khan:

When politics or politicians fail to resolve or even to address the great issues people face, what often happens is that civil society rises up to change politics. Historians call such moments “great awakenings” which often lead to big changes in society. Today Pakistan may be on the edge of such a time with a younger generation of lawyers and civil society as its cutting edge, ready to face the challenges and issues that weigh so heavily on this great country.

The political momentum now rests entirely with the “Black Coats” and the civil society. They can smell the march of their own power. At last, people have found their life mission, something to fight for, something to die for: fight dictatorship, military or civilian. They have also found the tool to achieve this mammoth task: street demonstrations

Roedad Khan was a corrupt right-leaning bureaucrat who served as Yahya Khan’s information secretary during which time he was said to have advised the regime to put the fear of god into the East Pakistanis, and as Zia’s Secretary General of the Interior ministry and about whom Shaheen Sehbai wrote:

Who does not remember his role as the leader of the secret election cell in the Ghulam Ishaq Khan presidency in 1990 when he rigged the election blatantly in collaboration with his colleague Ijlal Haider Zaidi and General Rafaqat? His exploits have all been recorded in several books written about those elections. Does that conduct fit into his description of “nothing to die for and nothing to live for” or was it only for a short-term gain?

Today, Roedad Khan has become, like everyone else, an analyst, a member of civil society and like others including Shireen Mazari, a member of Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaaf [edit: am not 100% about this last part]

Here’s a column by Roedad Khan 7 years ago, entitled “Threat to the Islamic World”:

We are told that Pakistan would have ceased to exist if it had resisted US demands and not cooperated in the war against Afghanistan. “When you are face-to-face with a wolf, your only option is to work with it, until it becomes a pet”. Unfortunately the American wolf does not make a very good pet. There can be no friendship between the cat and the mouse. There can be no friendship between the strong and the weak or between unequals.

By succumbing to American pressure, we managed to secure a temporary reprieve. But at what price? Pakistan is splattered with American fortresses, seriously compromising our internal and external sovereignty. Foreign troops stationed on our soil move in and out of the country without any let or hindrance. Pakistan has become a launching pad for military operations against neighbouring Muslim countries. We have been drawn into somebody else’s war without understanding its true dimension or ultimate objectives.

Which was a good summary of the reasons for Roedad Khan and his kind’s (Aslam Beg, Hamid Gul, etc) break with the army from that point until Musharraf’s dismissal last year. It was not a principled break but a tactical one due to a difference in perspective which today, with the help of some unimportant leftie lawyers, has been resolved in their favour.

So we should be worried. In Pakistan it doesn’t really matter what people are saying because more often than not they all talk the same old shit: about human rights, and dignity, and the glory of Islam. What matters is who is saying it, and why.


15 responses to “The things that pass for civil society

  1. takhalus

    are you sure he has joined PTI? He was considering joining ANP at one time too..he turns a phrase well but his career is a bit odd..his late brother was a senior leader in the ANP while he was a dyed in green establishment person according to people in my family who know him..

  2. actually I am not sure now that you say it. I was going by a video of him addressing a PTI rally:

    but I am not sure that he is actually in the party.

  3. Wow, [if true] Imran’s PTI is increasingly flooded with the most fantastic, lovely individuals – from Shireen Mazari to him! Says a lot…

  4. And that was written with dripping sarcasm.

  5. stuka

    As per Ayaz Amir, Roedad Khan’s comment after the March crackdown on east Pakistani intellectuals was “Aaj eeman pakka ho gaya”,

  6. takhalus

    your comments about tactical move is true but only because the establishment doesn’t really believe in anything so everything is tactics whether it’s using Islam or using the US

  7. I don’t know about that. I don’t think Aslam Beg, Hamid Gul, Roedad Khan, etc are non-ideological. They seem pretty ideologically committed to Pakistani policy in Afghanistan which they weren’t willing to be pragmatic about during Musharraf’s U-turn.

  8. Rabia, I am surrounded by so many sheep in where I am. Actually I am one of them. Rescue me : )

  9. thanks takhalus.the salarzai tribe in bajour has also paid a heavy price for forming an anti taliban lashkar (

    but I saw a video of the bajour situation, and the area inhabited by the salarzai tribe seemed to be the only area that had some degree of normalcy so it seems that their approach and not the army’s one of bombing everything to rubble will eventually be the only one capable of working. The only problem is that the government is not willing to protect them esp right after they disband the lashkar.

  10. takhalus

    well Rabia the problem is the normal approach to dealing with an insurgency is a combination of carrot and drain the swamp to kill the mosquitoes as they say…but what the FC has been doing is allowing the locals to migrate and then levelling the area..this allows many of the sympathisers to mix with the now IDP’s and use them as a base it disperses an ideology and doesn’t address the cause..

  11. Rabia,

    This is the time I have visited your blog/website/whatever you call it, and I must say it is quite fascinating. This post exposing Roedad Khan was particularly impressive, because I was quite ignorant about him up to this point, thinking he was an eloquent operator.

    So, yea, keep up the good work! 🙂

  12. Hi Sohaib, thanks for the kind words, hope you keep visiting!

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