It’s certainly easy to conclude from the Punjab assembly’s recent anti-media resolution that our political class does not understand the concept of a free press; feels entitled to rule regardless of rules and is a bunch of mediocrities (even within their own social class – after all the smart son probably at least graduates whereas the stupid scion is pushed into politics) who are pushed to the top by an extensive network of patronage and caste/land affiliations.
All fair conclusions.
But let’s not stop our analysis there, who will analyze the other side of this conflict. Here’s someone giving it a shot:
The media and civil society represent the new urban middle classes that are better educated, more articulate, progressive and deeply interested in moving Pakistan forward. They represent essentially a modernist vision of Pakistan in espousing the cause of true democracy through rule of law, accountability and constitutionalism. I am not sure if we can say the same about the dominant section of the traditional ruling classes which regularly get elected.
To this, I’m afraid my only reply is… LOL.
Let’s read the latest from our new urban middle class, educated, articulate, progressive and deeply interested in moving Pakistan forward, in the shape of Rauf Klasra:
It has now been revealed that the District Coordination Officers (DCOs) were used to make all MPAs of the Punjab Assembly reach Lahore to attend a special session of the assembly on Thursday. Even the name of MPA Sanullah Mastikhel, who is now being made the scapegoat by the top guns of the PML-N, was chosen by none other than CM Punjab Shahbaz Sharif to present the resolution in the provincial assembly.
Moreover, two foreign countries were also taken into confidence on the crackdown plan against the media. This inside story was revealed to The News by one of the top insiders of the PML-N, who was an integral part of the plot to target the media. According to him, even harsher measures against the media were in the offing but the move backfired.
After the passage of the resolution, the next plan was to stop official advertisements to the media and to issue all official advertisments only on the Internet in addition to asking the federal government to bring in more stringent laws to tighten the noose around the uncontrolled media through the PEMRA.
What are we to make of this? What motivates the likes of Rauf Klasra to write this utter nonsense, day in and day out? Do Rauf Klasra’s children know who pays to put the food on their table and their various plots multiplying from one month to the next? Is it, as the good professor would have us believe a strong civic sense, a dedication to accountability, constitutionalism and progressivism? And if not, why whitewash this utter bilge as a symbol of some kind of progress?
Some other questions that come to mind are… why now. Why did the judiciary begin hearing long-delayed petitions regarding educational qualifications? Why not in the period between 2002 – 2010 when the higher judiciary hasn’t been able to even settle the issue of Madrasa sanads for about 7 years.
At that time the controversy related to sanads of religious seminaries possessed by dozens of legislators remained in the field, but was not finally adjudicated by the apex court. An election tribunal presided over by Justice Tariq Pervez Khan of the Peshawar High Court on June 30, 2003 accepted an election petition filed by a contesting candidate Iftikhar Gillani against an MNA of Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal, Mufti Ibrar Sultan. The tribunal disqualified the MNA, ordered re-polling in that constituency and declared that the sanad of a religious seminary was not equivalent to graduation.
Mufti Ibrar filed an appeal before the Supreme Court which suspended the order of the tribunal and allowed him to continue till final disposal of the appeal. The appeal remained pending for over four years when the assemblies were dissolved in 2007 after completion of its five-year term and fresh polls were held in Feb 2008. The said controversy is still continuing as there are several such legislators who possess sanad of different seminaries.
Why this sudden burst of conscience? Are we really not supposed to look beyond empty-headed analyses of two sides – a progressive democratic and generally lovely civil society and the “old guard” political class? I’m not going to defend the Punjab Assembly’s anti-media resolution. But I’m not going to launder the anti-democratic civil society either. I don’t know why even ostensibly intelligent people feel the need to view the world as the good guys vs. the bad guys. The best we can hope for is a negotiated status quo between a bunch of crooks, liars and cheats who would all stab the other in the back if the system allowed the loopholes to do it. But who am I kidding – this is the Pakistani intellectual class – proudly whining about the status quo; caricaturizing its opponents until it’s impossible to work with them; and collapsing the system since at least 1906.
To a certain extent I sympathize with those who would analyze this intellectual class. While the dysfunctions of the political class are numerous and easy to both enumerate and explain (feudalism, patronage, British colonialism), the language to explain the permanent anti-status-quo itch of the urbanites is somehow more difficult to explain. What makes a Rauf Klasra tick? Apart from the plots in Islamabad — Is it just love for a “strong ruler”? A latent desire for Khilafat? A desire to compete with the Western world which is disproportionate to our institutional capacity? (something similar to the impulse that led them to support ‘proxy war’ with India). Their own negligible numbers which makes democracy, though appealing in principle, undesirable in practice? Who knows. Certainly within this class exist those who are genuinely disgusted with the broken down and corrupt political system with no other hidden motivations beyond that. But even within this sub-class what explains the willful blindness to the motivations of their not so progressive fellow travelers? If you are forever jumping onto the bandwagon of movements that then turn out to be dominated by a right-wing discourse, should you not begin to question your own assumptions?