By Ahson S. Hasan
I was sipping my morning coffee the other day when an email showed up in my Inbox containing a video URL forwarded by a ‘Pakistan watcher’, as the lingo goes around the Washington Beltway. It showed the ‘booting off’, ‘downloading’, ‘off-loading’ of Rahman Malik from a PIA plane. I watched the video intently and at first thought about writing back to the sender for an explanation. It was too much for my rather unruffled mind that was in the process of booting and gearing up for a busy day ahead. I didn’t press the reply button. Instead, I quickly looked for more information of this ‘meritorious’ event on the web. Astonished as I was, I found ton of ‘mashallah’, ‘subhallah’ remarks and comments posted on various sites by Pakistanis from all over the globe. Essentially, this incident was being touted as the dawn of ‘Naya Pakistan’
Having established that the event was real, I watched it a few more times during the course of the day, enough to fully comprehend the reason behind the protest and the emotional onslaught that followed from left, right and center.
While I like the fact that Pakistanis are keen to change the status quo and turn the tide against redtapism, corruption, nepotism, I’m afraid they’re way too emotionally invested in this activity. What happened in the plane was a legitimate consequence of a vain and pompous big shot holding back departure for 2 and half hours. That’s a long delay by any standards. I agree with the way Rahman was heckled away. He’s a scoundrel of the first order and politicians deserve such treatment anyway.
Having said that, I want to bring to light what I have digested and absorbed in terms of information and sentiments coming from different sources, biased and unbiased, some involved directly in the dharna activities and others just passive onlookers or observers.
Concerned folks want to know where all this will lead to. Will this type of public behavior become a norm? Whereas the ideals of democracy, freedom, liberty, and justice are all wonderfully powerful, a civilized approach to resolving issues is a must. Democracy can only be made possible by enlightened citizenry and not by unwise desires of people to sabotage the any leftover steadiness and stability of a society that is already in shambles.
Pakistan and Pakistanis are paralyzed by terrorism, corruption at every level of the society, and lack of respect for humanity. This type of rhetorical behavior will only further jeopardize and compromise the existence of state and local institutions. If people start taking the law in their hands and deliver ‘justice’ on the spot, it’ll uproot any prospects of improvement and tear everything and anything apart. It’ll instigate an ISIS like culture encouraging thoughtless abuse, massive ignorance and loads of anarchy. Public places may soon be turned into execution and beheading sites.
I see this video clip as an initiation of a mass civil disobedience process that’ll probably mark an end to any authority that federal or provincial authorities wield at this moment in time. The concept of rule of law will totally become redundant, an unknown phenomenon effectively thrown out of the window. The nation is charged up and ‘emotionally hot’. Such events will encourage even those who had been keeping their heads down to be vociferous and aggressive for no necessary reasons and causes.
Talking to different segments of the Pakistani community in North America, Imran Khan’s asking the public to stop paying utility bills is not being seen in a favorable light. Modern states and nations are expected to establish certain rules that governments must enforce and citizens must abide by. Anything else is a violation of the ‘code’ – a code that helps modern nation states to stay away from anxieties of chaos. As it is, Pakistan is far behind modernity. People get killed and maimed, women get raped every day by dozens, religious minorities are looked down upon, crime is not in short supply, and human rights are an unknown commodity. It’s an incredibly long list of miseries!
Please don’t get mad. Not yet at least because here’s my other thought. I’m about to embark upon my own little critique. While whatever I wrote above may be theoretically true and normatively apply to many other states on God’s Earth, such ideals are not in line with or consonant with the prevailing disastrous Pakistani political culture. Pakistan has fallen so far in the “long game” that such disobedient forms of behavior are inevitable and may have a productive effect over the long haul. The Sharifs are plunderers, as was Zardari. Voluntary reform by the landed elite will not come unless their status and sense of impunity is threatened by push back by ordinary people. The excessive role of the Army also has to be trimmed. Minority rights should be guaranteed and strengthened. The common folks are being squeezed and crushed.
Long story short, this plane incident was great from a news bytes standpoint. Does it auger well for the future? I’m not too sure. I would imagine that Naya Pakistan should be one where peace and equality reign supreme and where people have opportunities to grow and improve. My plea is that civilized people who want to set an example should call for self-discipline. Right now, in my opinion, Naya Pakistan is just euphoric clap trap and high sounding nonsense. Young folks crazy about Imran Khan must realize that being law abiding is a beautiful virtue; keeping one’s head down and working hard to make a living and paying bills on time is not bad. They should not be urged not to pay their utility bills. Most of all, uncouth and anarchist behavior are uncool!
For whatever its worth, while one sympathizes with the terrifying absence of good governance, people of Pakistan can do better and should and must rise up in a peaceful, legal and orderly manner.