Sunday, November 18, 2007

Pakistan (2007) is NOT Iran (1979)

There is one mantra that is chanted across the political board, that the USA support of Busharraf will lead to something akin to Iran in 1979.

There are a number of fallacies in this chant:

1. The premise of this mantra is that the Islamic Revolution in Iran was just about removing the "shah." Infact, it was a revolution that fundamentally changed Iranian society's power structure and distribution.

At this time, in Pakistan, there is no perceivable call for a transformation. Rather, it is mostly about replacing Busharraf with someone who would be somewhat less autocratic. And for the US allied liberal elite, they would like to see someone who is more efficient in killing the so-called "extremists."

2. By 1979, Iran had a well defined ideology that moved the nation - while there were the then Soviet Union allied communists, the vast majority of the country had been exposed to the talks and writings of not only Imam Khomeini, but also people such as Dr. Ali Shariati, Allama Mutahhari, and many many others. These writings, tapes, and direct relationships that the religious teachers and students had with the the population, formed a more or less cohesive Islamic ideology that the masses could readily understand, and identify with.

Pakistan has no cohesive or unifying ideology at this time, and the Americans understand this situation all too well. This is why the architect of Central American brutality, Negroponte, can go to Pakistan and talk in favor of the "civil society" - because the myriad of NGOs are Western allies, who will act as the facade of democracy far better than anything a military dictator can accomplish. The task of Pakistan remaining within the US orbit will be the same, only the facade actors are to change.

There is a somewhat well formed ideological movement in the Northern areas of Pakistan, but they are so stuck in sectarianism, that they cannot appeal to the large majority of the country. And the other large, more mainstream, Islamic groups who could help facilitate, and bring clarity to that movement, are themselves neck deep in their alliances with the feudals, industrialists, and the military (i.e. the conservative elite of the country).

3. The struggle in Iran had a notion of the oppressed rising up against the oppressors - this is enshrined in the Iranian constitution with the inclusion of this verse from the Qur'an:

And we wish to show favor to those who have been oppressed upon earth, and to make them leaders and the inheritors." [28:5])

And it was on this basis the revolution took a clear stand against the oppressive behaviors of the United States, and to a somewhat lesser extent against the then Soviet Union.

While there were pro-US secularist-liberals who attempted to hijack the revolution, their numbers and popular depth was so shallow that they were quickly swept away. During later years, these same liberals surfaced in the "west" especially in the US, and are often held in high esteem by the American liberal-left, and are, from time to time, courted by the US conservatives and neo-cons.

At the very most, Pakistan's struggle is about "rule of the constitution" and "civil law" --- while this is well and good, and most of the lawyers leading that component of the struggle are sincere. This is hardly about social justice, nor does this challenge the existing power dynamics of the feudals and capitalist industrialists who have swindled the country in cahoots with the military. There is zip talk about social justice in this movement, only about something called "democracy" that the US is only too happy to play along with...

The pro-US aspects of Pakistani NGOs and liberals is made obvious in this comment by the so-called "human rights" leader, Asma Jahangir, in her interview on Democracy Now:

" In the last two weeks, there has been more, you know, openness towards looking at US as a partner of people, rather than a partner of dictatorship."

"So I think that if the US really now -- really is a player here, which is quite obvious, takes a more balanced approach, rather than go all out for Musharraf, regardless of his massive unpopularity, finds a solution to future democracy in Pakistan, because democracy..."

When, oh when, human rights worker Jahangir, has the US has ever been a partner of the people? I don't think Jahangir, and others who make such comments are just plain naive - I think their agenda coincides with that of the US, which is to have a more efficient machine to deal with what she calls "talibanization of Pakistan."

"And people resent the fact that in his last period, Talibanization in Pakistan has crept into our society and in many cities. We are of the considered opinion that he is too distracted and too busy amassing power, rather than having a courageous policy and taking public opinion with him to combat terrorism."

And so, now what? Obviously, the liberals are, at best, going to effect a change in oppressors, while remaining true to the US.

I don't think Pakistan is going to see any major change anytime soon, even if Busharraf is replaced with a facade of democracy, the country will keep going from crisis to another. The present movement has been best described by Aijaz Ahmad as a battle between the ruling elites of country, and has little or nothing of value for the vast majority of the country.

Muslims might take heed of the words of Imam Ali (AS)

Steer clear through the waves of mischief by boats of deliverance, turn away from the path of dissension and put off the crowns of pride. Prosperous is one who rises with wings (i.e. when he has power) or else he remains peaceful and others enjoy ease. It (i.e. the aspiration for Caliphate) is like turbid water or like a morsel that would suffocate the person who swallows it. One who plucks fruits before ripening is like one who cultivated in another's field. (Nahjul-Balaga, sermon #5)

In our present day, we all may be tempted by power (i.e. the caliphate in the above sermon) delivered on a platter of fake gold by the present day opportunists and imperialists --- avoid that temptation. Our focus has to be a longer term clarification of Islamic principles - encourage Muslims and movements to take their inspiration from the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) and not look towards outdated, discredited forms that has resulted in over a million killed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine in just the past six years.

Ultimately, the objective of Muslims in relation to the empire must be to become non-subjects i.e. to find ways to think and act outside the Western framework, outside colonialism. In the context of Muslims, and specifically Pakistan that is 98% Muslim, it has to mean taking a deep meaningful look at Islam --- otherwise, what is the point of even calling ourselves those who seek to surrender towards the will of Allah (Muslim)?

Inshallah Pakistan, and all other oppressed peoples will soon be free of the yoke of imperialism, neo-colonialism, feudalism, capitalism, and our own internalized oppressions.

Al Ajal Al Ajal!

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