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#4578, 23 July 2014

Revolutions and Million Men Marches

Rise of Democratic Anarchists
D Suba Chandran
Director, IPCS

Democratic anarchists? How can anyone be a democrat, and yet be an anarchist? How else can one explain what Imran Khan is attempting to impose in Pakistan, one year after accepting the election results? How else can one explain what Tahirul Qadri is attempting to pursue as an option against the status quo? In India, after a successful elections to the State Legislative Assembly in New Delhi, Kejriwal attempted something similar, but as a Chief Minister, he proudly called himself in public as an anarchist. A similar example could be cited in Afghanistan as well, as Abdulah Abdullah attempted to form a parallel government when he came to know that the election commission results were not in favour of his claim.

Why do our leaders, who earn the trust of many of us (as could be seen from the votes polled in Pakistan for Imran Khan, and for Kejriwal in Delhi) suddenly want to upset the system through which they came up? Though Imran Khan and his party – the PTI have been contesting elections for the last two decades, never before he and his party received so many votes in the elections, and also so many seats at the National Assembly and the provincial assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In fact his party’s performance was sufficient enough to form a government in the KP. Similarly, Kejriwal’s performance in Delhi legislative assembly elections was sufficient enough to form the government. But then, they were not satisfied with what they got. An un-corrupt system, good and clean electoral structure, and an inclusive political process – undoubtedly are good ends, and everyone deserves to reach that goal.

But at what costs and through what means? Through revolutions, million marches and anarchist methodologies? If the end goal is an establishment of a system with inclusive politics, such an objective should be pursued through an evolutionary process, with adequate consultations with everyone. More importantly, the process should be positive and acceptable to everyone. Any system achieved through non-democratic, extortion and nihilist means is unlikely to remain stable. Ends will never justify the means here.

In Pakistan, Imran Khan has to be read along with another self proclaimed reformer – Tahirul Qadri, a cleric who wants electoral reforms to change the present system in Pakistan, which he considers as corrupt and moth-eaten. He wants to organise million men marches and bring a revolution.

Are they being immature? Or are they being impatient? Perhaps they see a clear picture, which appears convoluted and complicated for the rest of us. What do they want? And what do they intend to achieve?

One explanation could be – perhaps there is an over confidence about their perceived role in reforming the political system and establish a true democracy. Unfortunately such leaders fail to understand that the human history has witnessed numerous such political messiahs, who presumed that they are the ultimate choice of destiny and history. To their dismay, the history has withstood such claims and silently buried them and bulldozed their reputation under its feet.

Second explanation could be impatience. These leaders just do not have the patience to achieve what they want. Or maybe they consider a particular momentum as the most opportune, which should not be allowed to pass by. Remember the timing of Tahirual Qadri and Imran Khan; Qadri’s earlier attempt to change the system came just before the elections, with Zardari and the PPP at their weakest moment. 

Today, perhaps Qadri and Imran Khan consider that the political situation as the most opportune, with growing dis-satisfaction against Nawaz Sharif, and more importantly the nature of civil-military relations at this juncture. The military and its ISI are certainly upset with the Musharraf trial. Though there is a strong anti-Musharraf sentiment within the civil society, media and even amongst the legal community, the military is unlikely to remain a mute spectator and watch its former Chief being harassed and hounded in the courts and in the media. The Establishment was also unhappy with the political dialogue vis-a-vis Pakistani Taliban.

Both these issues did affect the civil-military relations. For Qadri and Imran Khan, this was an opportunity to strike. So why not? The calculations are perhaps, that the military and intelligence agencies may even silently support such a political onslaught. Obviously, all in the name of revolution and protection of democracy. A last and final reason could be – that these leaders are playing to a script, already written by the Establishment. For the reasons mentioned above, the military and intelligence agencies are unhappy with Nawaz Sharif. Worse was the public confrontation that one of the leading news groups – the Jang picked up, targeting the serving ISI, after one of its lead anchor and senior journalist – Hamid Mir was attacked. Both Mir and his employers were convinced it was carried out by the intelligence agencies and started a public campaign against the ISI. Never before in the history of Pakistan, was the ISI hounded by the media and civilians in public.

The intelligence agencies went into a damage control mode. Suddenly, a section within the media and in the civil society started talking about the virtues of the military and the ISI, and their services to the nation. Nawaz Sharif was seen as soft towards the Jang group, and perhaps the Establishment considered him as a part of the anti-ISI campaign. The announcements of Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri came precisely during this period. It appears that both are being used as a trump by the military to get back at Sharif.

Though such “revolutions” and “million men marches” with 50,000 people may not end up overthrowing Sharif government, it may very well create political instability. Such a development may even suit the military. In the long run, such a confrontational approach would neither benefit the democratic process, nor those how are planning to pursue it such as Qadri and Khan. It was after a long chequered history, Pakistan today is witnessing a process of democracy. For the first time in its history, an elected government completed its term, organised elections and handed it over the next government. The process is not complete and democracy in Pakistan is still work in progress.

Instead of strengthening the process, Qadri and Khan may end up derailing it. In the long run, ironically, such an outcome would not be helping these two leaders as well. They should look at Kejriwal and what happened to him, when he decided to be an anarchist and wreck the system that had elected him. If there is an election again, the AAP may not get that kind response from the people. In Pakistan’s case, Qadri and Khan have an additional disadvantage; the Establishment, which seems to be silently backing their onslaught, will not blink twice to overthrow them. Not long ago, Nawaz Sharif was considered as their man! Instead of organising revolutions and million men marches, the leaders should help the process to continue. Such a process is bound to bring them up.

By arrangement with Rising Kashmir

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