UNLIKELY HEROES IN A NATION SEEKING CHANGE

August 21, 2014 OPINION/NEWS

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By

Sabin Muzaffar

Over the past several days Pakistan has witnessed a tumultuous chain of events. A previously unknown scholar imported from the West, and a charmingly hedonistic cricketer, have become unlikely heroes to a following of millions by rallying peacefully in the name of ‘Change’ in Islamabad.

Two political party leaders: Imran Khan ‘captaining’ Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf or PTI  and Dr. Tahir ul-Qadri of Pakistan Awami Tehreek, also known as PAT (Pakistan nationalist initiative), demanded the resignation of current Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, alleging (Imran Khan even proving with evidence) that the elections were in fact rigged and the government had corruptly made millions after coming to power.  With more or less the same stance, but a different ideological agenda, the PAT chief’s premise for the rally was the June killing of his innocent followers in clashes with the police. The incident claimed fourteen lives and wounded approximately one hundred party followers.

And so it was one hazy afternoon, when the two parties marched out from one of Pakistan’s biggest cities, Lahore, with thousands of ardent followers, in the wake of its Independence Day to ‘liberate’ a country shackled in poverty, instigated once again by an absolute monarchy; one that had claimed to be elected democratically.

This was an unprecedented action that had never seen the light of day and one too in a country afflicted with corrupt and arguably egomaniacal governments, reeking with terrorism and burning with licentiousness and larceny. People living under and above the poverty line were out in the streets following both leaders in the hope of change, come torrid rain or nauseatingly hot summer days. “Pakistanis are sick of the status quo and want to see change. The future is a blur at the moment but things are in motion after a very long time, which makes me hopeful,” opined eminent Pakistani journalist Najam ul Hassan Atta.

While there are seemingly few like this journalist, many are wary and even cynical claiming the rally merely as a political gimmick. In a discussion on social media, a fellow writer commented: “For me change has a totally different definition which if I will tell you… will start a whole new debate. As for Imran Khan, this seems like a political gimmick. Yes people are out on the streets… they are out on the streets for both Khan and Tahir ul Qadri. Who will bring this change?… both of them have shady pasts… though one better than the other. Do you seriously think Nawaz Sharif will give up that easily? He is a seasoned politician. There is a bigger power play going on… Rallying peacefully is another thing that amazes me… in a country where rallies are never peaceful, how come this is happening? This is a clear indication of the fact that something or someone bigger is derailing the democracy or is allowing this to happen to divert public attention. As I said…some bigger power play going on. Yes, I do hope but realistically, one should not live in a fool’s paradise.”

There are many others with similar views to the above writer. Even the Pakistani media stands divided when it comes to the current state of affairs. Two of the biggest media houses in Pakistan, GEO and ARY (who are famous for always being at each others’ throats) are vociferously propagating messages inherently poles apart. While the pro government GEO alleges that the two rebellious parties are working under ‘foreign’ directives, the latter considers it incumbent on the Pakistani people to come out on the streets to weed out corruption once and for all.

Yes, listening to Imran Khan speak, one does gasp inwardly at his political naivety, his blatant lack of suave oratorical prowess and his ‘slanguage’ , all a far cry from the Oxford educated persona he had created in his cricketing heydays. Now he is often ridiculed by Pakistan’s enlightened elite, either for his bombastic call for civil disobedience or his constant allusion to the Arab Spring.

With the establishment very much in the picture, only time can tell whether the current debacle is indeed a Pandora’s box or something, somehow more meaningful. Statistics state otherwise but are we so pessimistically pragmatic and jaded that we cannot but hope?

 

 

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Sabin Muzaffar

 

Sabin is a UAE-based writer/blogger who embarked upon her professional career some 17 years ago. She is currently contributing to major publications in the UAE including daily Gulf News. A reluctant feminist, women empowerment, and freedom of expression are two of the many topics close to her heart.

 

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