Calm down, Pakistan – there is no revolution coming!

This is no revolution. There is no such thing as a peaceful revolution. And Pakistan has never seen a revolution.

Shehzad Ghias December 05, 2014
Imran Khan has repeatedly insisted that the revolution he is advocating will be peaceful. Maybe, that is why it has not materialised as a revolution. Peaceful revolution is an oxymoron; a contradiction unto itself.

Hans Kelsen theorises in The Pure Theory of Law that societies are built around a Grundnorm, a basic norm, that all of the society’s customs derive out of. A revolution simply changes this Grundnorm. The French Revolution replaced the absolute rule of the monarchy with democratic ideas of citizenship. The Iranian Revolution replaced monarchy with an Islamic republic. The Cuban revolution replaced a dictator with a communist regime. The Bolshevik revolution in Russia led to the creation of the Soviet Union. None of these revolutions were peaceful.

All the countries that we now look towards as being civilised and orderly have reached the equilibrium they find themselves in after years of infighting and violence. America was created after going to war with the British. A century later, the country nearly tore itself apart with a bloody civil war and another century later, the country went through a mass uprising and unrest with the civil rights movement.

Last week, streets all over America were shut down by people protesting against systematic racism in the country. The protests were sparked by two separate incidents. The first was the decision of a grand jury not to send the case of a white police officer shooting an unarmed black teenager to court. The second was the decision of a grand jury in New York not to send the case of a white police officer choking an unarmed black man to death in Staten Island to trial.

The locations for people to gather were announced online. The hashtag #ShutItDown started trending, and people did the rest. There was no politicisation of the affair; the leaders emerging from these protests are concerned citizens with no political aspirations or ulterior motives. Similar to the Arab Spring, the protestors have deliberately distanced themselves from any particular personality. Nobody is sure how these protests will play out. There are no plans A, B and C.

In Pakistan, Imran is not leading a revolution; arguably, he is the only thing standing between Pakistan and a revolution. Imran has provided an outlet within the system to allow people to blow off steam without revolting against the system. His movement is now serving as an exit valve in the system itself.

In Ancient Rome, on one of the days at the festival of Saturnalia, slaves were treated well and they were allowed to make fun of the aristocracy by putting up satire plays. The day allowed the slaves to release all their anger towards their masters. Shouting ‘GoNawazGo’ achieves the same purpose for many people in Pakistan.

Hope is the opium of the masses in Pakistan. In every new saviour they are promised better days. It is the promise that keeps them believing. It is the hope that precludes absolute anarchy. The illusion of chaos keeps actual chaos at bay. Newspapers are riddled with news about people committing suicide and/or killing their entire families because they could not afford to feed them. I wonder, what is stopping these people from doing the same to other people?

The mass movement against the status quo was not Imran’s initial intention when he set out for Islamabad. The emergence of the movement has left Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf’s (PTI) leadership confused as well. Enamoured by the support, they overplayed their hand leaving them with no bargaining chips.

Despite all the talk of revolution, the incongruity in PTI’s position is that they want to work within the current system. Their problems are with the personalities in the system, not the system itself. They are not seeking a revolution at all, they just want a change of faces. Their ‘revolution’ has been reduced to a clash of personalities and egos. Nobody is even attempting to argue for a change in the Grundnorm itself.

What is the Grundnorm of Pakistan?

Now that is a Pandora’s Box one should stay clear of. Whatever ideas people had about it, they built a system around it. There is a constitution and a system of governance based on the trichotomy of powers of the judiciary, the legislature and the executive. PTI not only accepts the Grundnorm but also all that is built around it.

The idea of revolution, as tempting as it is, is being misattributed. This is no revolution. There is no such thing as a peaceful revolution. For every Mandela, there was the Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK). For every Gandhi, there was a Bhaghat Singh. For every Jinnah, there were Maulana Muhammad Ali and Maulana Shaukat Ali Jauhars.

Pakistan has never seen a revolution. For everyone advocating going back to the Pakistan of 1947, we are pretty much still in the Pakistan of 1947. Nobody wants a revolution, most people want a change that would suit them; both the politicians and the people. We want to keep the pyramid, just turn it on its head.

If the dharnas could cause a revolution, the real status quo of Pakistan would have never allowed them to happen.
Shehzad Ghias A graduate from the LUMS Law School and is running his own theatre production company, Cogito Productions.He works as a theatre teacher at various schools. He tweets @Shehzad89 (
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Gaad | 9 years ago | Reply Very interesting points regarding the 'GRUNDNORM' theory. I never knew about it. thank you very much for sharing it. I am going to read about it just now. I agree with one commenter below that we should not look for a guillotine revolution. However, the grundnorm as i have understood from your article would be to empower people so that they can actually take powerful people to task by legal and democratic means. Am I right or wrong here? My mother recently made a comment that profoundly affected me. "INQUILAB ZAHNON MAIN ATAY HAIN, GARDANAIN MARNAY SE NAHIN". In this regard, I think PTI has been successful to kindle the first spark in the people. It is certainly not adequate or final but people do seem to realize that things must be changed and that is a change in itself. Can't this be called a grundnorm?
Anum Gulraze Mir | 9 years ago | Reply An interesting read though I don't agree with the idea that a bloodless revolution is no revolution (case in point, The Glorious Revolution of England which changed the very dynamics of its politics)
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