George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770 – 1831) was a German philosopher and most renowned and famous because of his philosophical work of hopefulness and optimism. It is popularly said that ‘when things look bleak we must read Hegel’. Reading Hegel reminds us how ‘balance can emerge in a society’? He offers us a way of looking at the darker side of the emerging events and circumstances. Terming human progress as nonlinear — the message from Hegel is that it always takes time for correct synthesis to work out.
The statement put forward by the opposition during the month of Ramazan — their thesis was pretty much clear. Now we have reached the stage when it will be put to test for it to be proved. Many political forces are joining hands to challenge the government. The electorally-rejected right-wing political force under a very frustrated and ‘politically going nowhere’ Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman is likely to be the driver of opposition’s ‘cart of protest’. The poor students of madrassas who have been deprived of any necessary intellectual development and who have never been taught that ‘faith and reason can also be united’ will be the vanguard of Maulana’s protesting brigade. Other components of the protest brigade obviously are lawyers, PPP and PML-N followers and supporters of Manzoor Pashteen’s PTM. What shape is this protest going to take is not very clear, what is clear is that in this simmering summer heat, many poor people will face the wrath of the government and security establishment if they challenge their writ.
Hegel tells us that history moves forward in a ‘dialectical way’. Dialect is a philosophical term of any argument or conflict that is made of three parts — thesis, anti-thesis and synthesis. Opposition’s thesis on the government is built around the following argument: this is the government that is selected, incompetent, with a one step forward and two steps backward approach, which has ruined the economy, executes one-sided accountability, attacked judiciary and is more arbitrary than democratic. This thesis contains parts of the truth but sadistically exaggerates and distorts the whole. What makes this thesis interesting is that: one, it comes from shamed politics (shamed because of the political defeat — never before a third party sidelined and deflected these major parties to the political peripheries in this country); and two, the writers and proliferators of this thesis are under the watchful eyes of the corruption watchdog NAB — that may be relentless in pursuing the looters and plunderers of the national wealth.
The anti-thesis is the government’s version of what it is up to and why. Do the people believe in the government of Imran Khan? Obviously they voted Imran Khan to power because they wanted him to be the author of the anti-thesis. Can Imran Khan then afford to become realistic? Can he take stock of the developing situation, read the political situation, be realistic and cede and concede to the developing political pressure finally succumbing under the great art of politics — ‘compromise’ — that we all are told is its most essential element?
Imran Khan can reassure himself from what Hegel recommends. He suggests that no thesis can see the light of the day in one great leap. If the end goal and objective of any political thesis is progress then such a thesis will lurch from one end (extreme) to another as all political thesis ‘seek to compensate for previous political mistakes’. No matter how bold, confident and self-assured the combined opposition may feel, it initiates this political protest from a political platform that has been the nursery of patrimonial politics, corruption, favouritism and personal and party promotion at the cost of vital national considerations.
Because of the prevailing hard times, many people in this country feel that national progress, development and growth have been entirely lost. Hegel who was a witness to the French Revolution and Europe’s transformation which is considered the hinge of the world tells us that whenever transformational events occur in history, we merely witness ‘pendulum swing back for time’. He says that ‘this is needed as an initial move forward is always blind to a range of many crucial insights’.
This back and forth swinging pendulum is the crucial (opposition’s) thesis and (government’s) anti-thesis. Ideally, they should quarrel, collide and clash until the best of the elements in both find the true synthesis.
The paralysis of Islamabad by the PTI in the past was for a cause. That paralysis was made possible by the voluntary participation of the people for a cause. The political reward of that cause also showcased itself in the form of electoral victory for the PTI in the general elections of 2018. Is the opposition’s cause and its political strategy of paralysing Islamabad (a hypothesis) also popular with the people?
Francis Fukuyamma, the American scholar, took the concept of his famous ‘End of history — the last man standing’ from the works of Hegel. According to Hegel, “A historical process cannot continue indefinitely and would come to an end with the achievements of free society in the world.” Hegel defined history as “a progress of man to high levels of rationality and freedom and this process has a logical terminal point”.
The process of political corruption in Pakistan can also not continue indefinitely. The political cartels in league with their interest groups may have bought the business community, the bureaucracy, the executioners and regulators and the judiciary but as Hegel said “no historical process can continue indefinitely”, Imran Khan is that knight in the political armour that challenges the continuity of this process. He may be inexperienced and even incompetent for a while but what he offers is hope to this nation — that he will stand up against the opposition’s thesis of protecting and securing their interests. There is no doubt in my mind that Imran Khan and his party’s anti-thesis is ‘pro-Pakistan’ that Imran Khan wants to make and not break Pakistan.
When the military is extremely comfortable with the civilian leadership then rest assured we are witnessing after a very long time a synthesis — a military-government synthesis where both are aligned to collectively move Pakistan forward. Everywhere it is not only vote ko izzat dau (give respect to vote) but also military ko bhi izzat dau (give respect to military as well). Except in Pakistan, it happens all over the world — even in places like India where the military cheats and tells lies to the people for political benefits. The most unpopular aspect of opposition’s thesis is its anti-military component. No direct reference is made to it but it is very apparent and that is something which will never be popular with the people of this country.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 9th, 2019.