Preparing for a revolution?

Those with power of pen, can write; others can use electronic media to bring change quickly.

Lt-gen R Asad Durrani August 22, 2011

The urge to do something is an old one. Some people got going with whatever they could. In due course, a free clinic became a charitable chain and a class under a tree, a university of repute. Others, eager to make history, are still waiting for greatness to be thrust on them. All the same, when a couple of youth groups sought advice on what they could do to save the country, one did not have the heart to tell them that they had only taken the first step of a journey that was of a thousand miles. Their vernal exuberance did not seem amenable to such Chinese pearls from me. Moreover, these days they can cite precedence for changes made in quick time.

A mass movement right in our midst, which had the higher judiciary restored and toppled a military ruler, did not take a lifetime and a barely-breathing Arab world sprang back to life with as little as a pint of oil. So how about reviving the Pakistani streets while we still have some life and, indeed, some oil? Now, if anyone knows how to kick-start movements and revolutions, this is the time to tell. I only know that if they did come about, the best prepared groups have the best chance to steer them. The problem is how to get ready for the role.

Militaries spend a lifetime preparing for wars that take a random course, but seldom get them right, not even in golfcourse-size Grenada, according to award-wining US investigative journalist Seymour Hersh. So what chance do these primed-for-action recruits have when faced with revolutions that are more chaotic than wars? Quite a good one actually. For one thing, they only have to do “what they can” as suggested by Ibrahim Khan on these pages, in his August 20 article, “Looking for a leader”.

Those who have faith in the power of the pen, can write; others may learn the use of sound bites and create a niche in the electronic media that has pretensions of power. Since the youth is already into tweeting, which can mobilise masses in times of need, we have that base covered. And, of course, there was always something more exciting for the young to do in a community. Since the deadwood no longer seemed to care, the still-alive vigilantes were best suited to knock some sense in the rascals, scions of the rich and the powerful, who would wreck misery in the neighbourhood.

The list can be open-ended, but the real question is how these acts would help the youth turn the corner? Well, if they networked, the potential would synergise. The real benefit, however, lies elsewhere.

If one has spent some time in the armed forces and passed through staff and defence colleges, one can fairly assume that one was now a strategist. Such airs were quickly deflated when a Bedouin from the Desert refused to be impressed: “No need for any strategy; we all know what we have to do”. In strategic terms, it is called the ‘rider’; something that has to be done in any case.

Having done the rider, if a straw still broke the camel’s back, the youth brigade would be well positioned to cope with the aftermath. If it did not — and the Pakistani camels are pretty strong — our young Turks could rightfully claim credit for having played their part. More importantly, when the country needed them, they would not be passively standing by.

There is, however, a caveat. If our malaise cannot be redressed short of a revolution, this activism may ward off the tipping point. If that is good or bad, I do not know. But then strategy is about making choices and that choice is best left to our youth — over 50 per cent of our population, and with the most to lose if the rot continues.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 23rd, 2011.


Max | 12 years ago | Reply

Regretfully many of you are reading the word “revolution” in the context of mass discontentment. A social discontentment can lead to revolutionary steps but not all the time. What we see in the Middle East and North Africa are episodic mass discontentment/s and not the revolutions. These may or may not translate into a revolution or set the tone for a revolutionary trend. More possibility is that these will not as these do not fulfill the qualifications of a revolution. A friend calls these events as “change of guards” and I think she has a point. A revolutionary movement has to be persistent, develop a leadership over a period of time, and may bring social disruption changing the social and political landscape. If we strictly go by the theories of revolution, none of the recent events can be called revolutionary including Iranian events of 1979. Revolutions are massive earthquakes and not simple temblors. Here are some works that may be of help in understanding the “theories of Revolution.” Theda Skochpol, States and Social Revolutions, (1979) Also her Democracy, Revolution, and History (1998) Barrington Moore, Social Origins of Democracy and Dictatorship, (1966) a seminal work Sidney Tarrow , Power in Movement ( 1998) and also his New Transnational Activism, (2005) Charles Tilley, Coercion, Capital, and Western States, (1992)

Faraz | 12 years ago | Reply

Revolution through (democratic) evolution is the only option left for long term stability of our country. As much as I hate the current government, I want them to complete their five year term. If we cut short their tenure they will project themselves as victims of oppression and dictatorship and then will come back to power again after another failed martial law; with even greater vengeance and remorse. So let's be patient and vote the current democratic leaders out of power. That's the only decent way out of current morass. By the way, how many of us here exercise our voting rights?

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