Politicians and TV anchors in Pakistan make frequent reference to the breaking out of a “bloody” revolution. Some foresee it, some fear it, and there are some who recommend it. Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif is probably trying to scare the PPP government when he says a bloody revolution is in the offing. But when he threatens a long march, he is probably thinking of being a part of it.
We are not aware how conversant our politicians and TV anchors are with revolution as historical experience, but we can feel that they imply a complete, violent uprooting of a system that is corrupt and dysfunctional. We can also see that they think this revolution will be enforced by a violent uprising of the masses. Some TV anchors recommend the coming out of the citizens on the roads to force the government to do what the people want.
Is this a threat or a prescription? As far as Shahbaz Sharif is concerned, it has to be blood, otherwise Zardari will not be scared by it. Given his poetically expressed frequent reference to his own demise in the service to the people, his bloody revolution may also consume him in the new process of radical change. Most cinematic representations of past revolutions have mobs on the barricades defying tyrannical authority.
Is this a kind of death wish? Pakistan refuses to run properly; therefore, pull Pakistan down. Is it a revolt against a tyrannical ruler? Since the government in power is elected by the people, the revolution should be against democracy itself. History tells us that democracy was chosen to end tyrannies, not because democracy fights tyranny better but because it has a built-in system of transition of power. Tyrannies and dictatorships happen when systems of governance lack rules of transition of power.
In wanting revolution against the current constitutional order, we may be in the process of rejecting democracy. What do we want in its place? For that the revolution has to have a philosophy, a charter of its own alternative system. Shahbaz Sharif wants his bloody revolution either to let the ensuing chaos destroy Pakistan or to hasten the collapse of the PPP government in hopes of bringing the PML-N to power after another election. The question is: will there be a post-revolution election?
Some street protests by public employees and students look like a precursor of revolution: public property is destroyed and state-owned corporations have to bear further crippling losses from this vandalism. This clearly is not revolution. It is the scattering of the entity called state, which is being diagnosed since the 1990s as a failing one. Where is the revolution?
The prototype revolution was the French Revolution and it was backed by the ideas of the philosophers of the Age of Reason. The Dictatorship of the People had immediate thinkers who told them what to do next after sheer vandalism and bloodbath. Despite its philosophers, the French Revolution failed to survive as an alternative system. In the case of Pakistani revolution, the only philosophy in the field is that of Sharia. Since Pakistan is already living under Sharia, a more radical version may be in order and for that the immediately available philosopher is the al Qaeda chief, Ayman alZawahiri.
Revolution lacks a party, unless al Qaeda provides it. It has its philosopher in alZawahiri and his book is The Morning and the Lamp in which he tells us what kind of Sharia Pakistan will have after he takes over. Many people will die when that happens. And that fulfils a very important condition of the revolution.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 1st, 2012.