The radicalisation of society in Pakistan is an undeniable phenomenon which has gathered in pace and intensity in the recent past. Its gruesome symptoms are a daily occurrence which symbolise the regression shaping the way people have started reacting to events and situations. It is violent and wicked. It is abominable and depressing. Even worse is the extensively pervasive nonchalance with which it is greeted at every appearance.
The fragmentation of society on religious, ethnic, sectarian, social and economic basis has become a norm. For the rulers, it is a convenient means of securing and perpetuating their hold on power and for the ruled, it is a method for manifesting their allegiance to accrue benefits. It works to the mutual advancement of both. Should it, therefore, follow that this is the best that we have and this is the way it is always going to be? A scary thought of what one may actually have to live with!
The manner in which freshly-baked extremist concoctions are unleashed with monotonous regularity, sends shudders down my spine. It is bizarre that people and organisations are unable to interact and engage productively with each other and are often seen brandishing their weaponry on trivialities. They want to decide in a violent manner what, under normal circumstances, should be deliberated and decided in parliament.
But then, they are not the only ones to blame. When the supposed centre of democratic activity is rendered irrelevant by the rulers, to serve their personal interests, issues are bound to pour onto the streets. When centres of power — secured through the process of elections — are used for subverting other state institutions, they lose their legitimacy, sparking off an unstoppable process of liquidation.
The transition from a civilised society to an outfit that is caught in the throes of violence and extremism makes for an intriguing study. The liberal ethos of the nation, as envisioned by the founding father, has been systematically sacrificed by democratic leaders and dictators alike in developing mechanisms for personal survival. One goes back to the days when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto allowed his constituency to slip from the poor people of Pakistan to a fundamentalist coterie, and there has been no turning back since. Ziaul Haq added more venom to the potion through proclamations that have dug deep into an inherently liberal and sustainable fabric of the society, eroding it to a point of obliteration. It is now hanging by the shreds so to say!
The power struggle has always been self-motivated against advancement of established principles and norms. Even the democratic leaders that ascended the throne have remained stuck with stamping their corrupt, inefficient and debilitating versions of governance over the universally established values, system and structure. When the sole transcending objective should have been the formulation and implementation of policies for bringing relief and succour to an increasing number of people falling below the poverty line, the self-aggrandising policies of the ruling mafias have further aggravated their misery.
Instead of teaching the virtues of discipline, seeds of disharmony have been sown. Children seeking books have been handed out guns and enough indoctrination to fire indiscriminately. Life has been disrupted, futures destroyed and the society has been riddled with unbridgeable chasm of hatred dividing one from the other and communities from communities. Instead of standing together, we are now poised against each other — brimming with hatred and eager to kill. Civilised behaviour has given way to indiscriminate barbarity. Should we attribute all this to the fruits of democracy?
Agreed that the ground conditions may not be extremely propitious for the advent and practice of genuine democratic values, but at least we could learn how to use these values to the benefit of the general public. This we have not done! Unless we unmask the forces that want to hamper progress, we’ll continue to suffer at their urgings and keep sacrificing our future to ensure theirs. The state, weakened as it is, may not be able to sustain this accumulating burden of radicalisation!
Published in The Express Tribune, February 28th, 2012.