Hasan Nisar, the columnist who ordinarily wears expensive watches and clothes and passionately and angrily talks about the plight of the poor, is a popular talk show guest. I like the man for his irreverent tone towards the corrupt political elite and decadent religious figureheads. But for all his apparent rationality and usually progressive views, he sometimes surprises his readers and audience.
In his weekend talk show appearance, Nisar urged sending hundreds of thousands of people to the guillotine. “We need ten thousand Tara Masihs”, he said, referring to the executioner of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Mr Nisar amended the reference to Masih, clarifying that it was only a figurative reference to the Masih that executed an innocent man but that executioners were needed to sort out the mess in the country. Nothing new here, some would say.
Such a wish for a bloody revolution is expressed often and seen as a quick remedy for the ills that have racked this ‘Land of the Pure’. The guillotines of the French Revolution are admired here, both by cracker-barrel philosophers and armchair analysts, as if they provide the only cure to the malaise that has gnawed this country. Colonel Imam (the nom de guerre of Sultan Amir Tarar), the intelligence operative who was often referred to as the godfather of the Taliban, expressed similar views in 2010, not long before he was kidnapped and eventually killed by the Taliban. I had invited Colonel Imam to my house for an interview. He was a tall man who liked to say that he understood a question even before it was completed. He narrated several tales from his experiences with the Afghans; his idolisation of Mullah Omar and how the Taliban took over Afghanistan. Before leaving, Imam raised his finger and made a prediction: “I tell you there will be a bloody revolution in Pakistan.” He predicted a grim picture where the ordinary population would pick up arms and take revenge from the ruling elite. It was the only inevitability, he warned.
I shuddered at such bloody predictions back then and was uncomfortable with Nisar’s guillotine idea. But actually, there is no dearth of those who hear the clarion of revolution and include some unlikely figures like Abdul Sattar Edhi, the philanthropist. And then there are some who say that the next military coup — if and whenever it happens — will not be a ‘bloodless coup’, as has been the case in the past.
A bloody revolution is romanticised as some essential purifying process which would ensure that rotten people are eliminated, leaving only those citizens who are pure or who want and represent change. In some ways, such wishes for blood and gore are rooted in the absolute grievances towards a political and social system that has failed to deliver. Nothing works, especially for the poor and downtrodden. So, the prevalent common wisdom is that the old order must be destroyed first in order to pave way for a new one.
But how does this ensure that those who are clamoring for blood will not become victims of this bloodshed themselves? How can annihilation and destruction be selective in its targets and predictable in its course? And how readily and easily will the subsequent chaos and mayhem give way to order and peace? Such questions are eclipsed by the fantasies of those who want a bloody revolution. It offers a quick fix and patience for an evolutionary, gradual process towards change that is running thin. Hasan Nisar is at his best when he comments on society and tears apart its inherent hypocrisy and contradictions. I hope in his next talk show episode, he can explain why he thinks the guillotine is the only way forward.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 17th, 2012.