A lot is being debated about the various marches in electronic, print and social media. The apparent performance has been less-than-successful will have political ramifications for not only the various stakeholders, but may also influence how the society will view future marches on the capital and their efficacy in achieving political goals. How the future events shape, in the light of these marches, is yet to be determined, but the march itself should provide us with plenty of thought-provoking fodder about our society at large.
To me, the march has been the microcosm of our society and its leadership. If we are to extrapolate the march to our society at large, we find a number of parallels. First, there are lots and lots of promises but poor execution and delivery. For as long as I can remember, the promises before the elections have hardly been kept. Whether it is getting rid of our power crises in a year, or getting rid of corruption in 90 days, the gap between execution and promise is wide and deep. That is no different from an earth shattering march of a million people, that fails to deliver. Then there is a huge issue of management, logistics and attention to the basic needs. A march, headed to Islamabad, of supposedly a million people, needs to be ensured of basic food, provision, bathrooms and shelter facilities. When those organising the march fail to do so, either because of oversight or poor planning, it leads to widespread disillusionment and disappointment to the masses. This, once again, should remind us of our fundamental societal problems of hunger, shelter, poverty and disease. Just as those with means can be whisked away in land cruisers to mansions, while the poor get to enjoy the rain and the mosquitoes, the fundamental problems of our society disproportionately affect the poor, the marginalised, the ethnic and religious minorities and those who are at the bottom of the economic and the social ladder. Then there is the issue of dealing with the natural elements. The weather patterns, while unpredictable six months ago, were quite clearly predicted a few days before the march. Yet, little was done to accommodate these last minute challenges. This is also quite similar to how poorly we deal with new natural and geopolitical events, that appear at the last minute.
Finally, there is the issue of the goal and the leadership. As the events unfolded, it was unclear, and perhaps it is still unclear what the leadership of the marches really wants. Is it new elections? Is it a civil disobedience? Is it a march on our national institutions? Is it a peaceful demonstration? Or is it a combination of all of them, or perhaps is none of the above? This unfortunately is true at the societal and the national level. What is our vision? Where are we headed? When the prime time comes, what is it that we, as a society, as a country, aspire for ourselves and for others?
To me, this series of long marches is a reflection of our society and its unease with its own vision of the future. These marches reflect our collective commitment to following a half-baked approach that is big on hyperbole and soft on details on the ground. As a society, we have been stuck in a perpetual national long march to nowhere, that at times deflates and at times picks up momentum, yet when the time comes to deliver, poor planning ensures that the original goals are never met.
The solution, in the end, comes from not another long march or blaming the outsiders, be it those outside the country or outside one’s party. Instead the solutions will come from better planning and paying attention to the needs of the common people, ensuring their basic human and civil rights, and being with them in rain or shine.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 19th, 2014.
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