ACCORDING to Facebook and Twitter accounts of SAFMA head Imtiaz Alam, more than 100 members of the Pakistani civil society — intellectuals, writers, journalists, lawyers, activists and trade union members – have released a statement expressing concern at the direction the country is going in. The statement read, “Pakistan is faced with colossal crises due to repeated undemocratic interventions and a lack of consistent sustainable policies. Democratic institutions and rights including the freedom of expression must be strengthened, as currently autocratic forces are dictating the power structure. The country’s focus, they say, must move from national security to a more holistic human security”. Though welfare of the masses is of paramount importance in a democratic polity, equally important is matter of national security because threats to internal and external security have to be met, as investment can create jobs. Thus, prosperity of the people hinges on peaceful atmosphere for the investors.
Anyhow, the statement read, “Despite some flaws and shortcomings of the past democratic governments, the decade old ‘democratic transition’ is being gradually reversed through an illegitimate creeping coup in favour of a de facto authoritarian power-structure, which is being overwhelmingly dictated by autocratic forces behind the façade of a sham populist regime with fascist inclinations.” Since the transition from military rule to democracy in 2008, some analysts, panelists and politicians have been badmouthing Pakistan military and other institutions. Is it not enough proof of freedom of expression? In fact, freedom of expression is one of the most abused freedoms in Pakistan. Commentariat in general and some media persons in particular have been flouting the provisions of the Constitution with impunity. Furthermore, there are also certain sacrosanct limits that have to be exercised in the civil polities; and universally accepted norms and standards have to be adhered to in all conditions.
Going through the statement/document, one could observe insinuations against military establishment and judiciary, which is meant to create wedge between the people and the institutions. They do not realize that elections are being held regularly; Parliament is functioning and politicians enjoy all powers, perks and privileges. Those who have endorsed the document should understand that it is an attempt to mislead the people and to weaken Pakistan by spreading despondency and denigrating the military. The document in the third para states that” a dependent and fragile economic base can no more take the burden of a national security state”. But the author of the statement conveniently forgot that corruption-tainted politicians have brought the country to the present pass. It appears that after demise of the Soviet Union and China following capitalistic road, leftists are looking for other vocations. One wonders as to how yesteryears leftists could support the status quo.
It would be appropriate to give some background of the leftist movement in Pakistan. After the 2nd World War, the US and the USSR maintained their profound influence in the Western and Eastern European countries respectively. Leftists/Socialists and Communists inspired by the Soviet Union’s phenomenal success became active in, what was called, Third World countries – poverty-stricken countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America. And they tried to bring about revolution in those countries. In Pakistan, many Communists were arrested and prosecuted after the coup was foiled in 1951, which was planned by Major-General Akbar Khan, a senior commander in the Pakistani Army, in conjunction with other military officers and left-wing Pakistani politicians. He had communist leanings, as he enlisted the support of communist/leftists intellectuals of Pakistan. ie Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Syed Sajjad Zaheer (then Secretary General of Pakistan Communist Party).
After ideological differences between Russia and China, communists in Pakistan were also divided, and many groups emerged. Mazdoor-Kissan Party was formed by Major Ishaq and Afzal Bangash. Imtiaz Alam was an active member of the Mazdoor-Kissan Party, and after the demise of the Soviet Union, he adopted journalism as a career. He joined the News of the Jang Group and wrote columns. He was given the task of interaction with the Indian media, and had organized many functions in which Indian parliamentarians were also invited. On 13th August 2011, Mian Nawaz Sharif during his address at the SAFMA seminar had said that “India and Pakistan had a common heritage of culture; even their language and eating habits are similar”, which is travesty of the truth. According to private TV channel Waqat News, Nawaz Sharif had also reportedly said that Indian and Pakistanis worship the same God.
Today, so-called leftists and liberals are opposing the ongoing accountability process, which is fairly across-the-board as members of ruling party the PTI are also in the dock and are being investigated. The question is why so-called liberals and intellectuals resort to scathing criticism of military? Perhaps they do it to show that they are bold and independent. Instead of being a voice of sanity and moderation, some of them had become a catalyst of discord and disharmony, as if they are working for their masters. Yet more appallingly, some palmed-off commentariat and media networks have been openly acting as the agents of inimical alien powers, purveying freely the perfidies of their foreign benefactors. Having that said, the release of the above statement a few days before Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit speaks volumes about the frustration of detractors of Pakistan over its recent successes in the realm of Foreign Policy.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.