Tag Archives: boycott

An open letter to Mr Aitzaz Ahsan

This was published in DAWN yesterday

By Raza Rumi

THAT you are principled, charismatic and right is beyond doubt. You have inspired the cynical, intelligentsia, revived a moribund civil society and awakened Pakistan’s traditionally de-politicised middle class.

This is something that history shall record gloriously – reminiscent of the way you re-invoked the essential attributes of ‘Indus man’ in your treatise on the pre-historic identity of Pakistan.

Today, all efforts to generate ‘positive’ results from Election 2008 have foundered; and there is a new parliament ready to be sworn in. The new National Assembly, reflecting the fractured polity, has one common thread – nearly two thirds of its members constitute or sympathise with what was known as the opposition before February 2008. This is a moment of reckoning and most concrete outcome of a decade long struggle initiated by your friend Mr Nawaz Sharif, your leader the late Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and your supporters in the middle class and urban democrats. The movement that followed the suspension of the Chief Justice in March 2007 was a culmination of public discontent that started way before. That you provided a shape and led it, is, your stellar contribution.

This is a historic moment that cannot be squandered or lost to the politics of personalities and individuals. Most Pakistanis are in awe of the dismissed Chief Justice for his strength of character, they have tremendous respect for the members of the bench who refused to succumb to the executive diktat following the imposition of emergency in November 2007. And above all, they are also tired of General Musharraf whose good intentions have only led to the proverbial hell of energy and food crises, rampant inflation and roaming suicide bombers. But this struggle just cannot be about getting rid of the president and reinstating the Chief Justice. That would be a belittling corollary of this fabulous episode in our recent history.

The representatives of the PPP, PML-N, ANP and bulk of like-minded independents are touching the magic number of two thirds in the new Assembly. If they are asked to settle a score with an individual and honour another few, history will not record it in kind terms.

Your call for a march towards Islamabad and the restoration of judges before Mar 9 is bound to polarise the fragile parliament, the political parties that have been beaten, poached, hounded with leaders assassinated or disqualified. It is a delicate juncture of our history and any division in the moderate political class or resort to historical bickering and blame-games will rock the system only to benefit the martial corridors of Islamabad’s Byzantine palaces and their traditional occupants.

This is why many citizens are worried and skeptical that nothing changes in the murky waters of Pakistani politics. Continue reading

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The flawed boycott mantra? Pakistan’s urban intelligentsia should rethink its politics

The NEWS (Thursday, February 21, 2008)
Raza Rumi

Much has been said on how the election results are a referendum against the policies of General Musharraf. While there can be little disagreement with this, there is a clear lesson for Pakistan’s urban intelligentsia that had been screaming about the futility of this election.

True, Pakistan’s troubled polity will not transform overnight, nor will the endemic civil-military imbalance dissipate in the air with the formation of the new civilian government. But this is the magic of electoral politics — it allows the least risky path to a civilian transition. The road ahead is messy we know, but that is the only road that a fractured polity can tread.

The classic failure of the Pakistani urban educated will not go unnoticed. Led by the rhetoric Imran Khan, the delusions of the lawyers’ movement and the rake opportunism of Qazi Hussain Ahmed and General Hameed Gul, the boycott chanting individuals and groups should re-examine their standpoint and ultimately their “politics.”

Unwittingly, they took the risky path of de-legitimising the main political parties that have had the roughest time during the Musharraf years. This was also the time, which the electorate vividly remembers, that Qazi and his allies were feasting on the fruits of power in two provinces and were de facto beneficiaries of the establishment. Not to mention that Mr Imran Khan was campaigning for the general during his referendum. The urban classes term the mainstream politics as “feudal” and the participants “uneducated.” This has to change, lest the opinion leaders are relegated to the dustbin of history. This dustbin already contains some rudiments of political streams, not to mention the left parties, such as the one headed by Mr Abid Hasan Minto, harping on the boycott mantra and middle-class pretensions over the National Reconciliation Ordinance.

In a country of 160 million people with strong traditions of democratic yearning, the process of change cannot be articulated outside the mainstream electoral politics, however faulty the political parties. This is the biggest lesson we have learned. Mian Nawaz Sharif who was lambasted for his pragmatism now stands vindicated. And, above all, the vision of Benazir Bhutto, who was attacked left right and centre for insistence on the electoral route, stands validated. There could not have been a better tribute to her legacy. Continue reading

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Filed under Activism, Pakistan, Politics, Society