“No emancipation (is possible) without that of (the entire) society.”
“Will you wake up to our plight when we are already dead, destroyed, depleted and vanished?” This verse is painted in Urdu on the walls of the country in today’s Pakistan, as an expression of public anguish over excruciating conditions and existential political decadence in the last four years of the so-called democratic rule.
It is common knowledge now that symbolic slogans, emotionally-loaded rhetoric and various sentimental national issues have been used endlessly by political actors to galvanise public response and reaction, impact the masses’ political views, alter people’s perception and manipulate public opinion. In fact, modern media technology has turned this tool of mind-manipulation into a precise art. Practitioners of this art and media gurus are so sure of their skills that they have lost sight of their ethical responsibilities to the humanity and have indulged in mind boggling attempts in the making of public opinion, irrespective of the authenticity of issues, their proper context and truthfulness. And, indeed, they have had successes by and large.
In modern times, skilful lying has become a powerful political instrument to meticulously construct public opinion and even alter the fundamental veracity of issues. Political myths are created out of factual inaccuracies; such has become the dynamism and the ultimate power of media manipulations. Take, for example, in this context, the Palestinian problem: The majority of Americans believe that it is the Palestinians, who have made Jews homeless and have grabbed their lands and homes. Mind boggling, isn’t it? But the American media has managed to make it look like a reality- and yet, we believe that today’s world exists in an age of information and global communication. Think about it! The fact of the matter is that the 21st century human civilisation is phenomenologically manipulated day in and day out.
Consider the ongoing mantra of “women’s rights” and “women’s emancipation” in present-day Pakistan. It is as if women are the only disenfranchised segment of society. The incumbent PPP leadership and some other major political actors along with the so-called Westernised liberals seem to consider that women’s empowerment is the only national issue and the only resolution to the country’s problematics. This is an entirely unrealistic and unfactual assessment of the national emancipation process. It seems that Imran Khan, PTI Chairperson, is the only politician, who has a balanced and realistic opinion on this matter. In a recent TV talk show with an entirely female audience, Khan made a judicious and a rational political observation. When asked by a female participant what he would specifically do for women’s rights if the PTI came to power, Khan said that men and women alike, the old and the young, in urban centres and villages all over the country are struck by poverty. When there are such deprivations and oppression, then the entire society needs to be emancipated. Women’s rights is not something separate from the mainstream issue of struggling for national liberation and overall societal emancipation. Well said, Imran Khan!
The most important thing to note here was that the entire university-going female audience applauded Khan’s response. It was a clear indication that they understood and shared what he said, and there seems to be an overall awareness of the implicit nature of this issue among them. On a different level of understanding, it also indicates that a majority of young women are also aware that the “women’s rights” mantra has been used by vested interests, as well as by the West’s propagandists in Pakistan, most specifically American, as a political strategy. The aim is to appear as champions of human rights and gain political mileage for their political objectives. As a consequence, this helps in maintaining power and selective personalised relationships between the Pakistani ruling elite and Western governments that often patronise and promote this class of people, as their partners and allies in the service of the US-West’s geopolitical goals.
The mission for national emancipation through democracy is in a lot of trouble in Pakistan these days. Democratic slogans, emotionally-charged symbolism and sentimental rhetoric abounds. The PPP jialas endlessly expound on the shahadats of their leadership, sacrifices of their party workers and their democratic credentials and achievements. The major opposition party is equally rhetorical in its determination to serve the people and nascent democracy. And yet, on the other hand, every democratic principle and rule is trampled upon in this land of a “democracy-loving” leadership. The President claims that he has transferred all his powers to the rightful political executive of the government, the Prime Minister. And yet, the presidential footprint is on every governmental decision. The Prime Minister refuses to carry out the orders of the Supreme Court, publicly ridicules the apex court, and declares “no confidence” in a full bench of the court judges. Ironically, the PM also bestows on himself the power for constitutional interpretations and places Parliament as the custodian of the Constitution - a task that is constitutionally the prerogative of the Supreme Court.
It is amazing that in this age of political awareness, constitutionalism, and a “democracy-loving” leadership in Pakistan, no one seems to care that one of the fundamental principles of democracy being violated is the concept of “conflict of interest”. It means that no political leaders can distribute political offices at their will, neither can they do commercial business nor indulge in private entrepreneurship, nor can they induct their own family members into the political process and political leadership. Political leadership in democracy is not a hereditary right. In a democracy, due process of public service is required and the notion of “conflict of interest” must be absolutely respected. Democracy cannot function when decisions on national issues are compromised by the influence of individual vested interests. Period.
Judge for yourself: Has the four-year democracy in Pakistan created a democratic leadership in the country? A democratic mind? A democratic process? The fact of the matter is that the incumbent leadership, both ruling and in opposition, has made a mockery of the fundamental principles of democracy. Slogans, symbolism, sentimental rhetoric abound, as if this nation can be railroaded by media theatrics.
Can it? Read the writings on the wall!
The writer is UAE-based academic policy analyst, conflict resolution expert and the author of several books on Pakistan and foreign policy issues. He holds a doctorate and a masters degree from Columbia University in New York.