A Basic Lesson into Politics: Never Give in Early

Zafar Imam

In a frustrated attempt to appease Pakistan’s religious right wing, ruling PPP announced an official day of protest on Friday 21st September, giving Pakistan the credit of becoming the only country in world to officially record protest this way against blasphemous movie. But this act of appeasement backfired, killing 27 innocent people and injuring hundreds. The day witnessed cinemas, banks and vehicles set ablaze and media teams and journalists under attack. A fit of pyromania subjugated the whole country. Thus, Pakistan also ended up becoming the first country in world where huge damage was caused to public property and lives of its own citizens were taken on this single issue.Now when the dust has settled and life has returned to normalcy; we can sit closer and patiently analyze that what had happened during that day and why?

It is not first time that liberal and secular PPP has bowed its knees before right wing. Pakistan’s popular and elected Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto had capitulated to right wing in shape of PNA in 70s and gave in before its demands. It was he who had first declared Ahmadis ‘infidel’, announced Friday as a weekly leave and closed down all other outlets of pubic entertainment to offload the pressure of right wing upon him. But the consequences were opposite than were calculated by ZAB. Instead of slowing down with such steps, the right wing movement against him went to a historic high, demanding for more. It all ended up in his execution later by Military government. Recently, PPP led government did no different than its predecessor. In order to reconcile with religious elements in rage against blasphemous movie, PPP led government announced a day of protest officially. It could have record its protest by other means, like sending an official to US or calling its ambassador in Pakistan to record protest. I wonder what was the need to handover a full official day to already charged mobs and right wing elements who has been desperate to get a chance to prove their metal and impose their agenda on society?

It is a beginner’s lesson in politics that once you capitulate to the demands of a zealous mob, they’d not settle for what they demanded earlier, but would press for more. It has generally been observed in popular uprisings and mass demonstrations throughout world that the act of approving demands and giving in early shows weakness of authorities. It is seen as a sign of fear on part of government. The same mistake was committed by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and now repeated by PPP-led government. Right wing never settles for less. Once you show a sign of fear or weakness, it immediately picks up the signal and starts to press for more. It is what happened on Ishq-E-Rasool Day on 21st September.  In guise of showing love to prophet, frustrated and power hungry religious outfits went  on to take revenge from everything which represented democratic, liberal and secular values in society.  They vandalized, torched and looted everything that represented prosperity and well-being, like banks and chamber of commerce; everything that represented art, amusement and entertainment like cinemas and video shops; everything that represented freedom of expression like media teams and Hyderabad Press Club. Such attacks were not sporadic, I emphasize. They were conceived, planned and showed how dangerous extremists can go once they are allowed to do whatever they please.

For me, that vandalism, loot and plunder is not an easy thing to forget. In fact, all that mess is a whistle blower of what we are going to become in near future. If such is the flippant behavior of an elected government and state towards these self-righteous elements, than we are done for.

One Response

  1. Zafar: You have given good comparison/similarity of PPP tactic of appeasement to getting right -wing vote-bank the 70’s with what it did recently.

    With due respect, i would like to share some impressions of mine.

    Painting the situation in Pakistan as a contest b/w secular/liberal versus right-wing/ conservative is looking at the merely ‘form’ of the situation , and thus misses the ‘essence’. It is a standard ‘liberal’ analysis and not at all marxist one, which one would expect from you.

    For a marxist analysis, one first needs to find out the class base of PPP in the 70’s and its changed class base NOW in the 2012. Class base, i.e the class that takes the decisive role in PPP now, determines the decisions it takes, as these decisions are taken to further the class interests of its decisive class. A faction of capitalist ruling class RULES over PPP, therefore it is not so important whether they portray themselves, on the face of it, as ‘liberal, secular’ . Pakistani ruling class has all along its history used both stratagems, when it suits their class interests they portray them as ‘liberal, secular, progressive’ and the next moment, depending on situation, they take decisions that are ‘right-wing, conservative’ because at that time it suits furtherance their class interests.

    Hence the struggle b/w capitalist versus working class is the real thing that needs to be analysed in any situation.

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