This might seem a strange thing to say; here was much to be depressed about this year. Salamis radicals, the product of Aziza-LU-Hash’s era, were holed up in Ala Massed (the Red Mosque) in the heart of Islamabad, and were demanding the imposition of Shari upon the land. They had accused Chinese nationals of running brothels posing as massage parlous, abducted the “madam” of another joint which might actually have been a brothel and made her apologize in a public shaming ritual, were now unleashing women in bursas armed with sticks upon the city.
There were reports that male students of the madras attached to the mosque had been recording the science plate numbers of women drivers in Islamabad?presumably to cleanse the city of this obscenity. But if all this seemed like the long expected outcome of the plague unleashed upon Pakistan by the joint forces of the U. S. And Aziza- LU-Has, further fuelled by an ever growing rage at the U. S. ‘s war on terror and the Mustard government’s forced alliance with George Bush, it was still hard not to feel some glimmer of hope at the fierceness of the media, which criticized the government and the U.
S. And asked tough questions of various religious leaders. The media’s alliance with the judiciary even made one feel proud. Perhaps, just perhaps, there would be an end to military rule. And then came Saturday’s announcement of the Emergency?effectively an imposition of martial law. It’s tempting to blame all of Pakistanis political woes on the military, but to understand the reason military rule continues in Pakistan, it’s useful to think about the corruption and complacency of the country’s elites: military, business, political.
The authoritarianism that is right now so much in evidence?as the government cracks down on the political opposition, jails layovers, tear gases political protesters out on the streets?is also rife in the drawing rooms of the ICC and affluent or just (no easy task) the borderline comfortable. An example, which is quite typical, from this summer: right after the Ala Massed nightmare was at a dinner in Karachi. The event was nominally religious?an evening- long open house of great food and people hadn’t seen for years.
In waltzed a woman, resplendent with long bob and bangs, dressed in the height of Karachi fashion, who started proclaiming very loudly that the mosque should just have been flattened (bombs, bazookas, bulldozers?she didn’t specify; it seemed any weapon would do). She then went on to say that the only thinking people in Karachi lived in Defense Housing Society?which is a bit like arguing that the only thinking people in L. A. Live in Bell Air.
It turned out that she was a civil servant and had done some work with the Pakistani embassy in DC?she managed to insinuate all of this loudly without any prompting into a conversation with a husband conveniently tucked at the far end of the room. All of this information could then be shared with her hapless audience trapped on sofas and armchairs strewn in the path of the soundless. The civil service resume, especially with its American stamp, was presumably meant to shore p her mosque flattening credentials.
She then proceeded to praise the Prime Minister, Shattuck Aziza, solely on the basis of his World Bank affiliations, which conferred, it seemed, an automatic guarantee of brilliance. The media was roundly criticized. Business was lauded. English was spoken, and the non-English speaking mass outside Defense Housing Society consigned to the dustbin of bare, lumped existence. The problem was also democracy (we aren’t ready for it the room was told and many assented). The people are uneducated, primitive, foolish.
And these sentiments?that the people aren’t ready for democracy, that he media illustrates this unawareness in its reckless agitation, that politics is the business of the educated (meaning English speaking elites)?find more takers than we might want to think. The fact is that democracy is noisy and Pakistanis elites (rather like America’s at this point) are not used to any noise but their own. Let’s add to the mosque flatterers?who are not, it must be noted, secular either the people who often assert Pakistanis don’t want Taliban rule or Salamis vice squads banning music and shrouding women.
These people may seem similar but are not always the same. They produce as counterintuitive South Asian Suffix, Pakistanis shrine culture, its wonderful tradition of devotional and antinomian music. But this vision is also balanced on the wobbliest foundation: all it takes is a determined and destructive minority to shut down the traditions of religious openness and dissent, to turn them into memories held in huddled solitude. This is, in fact, what has slowly been happening since the eighties when Aziza-LU-Has launched his assault on Pakistani culture.
What faces Pakistan, then, is a kleptomaniac military, arteries pumped with money from the US, a reckless, inbred and corrupt middle class, feudal, (Binary Bout included) who seem o belong in a Transylvania nightmare, exercising their seigneur rights, businessman politicians, like Nazi Shari, who use their political positions to consolidate their financial empires, and a growing body of petty bourgeois Salamis clerics who want their piece of the national and global pie, and are determined to leave anything that’s heterodox and wonderful about the Muslim tradition smoldering and ruined.
Meanwhile, as in Swat, where an Salamis cleric is trying to set up a little mini state, the radical Psalmists of the Pakistani kind try to ensure that children don’t get polio vaccinations and forbid education or girls in the name of God. One of the most heartrending sights during the Ala Massed catastrophe was that of parents and family members of students of the madras who had come to get their children back?they seemed lost and reduced, caught between a contemptuous bureaucracy they didn’t know how to negotiate and clerics who had promised their children a free education and turned them, instead, into indoctrinated cannon fodder.
Most striking, though, was that they had sent their sons and daughters from villages across the NFW for an education. It is in the absence of a functional educational system and he presence of tremendous poverty that such crises thrive. Yet the Mustard government and its supporters seem to think that BMW and Propose outlets in the major cities that are now, more than ever, centers of consumption will fix the ills of the nation. Segments of Karachi have begun to seem like a giant mall ?people dashing back and forth in greedy paroxysms while the poor watch the carnival of consumption.
It’s not even so much that we have mimic men and women?we always had those?our cities are becoming mimic malls. There is for dissenters then?especially of the secular stripe who want music ND all it symbolizes, education for girls (and not just snuck in under the cover of a women’s piety group) and economic justice?a much bigger problem: when people like Mustard don the mantle of the secular or of the moderate (not always, it must be said, the same) the very foundations of the heterodox and humane traditions seem diseased.
The problem, then, is simply one of credibility: how can an alliance (still being pushed) of a deluded military despot and a corrupt and blank feudal princess deliver Pakistan from the very real threats that engulf it? How can those who are seen as at the very source of the violence hat assail ordinary Pakistanis, claim the moral authority to deliver them from the violence of the barbershop burning militant? We had an alliance like this once: Binary’s father, Cultivar All Bout, was ushered in by Yah Khan (the military leader) as Chief Martial Law Administrator.
That alliance gave us half a nation, unparalleled atrocities against the soon to be Bangladesh and (eventually) Aziza-LU-Has?the most systematically destructive leader in a nation glutted on destructive leaders. Bout shattered the left, had his own ministers tortured, gave Pakistan the prohibition on alcohol and the declaration that Amidst were on-Muslims in an attempt to revive his wilting political career.