Beyond Europe, the world is not fit for revolutions
November 18, 2011
Leaderless movements are sweeping across the Arab World. The 99% are up against the 1% in the industrially developed countries while ‘Occupy Wall Street’ leads the way. It is not an erroneous conclusion that something would also happen in Pakistan. Of course, we are living in a ‘globalised’ age where information and ideas flow freely across borders — we have no dearth of frustrated souls either who will certainly attend to such calls for a change.
What is to change is the fundamental question that should be asked while giving receptive ears to the ‘prophets of change’. Of course, you have to make a difference between a racist and a revolutionary, both using various propaganda techniques while engaging in the debate on change. You have to be aware of the region you live in as well as the kind of its stakes in politics. You are most likely to meet Zardari haters in the regions which have been infected by the Cold War politics in the past. Talk to jihadis and their associates in media, education and bureaucracy, they would essentially prove that the Bhuttos and their followers are the ugliest evil on the earth.
Agriculturalists, forest communities, fishermen, herdsmen and the desert dwellers don’t approve the politics of Takht-e-Lahore and the forces that hold dear to them its legacy. The urban-rural divide has emerged one of the major factors in the country’s politics. The kind of interests that have been associated with the four provincial capitals stand diametrically opposed to the one associated with the countryside. Of course, the major cities have overgrown their due sizes and their survival has become highly depended on the status quo whereby they exercise complete control on the lives of the people of the central regions of Pakistan. Heavy centralization and absence of democracy has given the bureaucracy, aided by clerics, a free hand to exploit the underprivileged and unprotected populace.
Go to the central regions, ‘where wool grows on trees’, and grain lies stored in open fields, the plight of small farmers is heart-rending. They don’t get canal water and fertilizer is absent from the market. When dams were built and canal network was expanded the new and virgin lands went straight into the hands of the civil-military bureaucracy. In the last two decades they used to pump out water but now the energy prices have made farming a useless job. The story of herdsmen is not different from the peasantry. Vast patches of land alongside the meandering rivers and the rangeland in deserts have been allotted to the powerful groups. Many families have migrated to the major cities only to be exposed to disease, violence and crime. Begging is the only profession they have been associated with.
In Europe capitalism destroyed the feudal order and built a rational civilization. But it is right now in crisis for the obvious reason that it has helped the European society to cater to the basic needs of life to the extent that demand to this end has become static. There have been left virtually no venues to invest the capital and, consequently, the interest rate have neared zero. The banks in Europe have got the governments as the major clients which borrow money to overcome their fiscal deficits. The overspending in the public sector helps them to feed the old, the ill and the jobless. If the governments stop overspending, they will lose the votes; Greece’s George Papandreou and Italy’s Berlusconi have lost for failing to evolve a consensus on austerity measures.
Socialism is the only alternative to capitalism in Europe. The change has to be steered under the guiding influence of democracy. Arabs are going to transform their society from an authoritarian to that of democratic one. The change is a reality only where the active support of the capitalist world is available. The next to the Arab world is probably Iran where clerics have taken hold of the polity in the name of democracy.
Pakistan has changed only recently from authoritarianism to democracy. But it is still struggling to make such an existence a reality. Feudalism exists here with full strength. The norms and ethos associated with it are part of the political culture hence confining the benefits of democracy to the few — try to read between the lines when you read the statements concerning ‘political reconciliation’.
Going by the fact that capitalism destroys feudalism and the social structure associated with it, Pakistan needs structural reforms to attract investment from abroad to develop its many neglected sectors like forestry, wetlands, fisheries, tourism etc. Decentralization, deregulation and privatization are a must to take the fruits of democracy to the commoners. Extremism and militancy will have no place in a society where freedom of speech rests on the shoulder of the rule of law and good governance.
Yes, socialism is a good socio-economic system but it is not fit for a society that has yet to come out of the clutches of the feudal and tribal elite. To enjoy freedom and equality associated with socialism, it is necessary to believe in such notions as well. That capitalism builds a rational political order is something that has been proven in the case of Europe. There is no problem with following the West but we should remember that it has gone a long way to reach the stage of socio-economic development, of course the political awareness as well, it is right now.