You are absolutely right


Syed Bakhtiyar Kazmi

The most dismaying episode during last week’s ‘operation lockdown’ was when the chief minister of one province, accompanied by his well-equipped force, attempted to break through barriers to cross into the other province with the objective of taking the capital, whilst the chief minister of that other province, deploying all available resources, had his security forces barricade, shell and bombard tear gas on the invading forces. Immediately thereafter, both camps claimed victory and celebrations were the order of the day, possibly with honey being spread around generously, and heroes were applauded. If you are wondering why all that was appalling, then you belong to the group of overzealous diehard supporters of either one, or the other force, and were busy frenziedly cheering your side, while all the time praying for their success not even realising the implication of this pitched battle.
Ladies and gentlemen, this was not a battle being fought with our lifelong eastern enemy, and our forces did not beat the fecal matter out of them; in fact, during the Great Battle of Split Hillock, which should go down in the annuls of national history as a dark day or preferably be forgotten altogether, the real enemy was busy with adventures across our national borders, which most of us ignored since we were more engrossed with Pakistanis fighting each other. The crucial question then is, how did we manage to forget the principles of unity, faith and discipline, so deeply preached by the Quaid, and come this far to kick the one nation concept out the window so easily?
Before moving on, my apologies to either side who believes, despite all attempts to the contrary, that the articulation above was not balanced and nonaligned. Let me assure you, the singular objective was to jolt my countrymen, and make them realise the dangers of infighting; Pakistan already has more than its fair share of problems, we definitely don’t need to create more. And in response to the crucial question, I can only wonder why people ask me, again and again, why I believe that democracy is not the end of history.
And I have been asked that question frequently, lately. Dear readers, I belong to a generation that suffered military dictatorship in their youth, and vehemently supported political forces when that era passed; yes, to the extent of decorating our cars with party colours and exercising that one powerful vote. A decade down the road, with four elections under the belt, whilst some of us began to get delusional, we still believed in the democratic system; however, eventually, the system cheated us out of opportunities to vote on ideological basis. But, personally, it was not these experiences alone that firmed up the view that democracy was not by, of, for the common man; reading about and learning the fate of other democracies, primarily economically, was equally responsible. With age and knowledge wisdom sets in and views and opinions get modified. Here I once again clarify, that opposing democracy does not in any way, by default, suggest support for a military dictatorship. The view is simple: a better system is yet to be dreamt up, so in the meantime, we suffer the best of all evils, which nonetheless is evil too.
But, today is not about perils of democracy, which will come later albeit I do take this opportunity to draw attention to my last week’s article that attempted to negate the evolutionary characteristics of democracy; today is about what are we doing to our beloved nation.
Realistically speaking, the electronic media should perhaps have stepped up to the plate, and moderated the avalanche of claims emanating from the wide spectrum of political forces in the country. Unfortunately, and arguably, media has a conflict of interest in this case, simply because their ratings are dependent upon political instability and conflict. In fact, rather than playing a pacifying role, various segments end up fuelling the fire. After all, if everything was hunky dory on the political front, breaking news might degenerate to rickshaw accidents, much to the dismay of media barons.
Dear readers, you will agree that immediately after the climax, most of you were arguing amongst your friends on who actually won this particular round; obviously, in a zero sum game with everybody all in, someone had to lose, but frankly, it won’t matter since in reality the nation is on the losing end. And no, I have no wish to give any views on who won; that would be entirely suicidal and purposeless since in a highly polarised and charged atmosphere people end up having closed minds and anyone disagreeing with their version is the enemy. Serendipitously, it might be a good idea to have a UN office in Pakistan that independently decides the winner, but that still won’t be a solution for heated arguments amongst us common Pakistanis.
Debates are necessary for informed decisions, but arguing for the sake of argument results in creating enmity. In fact, it is absolutely amazing to observe personal likes or dislikes being formulated on the basis of political affiliations; and this includes the intelligentsia, so why blame the illiterate masses. When have all of us observed participants discussing issues with open minds on a television talk show? In a previous article, I had suggested the ubiquitous display of the national flag, at least at all public places, to inculcate unity; today I feel that with the intelligentsia divided with daggers drawn even that is a futile suggestion.
Undoubtedly, the burden of correcting the situation vests squarely on the literate society, and believe me that is the need of the hour. I am not against debate; in fact, debates are conducive and are to be encouraged. I have one simple suggestion: any time and every time we enter into a debate, let’s start with a simple innocuous sentence when addressing the opponent, even when you don’t mean it, “You are absolutely right.”
Opening a debate by conceding that the other party is right completely disarms him, and at the same time ensures that your arguments are articulated in a defensive manner. So let me conclude today by addressing all those reading this article, with respect to your political views, you are absolutely right.