Like millions I too watched speechless the pictures of a Pakistan`s governor Taseer assasinated by his security guard Qadri and the subsequent mass demonstrations of common people,lawyers,and of course clerics in support of the killer. I looked closely at the faces in the crowds , and I did not see, even amongst the mullahs, some sort of crazed hysteria but a defiant assertion of righteousness. The faces in the crowds are all too familiar to Indians, at least north-Indians ; the undernourished figures of petty lawyers in threadbare colonial black suits; the cherubic semi-literate face of Qadri himself: these are not mad mullahs rabid with unreason, but the common citizen of Pakistan – awaam.
Then I read scores of commentaries on the whole affair in the Internet – the corporate-dominated media in India had oddly all but ignored the matter. And what I read was even more shocking. Jinnah`s Pakistan has been overturned; the liberal and democratic forces are under siege; jihadists will soon usurp n-bombs; modernity is under attack by narrow-minded medievalism; and so on.
Well, this is Orwellspeak. Liberalism good, Islam bad; democracy is for everyone but some are more democratic than others. Once again the non-debate was posed in the Western values vs. Islam template, with no marks for guessing which are the good guys.
It takes a little bit of effort but it is possible to set aside for a moment this pre-digested American template of thought , as most American templates generally are. Do that, and revisit the pictures of Taseer/Qadri episode; and it is immediately clear that it is really about commoners vs. elite – awaam vs. khaas. Qadri represents awaam and Taseer represents the khaas ; one semi-literate , rural, Arab-style bearded , lower-ranking security guard and the other rich, english-speaking, westernised , cleanshaven , urbane businessman/politician. Both are sincere muslims, but poles apart.
Public support for Qadri has unnerved the khaas of Pakistan , and of the rest of the world. Much dark prognostications are being made of Pakistan army`s silence in the matter . But that army although a part of the Pakistani khaas understands the awaam much better; its political vision is clear-sighted. The unease is larger than Pakistan`s alone. The whole global industry of Islamic terror , flourishing in the post-soviet union era , is feeling itself undermined by the message that this is not about West vs. Islam.
And as if it was necessary to underscore the message , the world was soon startled by the Tunisian revolution , which will perhaps come to be seen as the turning-point of the 21st century. Tunisian awaam has risen and overthrown the dictator , and these days is busy in the task of banishing their khaas strata . The khaas of the world , who own/dominate the corporate global media, are trying to find in it the hand of their usual suspects – jihadists, jews, tribalists, foreigners, communists, etc – trying and failing. There is resentment at being upstaged too . Tellingly, they are dubbing it as internet-driven revolution. Bless internet.
But , to Pakistan. The global khaas intelligentsia has – gloatingly in places like India – got it down pat: when twenty years back the going got rough the Pakistani establishment/army promoted jihadism for self-defence , and now the jihadi jinn has grown and come back to swallow the establishment/army. This is true , but onesidedly true.
Seen from the Tunisian lens the picture is different, bifocal. Nearly two-third of a century has passed since Pakistan emerged from firangi colonial slavery. And halfway through , when the 2nd generation awaam were getting restive at life that was not getting any better they were given jihadism as an alternative detour. Today another generation has since arrived ,and what does it see ? The old narrow elite has all the assets and prospects of the nation, while it has only its threadbare faith. Faith has been a refuge and a solace ,no doubt, but it too has not yet yielded food , jobs, health, money. And then it sees some overfed , clever, khaas representative mock and question its faith. The awaam is outraged.
What is religious faith essentially?Sigh of the oppressed and the soul of a soulless world , religion is promise of a future , a redemption, against all the goodness denied by the uncaring present. It is hope. The present is made barely tolerable because the promise of faith is insurance for the future. Mockery or denial of the faith comes as a double blow – it takes away even the future. No one can bear such a loss – no one should be asked to.
Of course all this is not about Pakistan alone , or Islam alone . This applies , mutatis mutandis, just as well to India, America, Africa, Europe , Hinduism , Christianity, to the world at large.
Let us get it straight. The central divide and therefore conflict in all societies so far is between the producing awaam and the usurping khaas, and all other conflicts are offshoots of and subsidiary to this conflict. The khaas have at all times tried to hide this central conflict by overlaying upon it various distractions of red herrings, like religion, race, language, culture , caste, etc – and they have largely succeeded. The awaam has tried over the centuries to see through these disguises and it has occasionally succeeded. Tunisia is the latest such occasion. And already Egypt, Algeria, and the neighbouring Arab societies are seeing bifocally, erupting ; Pakistan`s turn might come sooner than later.
When children in the 20th century asked , the parents found it hard to explain that when mankind finally has all the resources to feed, clothe, house, care for everyone , three-fourth of mankind remains derelict merely because of its inefficient , medievally narrow political arrangements. Tunisia is a straw in the wind , that the 21st century children might not have to ask the question.