From Jeeay Zardari to Bhej Pagara: is it a progress?

By: Shahab Usto

While I am writing this a hugely big gathering is taking place in Hyderabad against the controversial local government law. The stage is adorned with the leaders belonging to NPP, PML-N, the Nationalists and the PML-F. The atmosphere is echoing with a slogan: Bhej Pagara! which originates actually from a war cry of the followers of Pir Pagaro during the British era. But in the present context, the slogan has less a political message and more a shown of personal allegiance to the person/institution of Pir Pagaro. And that is worrisome. For one, we need a political leader whose popularity is rooted in the common masses on his political rather than religio-sectarian appeal, of which Sindhi masses have already suffered much in the past. The oppressed people need not just a powerful person but a political leader who should also be a social reformer, humanist, and eternally committed to the redemption of the downtrodden masses from the feudal, state and ethic fascist tyranny.

For another, the leaders who are claiming to be the custodians of Sindh and its people’s interests don’t hold an enviable political past. They have always been in alliance with a powerful establishment and even today except for this catchy and populist anti-local bodies ordinance, they have nothing else to offer to the common men, the unemployed youth, the oppressed minorities, the crime-ridden cities and towns, the kidnapping-for-ransom-afflicted middle class traders, professionals and government employees, the people who have lost their lands to Qabza mafias in the towns and villages, the poor hapless women who have been killed in the name of karo kari, and forced marriages, the poor hapless Sindhi people who took to Karachi after being ejected from their villages and towns by the increasing law and order and worsening economic conditions during the Musharaf-era and present government’s urban-based politics of appeasement, the rural students who were denied admissions in Karachi against all norms of law, ethics and constitution. Indeed, they have always thrived no matter which government/system has prevailed because they have never opposed the status quo and always bargained with the powers that be for their own individual, class and personal interests.

But alas, today some of our friends are agog with this new ‘anti-PPP alliance”, because they believe, and are therefore even ready to glorify this alliance of the so-called ‘friends of Sindh’. But they forget that the stalwarts of this alliance very well know that the Sindh card has been recharged by the PPP’s disastrous economic policies and the politically treacherous local government law and that the Sindhi masses are very angry with the PPP, hence, they can once again manipulate and exploit the electorate in the elections.

Thus the situation is really tragic. On the one hand, the Sindh’s urban areas are becoming an ethnic slaughter-house due to the mushrooming of fascist ethnic and criminal militias; on the other hand the Sindh’s vast swatches of rural society inhabiting millions of age-old exploited people are once again being targeted by the same retrogressive political forces who have always maltreated and dehumanized the Sindhi masses.

Indeed, this is not the first time. Sindhis have been exploited by various ruses and subterfuges—national security, democracy, Islam, the trickle-down economics, Sufi culture, tradition of worship and so on. But now the time has come to reflect:

  • For how long are we going to allow our larger historical and human rights to be trampled by this predatory and unscrupulous elite?
  • Since when have the PML-F, N, Q or NPP, or Jamiat-e-Islami and so on have, become ultra-Sindhi nationalists?
  • Aren’t they are using the nasty and unpopular local government ordinance for their narrow political and class interests in the same way as the PPP has for decades used the popular Sindh-related causes: anti kalabagh dam, and anti-thal canal movements?
  • Therefore, aren’t the PPP and these born-again nationalists (PML-F et al) the two sides of the same coin?
  • Isn’t it time that we, those who understand the currents of history and broader principles of politics, must not let ourselves to be taken in by the hollow nationalist semantics and slogans used by the PML-F et al.
  • Aren’t our political elites very clever, if not devious; they coalesce with each other when needed and they oppose each other too but never allow their political hostilities to threaten the socio-political status quo in the province and beyond?
  • Isn’t the PPP’s national reconciliation an apt case in study? Imagine, when the PPP brought all the pro-status quo forces, including the PML-F and Q, under the government:
  • When the country had undergone major cultural shift from closed to open society, and per force, effected constitutional reforms to check the egregious corporate and political strangleholds of the military establishment,
  • When for the first time the international community, led by the USA, for its own interests, also seemed sincerely to be invested in the country’s democratic system,
  • When the judiciary, civil society, media and varied interest groups were closely allied to protect, if not strengthen, the fledgling institutional reforms and democratization of society.
  •  When for the first time the Sindhi intelligentsia, nationalists, and other sections were finding their independent political moorings, rejecting the tradition political leadership, and building up intellectual and political mass to defend Sindh’s political and economic rights which had long been denied by the Musharaf regime; and when they were at the same time countervailing the urban-based politics of violence and blackmailing,

AND AT THAT CRITICAL JUNCTURE THE PPP BACKTRACKED FROM ITS AVOWED ROTTI, KAPRA, MAKAN COMMITMENT AND ALLOWED A HOST OF ITS TRADITIONAL FOES—PML-F, PML-Q, MQM, NPP, JUI—TO COME UNDER THE GOVERNMENTAL UMBRELLA AND ENJOY A BLANKET IMMUNITY TO ALL THE CORRUPTION AND CRIMES THEY COMMITTED DURING THE MUSHARAF-ERA.

IN SHORT, STATUS QUO WAS SAVED, BUT AT THE HEAVY COST OF SINDH AND ITS PEOPLE

It merits consideration that the PPP’s reconciliation policy was not borne of ‘self defence’ or a ‘survival strategy”. It was a well calibrated strategy to stop the VIRUS ofchanging political culture and institutional balance from infecting the common men in Sindh and elsewhere; that would have jeopardized the tribal-feudal-bureaucratic-ethnic-fascist domination over Sindh. New forces would have emerged in Sindh out of a changing political space created by the elitist infighting, as it did in Punjab where PML-N replaced the old Muslim League and in urban Sindh MQM replaced the Islamists.  The post-Benazir PPP was aware that the constitutional reforms and devolution of power would inevitably shift politics to more local and provincial arenas, where it could be upstaged by a new class of Sindhi nationalists/intelligentsia on the strength of many an injustice committed against the Sindh.

Therefore, the PPP withdrew from its program–roti, kapra, makan— and opted for keeping alive the powerful status quo in Sindh, which was its electoral and political base. The PPP purposely didn’t upset the feudal/tribal/bureaucratic apple cart because that would have led to far reaching socio-political consequences. Therefore, cosmetic measures aside, the state-owned lands were not distributed to the millions of landless peasants; the tenancy, labor, employment laws didn’t see much of improvement; the social security and welfare policies were ignored; health, education, sanitation, water-supply suffered from corruption and inertia;  no major drive was seen in the realm of industrial and services sector; poverty-alleviation was ‘tackled’ monetarily, through public doles, not socio-political reforms, and above all deliberately a loose and debased governance system was maintained to allow the socio-political and state functionaries to indulge in massive corruption at will and with impunity.

AS A RESULT SINDH AND ITS PEOPLE ARE PERENIALLY AFFLICTED WITH UNEMPLOYMENT, DEGRADING LIVING CONDITIONS, UNBEARABLE CIVIC AND SECURITY ENVIROMENT, AND INCREASINGLY DEGENERATING SOCIAL AND PHYSICAL INFRASTRUCTURE DESPITE THE MASSIVE INCREASE IN DEVELOPMENT BUDGET.

This raises a valid query? How come the PPP just ignored its electoral promises and responsibilities towards the electorates?

Because the PPP knew that it could easily exploit, manipulate, purchase, or compel the electorate variously using the Bhuttos’ name, pelf and power, the tribal/feudal elitist support and so on. After all, the PPP still has the precious capital in the name of Bilawal and other children of BB. The PPP also has the tons of money that its ministers/apparatchiks have horded through corruption! Finally, haven’t the PPP courted all the notoriously anti-people feudal and tribal elites, the so-called “winnable candidates”

Given these pluses, why should the PPP bother to discharge its electoral pledges to the people? And exactly that is the strategy of all the elites. They believe that they can manage the electorates, the purchasable or the gullible lot.

Unfortunately, the anti-PPP alliance—PML-F et al, have also found a populist cause—the local government ordinance– to fool and exploit us in the coming elections. And like the PPP they will also quietly forget about the Ordinance, of course making some amendments to appease the people, if they come into power. Indeed, they will then protect the PPP’s elites, just as the latter did to them.

Which raise many important questions for us to reflect on:

  • For how long are we going to be used and manipulated as the ‘guidable lot’, the ‘sacrificial lambs’ of the elitist slaughterhouse; the elite which not only instinctively unscrupulous but mutually-protective and class-and-interest-wise inter-connected?
  • How many generations will we sacrifice before we will get rid this personality-cultist, ideologically-illusionary and ISSUE-BASED politics?
  • When will we realize that in this complex political society we will always be confronted with one or other political issue, as nasty and ‘fatal’ as the present local government ordinance?
  • Are we going to let our generations go to dogs fighting only on issues (craftily created and manipulated by the elites), forgetting about the much bigger and more existential conflicts that remain implanted by the elites in our socio-political system?
  • Why don’t we reckon that we will always live and die in a state of illusion, expecting a messiah emerging out of this incorrigible elites unless this rotten and predatory socio-political order that exists thanks to the unscrupulous political and state elites is scrapped by an alternative leadership consisting of the middle and lower middle classes, and hence, being inherently at odds with this order.

Let me make it restate it:

WHETHER IT IS THE PPP OR THE PML-F-LED ALLIANCE, OUR REDEMPTION LIES IN BEING OPPOSED TO BOTH OF THESE CAMPS.

WE NEED TO FIND OUR OWN POLITICAL, IDEOLOGICAL AND INTELLECTUAL MOORINGS.

REMEMBER, WE ARE THE THIRD-GENERATION PAKISTANI SINDHIS OUR PREVIOUS TWO GENERATIONS DIDN’T GET MUCH FROM THIS COUNTRY, AND MORE SO, FROM THIS NATURAL-RESOURCES-RICH PROVINCE OF SINDH, BECAUSE THEY WERE TRUSTED THIS SAME LEADERSHIP TAKEN BY THEIR RADICAL SLOGANS AND CHARISMATIC PERSONALITIES; WHEREAS ALL OTHER PROVINCES IN THE MEANTIME TRANSFORMED THEIR POLITICAL CLASES. DUMPING THE REMNANTS OF POST-PARTITION FEUDAL ELEMENTS. THE PML-N AND PTI IN PUNJAB, ANP IN KP, THE NATIONALISTS IN BALUCHISTAN ARE ALL COMPOSED OF MIDDLE-CLASS-MINDED LEADERSHIP. ONLY IN SINDH (AND A BIT OF SOUTH PUNJAB), WE HAVE STILL THE THIRD-GENERATION TRIBAL/FEUDAL/PIR/MIR LEADERSHIP.

NO WONDER, SINDH IS BECOMING MORE AND MORE MIRED INTO CRISES—IN ADDITION TO BEING GRIEVOUSLY THREATENED BY A FAST CHANGING DEMOGRAPHIC SHIFT, DUE TO EXTERNAL AND INTERNATIONAL IMMIGRATION, ON WHICH OUR ELITIST SINDHI LEADERSHIP SITTING ACROSS THE BOTH SIDES OF FENCE IS CRIMINALLY SILENT.    

It is my earnest appeal to think and propose as to how we should pool our (local and Diaspora) social, intellectual, technological, financial, intellectual, media, academic, and political resources to create an alternative political leadership which should be committed as much to Sindh’s political as to social and economic causes.

And it is the time. Instead of letting the PML-F et al to galvanize and take the credit of Sindhi masses’ genuine apprehensions and discontentment as to the local government ordinance, their right to rule and own the resources of Sindh, it is more logical and imperative for us all to take the ownership of this crisis by bringing up a new truly broad-based middle and lower middle class leadership, involving the vast number of the above-mentioned resources

And then also launch the anti-local government ordinance movement but as a part of a much broader socio-political agenda so that all the aggrieved sections of Sindhi society may be co-opted.  The movement should include, inter alia:

Restoration of peace in Sindh, including absolute cessation of tribal and criminal violence

Regeneration of economic activities

Development of quality education

Reconstruction of social and physical infrastructure

A new industry, agriculture and services-related and policy

Fiscal reforms and ownership of Sindh’s natural resources

Once a new middle and lower-middle class front emerges, you will see how both the PPP and PML-F et al come to join their hands to oppose it, fearing the change in the status quo. And that will be the day the people will recognize, for the first time, who is their enemy and who is there is true friend.

Therefore, it’s time to think about forging this new front and let it contest the polls at least on each provincial constituency in Sindh, independently and in opposition to both the PPP and its so-called rivals PML-F et al. There is every chance that the young, educated, techno-savvy and progressive classes would rise from their colleges, internet cafes, workplaces, farms, houses, factories, and offices to fight for rights and reclaim the urban, suburban and rural hinterlands of Sindh.

I say this with conviction because after a long time there is disaffection that is writ large upon the face of Sindhi masses and their dignity, life and economic futures are at stake. They are desperately looking for a viable platform, distinct from the existing ones, and credible enough to take on their traditional exploiters—the PPP, PML-F et al.

OR ELSE LET THIS GENERATION ALSO WITHER AWAY AT ANOTHER ILLUSION, THIS TIME CREATED BY THE PML-F ET AL

Courtesy: Sindhi e-lists/ e-groups, December 14, 2012

About these ads

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s