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Emotionalism, double-speak and pragmatism by Abdul Quayyum Khan Kundi

First victim of an illiterate society is rationalism. Formal education helps in enabling the rational-self to put the emotional-self contained. It helps in strengthening pragmatism to make right decisions. Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) realized the importance of education in developing a good social order. He required prisoners of war from Mecca to teach reading and writing to 10 Muslims as a compensation for their release. Emotionalism also produces a false sense of national pride and a mistaken notion of bravery, dignity and grace. Calling a terrorist a martyr is a slap on all those soldiers/policemen that died to protect the borders of the nation so that citizen of their nation feels secure. Emotionalism, a product of illiteracy, is also the bed rock on which extremism, fundamentalism and intolerance rests.

Emotionalism can be an asset when it is channeled by a visionary leader or a curse when exploited by self-interested politicians that want to keep the nation in a backward state. Unfortunately in Pakistan the later condition prevails. It is difficult to pin-point exactly when emotionalism became a political tool but in my view it was first exploited by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. I have watched countless times Foreign Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s speech to UN Security Council at the advent of 1971 war. Each time I have watched it, I can’t decide whether I should cry or feel proud of a Foreign Minister that was supposed to use diplomatic skills to gain international support but instead walked out in defiance. But I know that majority of Pakistanis feel proud that he tore the papers and walked out of the assembly in a sheer bravado. It is a classic example of a person using his showman ship for personal political gain at the cost of national interest. Interestingly he did not throw the torn pieces rather put it in his pocket that points that it was a deliberate act rather than a flare of emotions. Later in his life he continued using this showman ship to create a persona of a leader representing common man. Many of his comrades have shared stories of how he broke the microphone or threw his waistcoat to the people or stopped to have tea with poor people sitting at a roadside café. It was this belief in popular support that cost him his life in the end as people did not come out on the streets to protect his hanging by a Marshall Law Administrator. Contrast that with the protests in Egypt in favor of Muhammad Morsi that is incarcerated by a military regime. These protest have claimed over 2000 lives so far.

Military Generals also understood the emotionalism of Pakistani nation and used it to their advantage to initiate a religiously motivated resistance force against Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. It was same religious emotionalism that was used by the dictator to legitimize his rule in a referendum.

After the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the famous slogan of “Pakistan khape” was driven by the desire to rule an impoverished people for self-interest and siphoning ill-gotten money in foreign bank accounts. This is the person who believes in the old folklore that never kill a goose that lays a golden egg everyday. This person in an interview with Wall Street Journal, while he was being treated in New York before Benazir returned to Pakistan, expressed that it is the birth right of his family to rule Pakistan. It is the same person who later declared that there is no corruption in PIA and Railways. He was the person who appointed an Interior Minister who thought that target killing in Karachi was committed by disgruntled lovers.

Fast forward to election campaign 2013 and this emotionalism reached new heights. Tall claims were made about eliminating corruption, providing electricity at the twinkle of an eye, eliminate terrorism with an iron fist and protect the sovereignty even if they had to sacrifice their own sons. But these were nothing but shallow dreams that are easier to sell to people who are deliberately kept illiterate so that their rational-selves remain asleep so that the loot and plunder continues unabated. The post-election environment is not much different. Now these same leaders are giving real and fictitious reasons for not being able to fulfill the dreams made during the election campaign.

Recently some people have started talking about revolution to change the condition of the people. These revolutionary leaders are coming in all shapes and forms. Some have supported dictators while others negotiated deals with a corrupt government from the warmth of a custom made container. Can these people who have not kept their own promises and use empty slogans in the election campaign bring a revolution? In my little knowledge of revolution it is not spearheaded by anyone person or a group. It starts with a mass uprising without a leader and sweeps everything that comes in its wake. Once the initial eruption cools down then emerges a group of leaders who ascend to claim leadership of the revolution and steer it to develop a social contract and erect institutions that can deliver it.

Pakistan has become a predator state which is defined by political theorists as a state in which elites in charge seek to extract the highest level of resources they can from the underlying society and divert them to their own private uses. The next generations of prodigal sons of these elites are getting ready to take charge of major political parties in Pakistan.

What is the solution to break the status quo in Pakistan? In a republic constitution assume the role of a social contract. Like all other things in life constitutions also have a life span and have to be reviewed after lapse of a generation or two. The 1973 constitution has failed to deliver its promise because it was built on the emotionalism of the nation. The constitution was drafted at a time when the pain of East Pakistan separation was still fresh. People were ready to accept anything to hang on to rebuild a shattered dream.

We need a new social contract that allows rationalism, tolerance, moderation and egalitarian instincts of the nation to rule over emotionalism. We need a social contract that enables emergence of a Pakistani nation-state rather than sanctify cultural, religious, ethnic and sectarian identities of the citizen. We need a social contract that unite people for a common cause and vision in which social justice prevails. We need our own charter of Medinah which was referred to by Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah in his speeches after independence.

To develop platform for this new social contract pragmatic, rational and nationalist members of all parties have to come together. This platform should seek mandate from the people to review and rewrite the constitution. If Italy, Greece, Turkey, Malaysia and Singapore can do it then Pakistanis are more than capable to do it. If our national spirit can not be broken by a historic flood, a devastating earthquake and a decade of terror attacks then there is no risk to it when we break the back of the status quo to create a new realty.

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