What should we do? This is a question which many people in Pakistan are asking today. One possible answer is that we should develop a habit of looking at things from our perspective too, like any self-respecting human being and like most other nations. I shall try to offer a few observations in this regard.
I am not sending this series to any newspaper right now because I want to try out this “new media” first – the outreach of the Internet and desktop printing. Be your own publisher: if you like this article, please take a print-out (perhaps two sides of a single A4 sheet), and pass it on. Please do not remove the names of author and blog.
Let’s begin by understanding that continuity in national life can be seen only if we desire to see it. Otherwise it is possible to discard even the structure of a Shakespearean play as random incidents (some modern critics have tried that). Without saying whether it is true or false, I want to share an insight from Muhammad Ali Jauhar (1878-1931), our hero who fought for freedom of press, orchestrated mass movements and defied colonialism. In 1927 he wrote:
The average span of a generation is usually considered to be thirty years although marriages happen in India much before that age and life expectancy among Indians is also comparatively lower. Yet, just as the Indian National Congress came into being thirty years after the establishment of the universities of Calcutta, Madras and Bombay, precisely in that same manner a new educated generation of Muslims came up to become the founder of [All India] Muslim League in 1906, thirty years after the foundation of the Aligarh College, and Muslims entered politics as a nation.
Jauhar is trying to tell us that when any type of formal education is introduced in a society, it bears inevitable results in thirty years. Those results cannot be avoided because nobody has been able to identify conclusively the chords that control the collective behavior of a society (who could have known that the Americans were going to elect George W. Bush twice)!
Hence, the results of education are inevitable in a society, and they bear fruit approximately thirty year later. If we also include informal education which affects the hearts and souls of the masses on a much larger scale, then we can say that some political events that touch the feelings of everyone can also have similar effects thirty year later. Perhaps this is because people who are in their early twenties at the time of an event are the ones who react most strongly, and hence they are most receptive. Thirty year later, they are in their fifties, and that is the age group to which most decision-makers belong.
If we look at our history of the last 120 years, we find at least the following seven events whose impact seems to have been stronger than any kind of formal education. Perhaps this was because these events were of such a nature that they could not have been engineered by an individual leader unless several strands of collective thinking converged at that point. I call these the “peak moments” of our history. Just as should be the case in the light of Jauhar’s theory, each “peak moment” seems to have born fruit approximately thirty year later:
1886: Foundation of Mohammedan Educational Congress (later Conference). Thirty year later: Lucknow Pact secures approval of Muslim nationhood in 1916
1906: Birth of All-India Muslim League. Thirty year later: Revival of All-India Muslim League by M. A. Jinnah
1926: First elections on the basis of separate electorates but limited franchise. Thirty year later: Pakistan’s first constitution in 1956, which could be called “elitist” in many ways, followed by an era of “basic democracy” which demoted the franchise to something similar to thirty years ago
1946-47: Elections and direct action for the making of Pakistan, “Pakistan ka matlab kya…?” Thirty year later: Mass movement demanding Islamization in 1977
1967: Birth of progressive movements in West Pakistan and East Pakistan. Thirty year later: Reversion of weekly holiday to Sunday in 1997, beginning the process which would eventually mature into “enlightened moderation”
1987: Demand for elections on party basis and dissatisfaction with the conservative concept of Islamization pervades even among those segments of society which had been impartial or supportive earlier. Thirty year later will be 2017, a year which hasn’t arrived yet, but can we make a guess now?
2007: Lawyers’ Movement. Thirty year later will be 2037, so how should we plan?
This pattern makes some sense, and more sense can be added as we go along. We can see that the last “peak moment” was the unrest of 2007. Whether somebody sympathized with the Lawyers’ Movement or not (I was indifferent until much, much later), everyone felt an urge for creating a fresh mandate for the future. The true effects of this peak moment (along with the resulting Long March of 2009) may not be clearly visible until thirty years later but what are likely to witness much before that is the turning point of 2017, listed here as the inevitable effect of 1987.
Therefore we can say that one possible undercurrent of the present unrest is that Pakistan is moving from the peak moment of 2007 to the turning point of 2017 – from the birth of a spectacular mass movement to an unknown point awaiting us seven years ahead like an unseen rock in an ocean on a dark night.
Let’s use our radar and try to see what that rock is. The way to find out is by looking back at 1987 and understanding things which were shaping the hearts and souls at that time. Those were the things which formed an inevitable “turning point” in the as-yet-unborn year of 2017. Knowingly or unknowingly, we are moving towards it.