The Day that Dawns

by Azam Saeed

Swabi is special. I did fly quite a bit over the airspace surrounding that beautiful place.

The attitudinal evolution that has led to the Swabi Dharna may be a harbinger of something good. Maybe we’d soon awaken to a new day. But what will that day be?

Some two centuries ago, in the essay “Civil Disobedience,” slavery-abolitionist philosopher Henry David Thoreau made a compelling argument for individual resistance to government excesses so that one does not become an unwitting accomplice to the injustices perpetrated by a tyrannical state.

Even in an operative governmental system, Thoreau emphasized the place of conscience and a citizen’s responsibility in sociopolitical decision-making: “It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right.”

In the convulsive Pakistan — where the state has miserably failed and the legal system has demonstrably collapsed — we have to thoughtfully navigate the process of rehabilitation so as not to torpedo the opportunity we might have today.

The first step obviously is to reclaim the state from the criminal retinue that has controlled it for 7 decades. And what an eye-opener it has been to learn about this thuggish mafia.

What initially seemed to be wild overreaction by the entitled “institution” — in suppressing the citizenry’s rights — turned out to be a desperate effort at preserving its massively-corrupt enterprise. Marauding people’s homes, murdering the innocent, and staging false-flag terrorist operations were all steps to hide the system’s craven condition.

The ethically-bankrupt system-managers are frightened — not ultimately by those they repress, but by their own moral depravity the crisis has exposed.

Yes, they have been exposed for who and what they are — a large network of highly-decorated thieves engaged in potential crimes against humanity.

Carefully vanquishing the goon platoon is thus the first mission. (“Carefully” is important since a “revolution” mired in violence can beget destructive chaos.)

But that still leaves 99% of the task ahead of us since we are not dealing with just a failed state, but a failed society — if I may say so without offending too many. (The forces that debased the fabric of the society are exactly the same as those that destroyed the state.)

While there are grave problems that won’t easily rectify, the last two years have also highlighted an asset that wasn’t visible just a couple years ago. Let’s just identify a few salient aspects of these complex topics.

The greatest challenge and pivot for the future is to restore to a society based upon principles. We have to remember that the countries whose examples are commonly forwarded on Pakistani SM groups don’t just have a functioning legal system; they have a “culture” where certain norms are collectively observed.

A thriving society, will always be in which, in Thoreau’s words, people pursue “a life in conformity to higher principles” — yes, much higher than what the legal system can enforce!

Towards that end, freedom of speech is absolutely indispensable as the “lubricant” in thought-development and the “cross-pollinator” of ideas in a society. It also keeps the public awake to the reality. And, as Thoreau would tell us, “to be awake is to be alive.”

We well know the powerful forces that abhor freedom of speech in Pakistan since it threatens their power and profit! (Yes, these forces of oppression and totalitarianism work together even when they seem to be opposing one another.)

The second important imperative is to radically and drastically restructure, reorient, and reform/truncate our military (beginning with the Army Act of 1952). Instead of being the pride-generating “institution” — the propaganda we have been fed — it has been the fountainhead of our economic and ethical destitution. As a collective — even when it’s heavy for our ego — we must ponder why Pakistan’s military would likely rank one of the world’s lowest in discipline and ethical standards.

The answer here may not be so difficult. It is obviously difficult to be disciplined and ethical when the organizational raison d’etre has been twisted to criminal objectives.

We now come to the actually exciting thing I want to talk about.

For a freedom movement as grand and tortuous as ours to succeed, a cadre of leaders is needed — leaders who are sincere, honest, and wise. (Yes, wise enough to at least be clear-eyed in understanding that totalitarianism — under any guise — will always put a society on a disastrous course.)

And the sacrifices of our political workers over the last two years have shown that we do have such leaders. Many names immediately come to mind: Yasmin Rashid, Aliya Hamza, Murad Saeed, Omar Sarfaraz Cheema, Haleem Adil Sheikh, Hassaan Niazi, Shehryar Afridi, Sanam Javed, and Tayyaba Raja.

Thousands more have faced torture, threats of rape, blackmail, assassination attempts, disappearances, family abductions, unjust imprisonments, business closures, house demolitions, and all kinds of other inhumane persecution.

The prevailing diabolical darkness is exponentially beyond what triggers the Qur’anic injunctions for jihad.

To share my national identity with such people is a matter of pride for me. I personally know people who have given sacrifices to not be part of the corruption which is almost mandatory in the society. To find out that there are political workers and leaders so unwilling to compromise on principles and so gung ho about freedom (from colonial occupation) is absolutely exhilarating, and bodes well for a possible revival. (In their selfless courage, to use a military simile, these political leaders stand shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Karnal Sher Khan and Mervyn Leslie Middlecoat.)

Solid leadership is certainly the central pivot around which such a movement succeeds or fails. Though there is much more that counts — and much of that is in our own hands and minds, since each one of us makes the collective.

Thoreau’s better-known book is “Walden,” which is about nature, self, society, and civilization. He ends that book with these words: “Only that day dawns to which we are awake. There is more day to dawn…”

As a decisive awakening begins with the awakened ones at Swabi, we all do share a responsibility. Let’s remember Thoreau’s words …

… there’s more day to dawn. But only that day dawns to which we are awake.


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