Now that CJP is on his way to the Supreme bench, one can look ahead. This movement which started in March 2007 has been the most sustained political and civic mobilization in recent memory. As they say, nothing succeeds like success, I wonder what the ground-leaders of the Lawyers Movement will be undertaking as their next frontier. I know that mobilization against the militias and warlords in Swat or Waziristan is the "proof" many outside observers want to see. But I would rather that they spin off into a political party. One that can ideologically go beyond Punjab and urban Sindh into Baluchistan and NWFP. Justice and Rule of Law is a kick-ass platform. Usual caveats apply.
Sorry to vent, but for what it's worth: I just got back from a brief trip to Karachi; I must say that I was disappointed with the cynicism so many of my relatives expressed with the lawyers' movement. Perhaps I have too much of an "Indian perspective", but my take was that if we waited for pure motives, we would never be able to sign on to any political party/platform, ever. I don't know if this was a function of the fact that the excitement was greater in Punjab, but I was a bit mystified why even Karachi youngsters seemed so indifferent to the fever. Obviously this is anecdotal, but would be interested to hear other people's thoughts...
Re: "I know that mobilization against the militias and warlords in Swat or Waziristan is the “proof” many outside observers want to see. But I would rather that they spin off into a political party. One that can ideologically go beyond Punjab and urban Sindh into Baluchistan and NWFP. Justice and Rule of Law is a kick-ass platform. " Well said indeed.
I think with the latest 'movement' it was very easy for people (or certain segments of the elites) to dismiss the restoration of judges issue as not being important compare to the multiple other crises that the country is facing. In a way, they had a point, as the country was and is desperate for a measure of stability to function, for economic activity to continue, and for people to be fed. However, that was a regressive way of looking at things and I hope the doubters are also rejoicing that finally, the State is no longer the supreme and total authority. Multiple avenues for expression have opened up, and we can now put our faith in institutions like the media and the judiciary. If 'development' was looked at in terms of institutions and not in terms of GDP growth, as it should be, Pakistan has 'developed' a heck of a lot in the last year or so.
my comments at: http://wichaar.com/news/294/ARTICLE/13019/2009-03-17.html (and my apologies if this is a repeat post).
I am not as optimistic (I hope I am wrong). It would be unwise to tackle the extremists at this stage directly before the movement can become stronger and instiutionalised. There was much more support and a consensus about the judges issue than confronting the religious right. There will need to be a period of building up support and social constituencies first before that kind of attack can be launched. I think the kinds of 'proofs' being requred by external parties should absolutely be rejected. Any movement needs to be an organic one that is driven from within and which responds to the needs of local people; the concerns of outsiders when building such a national movement cannot be a guiding factor in making such choices in political terms. At the end of the day the cost-benefit calculations of the outsiders who make these demands and many Pakistanis may not be identical.
By the way, even relative to my last trip two years ago, the number of heavily bearded men (with shalwars above the ankles) on Karachi's streets came as a big surprise to me. It was clear that this wasn't just a question of Pashtun men, but even many "muhajirs" too. It's a world of difference from even 10-15 years ago. "Taliban" has become a euphemism for "Pashtun" among many in Karachi, i.e. it has an increasingly ethnic connotation, and one hears a lot more sympathy for the religio-authoritarian worldview, even among those who consider themselves anti-Taliban. And conversely, the MQM's hand seems to be strengthening, as even some of those who used to be against the party are now regarding it as the "savior" of Karachi against the Taliban. Rather than any remorse or introspection about the Pashtun-Muhajir ethnic violence a few months ago, one sometimes hears satisfaction -- that the MQM has put "them" in "their place" etc. etc.
Qalander its sad but true. Talk to any Muhajir cab driver in chicago or new york you will hear the same stuff. Even Tablighis, who are little Sufi types, will tell you the same stories. Did you ever hear anything about pashtuns/taliban kidnaping muhajir girls?
Yeah aamir, I did: accounts of kidnappings of schoolgirls and the like. Now such things certainly can't happen, but given the suspicious similarity of all such accounts in situations involving communal violence, I really had no way of knowing if these incidents had happened or were the product of hysteria, etc. [In a situation like Gujarat 2002 credible media coverage documented these sorts of incidents, but due to media blackouts there were no credible media reports of that sort, and everyone seems to have their own narrative].
In my opinion the majority of the Pakistan elite have been indifferent to the issue of the restoration of non-PCO judges because they have always been able to buy justice. "Jaib men judge..." which was common, and may become uncommon. They are able to buy foreign medical treatments, 'cheap' electricity (meter man fixes your meter for a sum), and to buy themselves out of illegal situations. Its of no consequence to them if the Pakistan Steel Mills gets privatized at a much undervalued price, or that ordinary people get picked up and jailed for years as a matter of political convenience, or that govt departments don't pay their electricity bills --- these being some issues that CJP Iftikhar Chaudhry was addressing when he was deposed. However, there is a minority of the elite who are intelligent and have a conscience who put their money and their bodies out there to defend the rule of law and the Constitution in the last 2 years. A lot of them are young professionals or students. Its been amazing to see the new generation of activists find their feet and their voice.
Re: comment 8: "Now such things certainly can't happen..." The above is a typo: I meant to write "Now such things certainly CAN happen..."