- Haray bhee to bazi maat nahin!
I have a feeling that fellow students, lawyers, and many other citizens want to pose us a tough question. Something – perhaps love for us or fear of breaking our hearts, hope for the movement or despair of ever convincing us to quit it – keeps them from saying it loud. The question is: What if we lose?
We hope that this wouldn’t happen. Somehow the powers-that-be will quiver before the moral force of our argument and if they don’t, whatever political government that emerges out of the elections will. Nonetheless, let us suppose what the cynics have always believed. Suppose that no one listens to us and, as Kamila Hyat put it, ‘in our lonely walk’, we end up no where? What if our movement fails to bring the legitimate judges back? What if one by one, those trampled flowers wither and vanish and freedom’s tender wings remain forever clipped in this country? What good is all the hue and cry we raised and still raise, and all the effort that it takes, if the movement’s objects are never achieved?
If that happens - it being the worse that could possibly happen - I believe our efforts would still not have been in vain. The great thing about a social movement is that it is never lost. We are lucky to be engaged in a principled moral endeavor, in love’s lonely labour, which even defeat cannot render futile. As Faiz put it:
Yeh baazi ishq ki baazi hae, jo chaho lara do dar kaisa?
Gar jeet gaey to kia kehnay, haray bhee toe baazi maat nahin. - Faiz
There are gains produced by this movement that even defeat cannot wipe off. For one, the movement has left countless individuals who participated in it, particularly students and young lawyers, fundamentally changed. The legal profession in Pakistan has not been known for a display of integrity or honesty. When these young protesting lawyers go back to their trade, they will hopefully take home with them some of this principled behavior.
Students of elite institutions like LUMS and FAST have also long been known for a lack of social and political sensitivity. If you were ask them about the state of affairs in this country the standard response would be either of the two: “There’s nothing you can do about it”, or “I plan to settle abroad”. Today, the same youth is preparing to inherit this country with all its struggles and all its bounties. Even if they withdraw now from the arena of practical politics, they will take back with them a deeper concern for and engagement with the problems that common people in this country face. I know many students who seemed destined to become ruthlessly effective tools in the machinery of global economic imperialism – this brief brush with activism has left them thinking. Some, if not all of them, have resolved to utilize their undisputed talents in fighting the people’s war in whichever field of life they end up in.
Many eyes, formerly blind, have come to see the gravity of the situation around them. Inwards, those very eyes shall soon turn. Perhaps, they will uncover some remedy to that impoverishment which globally afflicts the human soul in this age of materialism, objectification and commodification. As resistance to the evil outside blossoms, let each and every one of us reflect also upon the very meaning and purpose of human existence, social life, our daily live, education and all other endeavors. In many minds, that introspection has already begun, sharp tongues are wagging and desiccated pens like mine are pouring floods – how can the effort then be considered futile.
Beyond the contribution it has made to the individuals involved in it, the current civil society movement has already bequeathed a legacy to the nation at large. It has given the country an inspiring glimpse of what politics can be, if it is done honestly and in a principled manner. Also, it has dispelled a notion that the 90’s experience popularized I the notion that in this country that elected government and corruption can never be separated. By infusing into popular discourse the ideas of rule of law and strict constitutionalism, this movement has revived the hope for bringing in rule-bound elected governments, which are effectively restrained from corruption and authoritarianism by judicial independence and the vigilance of media and civil society.
We are a nation that has lost its heroes, not to gradual erosion by history but to swift corrosion worked by mysterious forces. Political leaders either lost or sold their credibility ages ago. War-heroes slip out of our fingers once we begin to contemplate the possibility that maybe we really didn’t win all those wars and they were sparked by the ambition and adventurism of certain power-hungry individuals. Even sportsmen have become quite disappointing. Recently, forces bigger than our miserable bully-of-a-state have stolen the integrity of the nuclear scientist, denying our last civilian hero.
Today, however, a whole new crop of national heroes has sprung up – lawyers, judges, activists, not one but dozens. As I pen these words, from within the sobering darkness of their prison cells and sub-jails, the likes of Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary and Advocate Munir Malik are defining the true meaning of integrity. In their own neighborhoods, people are finding heroes like Justice Siddiqi of Lahore, in whose defence they can willingly sacrifice their liberties, and others in turn are willing to risk their own liberties and comforts so as to secure their release.
Finally, this episode has shown the world a picture of Pakistan that it had never seen before – a picture so inspiring that some Americans lawyers have actually decided to copy us. In this age of cultural imperialism and the exercise of hegemonic soft power, this is no less than a miracle. It is the one of those miracles that only true love for a cause can bring about – love which is incomplete without a passionate hope of success, but remains as valuable a sentiment, even when it stays forever unrequited.