The Politics of Shipping Containers

Source: Dawn

Source: Dawn

A government is supposed to protect the interest of its public. But what to do if it becomes the biggest hurdle in their way?

Now for the uninitiated, the politics of shipping containers probably sounds like manipulating the trade at the port, not that that was never a problem, but these shipping containers are contributing to the economy around a thousand miles from the shore. In the federal capital and in a very different way too.

We had all suffered the consequences of the blockade during the 2014 sit-in protest by PTI and PAT.  Now it is time to brace ourselves again to dread getting out on the roads and to find our way out of the gridlock. The question is, who has the time and money? No matter which side you are on, you would be forced to either stay home or join the political tamasha.

Can you blame the entire problem on the PTI and Sheikh Rasheed protests? Probably you can, because the containers were not there a couple of days ago. But here they are now. Still, they are not put into place by them. The fact of the matter is that the government can possibly handle this situation in another way. Imposing Section 144 is not the solution to every problem.

So I wonder if it is the fault of the protesters or the Federal Interior Ministry itself that people like me cannot go to work when they should be able to on a regular weekday. Of course, we are not fully aware of the reasons why shipping containers are used to block roads, perhaps to block suicide bombing trucks, who knows? But ever since these blockades have started appearing on our roads, the lives of the people of the twin cities have never been the same.

While the party in power uses shipping containers to block access from roads, the one in the opposition would use it as a stage to prolong, if not perpetuate, the misery. PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s recent call to shut down the capital is just one such example, which has already sent the stock market crashing even when the actual sit-in protest has not taken place yet. To add insult to injury, he has decided to challenge the orders from the Islamabad High Court forbidding the shutdown.

The fact of the matter is that the people want to get on with their lives and are sick and tired of the storms of made-up revolutions that our political leaders like to stir in a teacup. Clearly, most of the people reject the politics of shipping containers, something which could even be a threat to our fragile democracy. But like always, this silent majority remains without a voice.

What is even worse is that the government that warns protesters of refraining from interrupting public life is doing all it can to make things miserable for them. This is what the politics in Pakistan have come down to, only to strengthen the ignorant belief that democracy is not fit for a “country like Pakistan.” Whatever that means.

Perhaps we cannot get past the days of tear gas because we have not evolved from rioting and destroying to the peaceful protest that is often met with ridicule in our society. Perhaps we would really attain the ideals that we speak so fondly of when we really start supporting peaceful, liberal democratic values on the ground and learn to respect the democratic process.

Out of all the rights of the people that the government is responsible to uphold, perhaps the most underestimated in Pakistan is the freedom to access. People are simply too willing to give too much for too little. This reflects the way our government thinks and it also offers an insight into our minds as well. This probably means that our days of living in an authoritarian state are not over and neither is the will to resist it. Or if things have improved indeed, we have still not been able to shake off the hangover from our past of dictatorships.

I hope some day our protesters would learn to make their point without blocking roads and that our governments could restore order without taking any lives.

Is it too much to ask?

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.
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The Pragmatist’s Resolution to the Gaza Conflict

Source: Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images/Vox.com

Source: Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images/Vox.com

If you are sick to your stomach of the recurrent, and I repeat recurrent, Gaza conflict, well you are not alone. The episodes of this conflict are bound to occur after a small period and the tragedies will only grow worse with time.

The Hamas control of Gaza Strip and the consequent blockade is not a point of equilibrium and is unsustainable. This is why the conflict keeps on escalating every two years, or so it seems.

If Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ends the conflict now, and if you are realistic, it would only mean one thing. We are going to see another Gaza episode two years from now, and maybe sooner.

Did more than 60 Israeli soldiers die for a nothing campaign?

I am sure Israelis are sick of it, and you can be very sure that it is a matter of survival for the people of Gaza.

The most dreadful thing about the nature of this conflict is that neither Hamas nor the Israeli leadership will care for the human tragedy. They say they would, but we all know what to expect. And probably this war is one that has made so many civilians vulnerable more than any conflict zone in recent history.

This is why there are very strong arguments for relieving Gaza of Hamas control. And to me, this is the pragmatist’s resolution to the current Gaza conflict. It is not a permanent solution, far from it, but it is a start toward a better life.

In a way, Israel has been presenting this proposition, which is evident by the way the conflict has escalated. The world seems to be largely OK with it. Therefore, the American, the European and Egyptian sanctions on the Gaza Strip. Nobody wants to see Hamas in Gaza Strip.

The problem is that most pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel protesters simply do not find Hamas a problem. Good for their moral high ground, bad for the pursuit of any resolution.

So what would kicking out Hamas of Gaza mean? Better lives, open borders, no embargoes and no war. There would still be Israeli occupation, which means that there would be no freedom, but it surely could mean no war.

Or alternatively, handing over the administrative control to the Palestinian authority, while the IDF remains in charge of border security. Well, because we know as a plain fact that the Palestinian Authority is simply incapable of it. That’s why Hamas occupied Gaza in the first place.

And there is a reason why Hamas is not an acceptable party to peace. The kind of freedom that Hamas wants, that is to end the occupation of land where Israel currently exists & of Jerusalem, is not acceptable. Moreover, their charter is pretty much about the annihilation of Israel and the Jews, so case closed.

This is why the Gaza Palestinians who are not insistent on a two state solution that some in Israeli right are blocking are a part of the problem. Not seeking compromise under the given circumstances is what blocks peace in the Middle East and intensifies the tribalism of the conflict.

And we know that this conflict is all about moral dilemmas and not as much about logic, as explained in this article.

Then again, Palestinians who want freedom would never favor Israeli occupation of Gaza. They’d rather become martyrs to present their case. And the politics never ends and neither do the killings. While I sympathize with their cause, I wonder if the Hamas way is the best way.

But the greatest tragedy of Gaza, as in any war, is the individual. Someone who should not have suffered due to a political conflict.

But nationalism is blind to the individual. It always has been.