The Student Solidarity March: Students Across Pakistan Are Waking Up

Source: Pakistan Today

The progressives students across Pakistan did it. They were not threatened. They were not deterred. They were not intimated… by the threats of authority, by the threats of the state establishment, by the threats of their conformist parents and teachers, and by the threats of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

Never in the living memory of the generations since the 70s, has such a large, broad, and vibrant secular, leftist crowd taking to the streets in Pakistan. It is the kind of student politics that I most certainly missed during my college days and was always looking for. I was looking for a platform to express my secular liberal views but were not finding any like-minded people, let alone allies around me. I am relieved to say today that so many of the young students today cannot say that. The struggle of the leftist activists in Pakistan has made its impact.

Students all across Pakistan, from Karachi and Sindh to Quetta and from Southern Punjab to Lahore and from Islamabad and Peshawar to Gilgit, students came out in great numbers. They made their presence felt and reminded the authorities of what to expect in the future.

The most beautiful part of the march was the participation of Iqbal Lala, the father of martyred secular student Mashaal Khan. Any such march is incomplete without saluting heroes such as Mashaal Khan who have become a symbol of resistance against Islamic fundamentalism and the tyrannical state of Pakistan who collectively murdered them.

 

The progressive students also revived the spirit of Bhagat Singh, an indigenous hero of the War of Independence against the British that the Islamic Republic has completely forgotten.

There still is a long, long way to go for us. This is only the beginning. Still, there were nearly not enough people coming out. Still, the numbers nowhere near matched the injustice and threats faced by the students, women, labor, and minorities in Pakistan. There is still a long way to the restoration of student unions in a country that only appreciates monolithic behavior. There is still a long way to go for improving access to education and better health, or even the right to life and dignity in most parts of Pakistan.

Most importantly, there is a long way to go before the secular left, socialists, and social democrats can become a considerable voting bloc in Pakistan. The ANP in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has always been a start but it is somehow disconnected to the left in the rest of the country.

While many liberal friends were put off by the Marxist and revolutionary slogans in the march, they must never forget the bigger secular, democratic cause, In order for the struggle of the secular left to be more effective, broader coalitions need to be built without sacrificing the principles of social democracy. We are up against the dictatorship of the military establishment and the ignorant, obscurantist tyranny of the Islamic Republic, the ignorant rule of the PTI and conservative Punjab, and the violent Islami Jamiat Talba. It is in the best interest of all center liberals, secular liberals to progressive left and socialists to unite to build a secular coalition, just like in the recent Israeli elections where Kachol Lavan appeared as a major coalition.

Zia must be turning in his grave on this day because he did all in his power to destroy the left from reemerging. But on this historic day, it has. Who would have thought that these visuals would be possible in the 80s.

Congratulations, progressive students of Pakistan, you have made history.

You are waking up. You are alive.

The Absurdity of Ideological Radicalism

Source: youthlinemedia,org – EPA/NOAH BERGER

As I continue to age, I have learned something very important about politics. A lot of our ridiculous, unwavering, uncompromising political positions come out of ignorance and being completely out of touch.

This is something that has made me appreciate people evolving politically over the years and that is why changing parties is not such a cardinal sin in my eyes.

I cannot possibly even come close to talking down to anyone reading these lines as I have held many of these extreme positions in the past myself, and possibly I am also holding quite a few at this point in time. It is easy to dismiss your rival political position as ignorant and condemn your opponents as unintelligent and immoral, but as we go closer, the many shades of gray reveal themselves out of the black and white.

My absolute ignorance of the legalized trophy hunting economics helped me realize how a distant observer fails to see its contribution. Even though I still morally oppose hunting wildlife. However, a trip to Gilgit-Baltistan and speaking to the WWF officials who facilitate legal trophy hunting in the area would shed light on how the local communities benefit from it. And how the activity helps preserve certain species, contrary to the impression of the knee-jerk activist. You just can’t ignore the facts.

I have only recently become more appreciative of military interventionism of the United States, despite obvious disasters such as the Vietnam War and the 2003 Iraq War. And even bypassing the United Nations Security Council in some cases because in humanitarian disasters such as Bosnia, Darfur, Kuwait, and Mosul, when engaging with bureaucracy and particularly the Chinese and Russian votes at the Security Council could cost lives. At the same time, I can tell what a disaster being a blind hawk with neighbors such as India and Afghanistan can prove to be in an underdeveloped region constantly under the threat of a nuclear accident and in desperate need of free trade. And this by no means implies that cutting defense budgets would be any wiser.

I have learned over the years through the wisdom of my friends and by trying to stand in the shoes of struggling families, despite having a similar background, that safety nets matter. I have learned that you don’t exactly run a government like a business and oftentimes debt and stimulus are a necessity for economic sustenance. It cannot be emphasized how vital quality public education with critical reasoning is and how necessary an effective healthcare system is to the people. However, it is also important to recognize how the private sector can add value to both these spheres of social economy, especially medical research.

Flying routes that nobody else would fly has offered me an insight that perhaps having a national flag carrier is not a bad idea after all. But I do not have any doubts about private professionals managing it in a much more efficient manner. And that it is important to raise the alarm when far right partisans make efforts to either privatize or liquidate necessary government services such as public libraries and prisons. At the same time realizing that privatization of certain corporations unrelated to the government would be a better idea, as in the case of power supply companies and other for-profit corporations. I have also come to appreciate how arts and media education require close financial and promotional patronage from the government to thrive. Believe me, artists earn it.

It is important to weigh the facts of the world before becoming a Marxist revolutionary or a Libertarian anarcho-capitalist troll supporting the gold standard. Before completely condemning capitalism and the current global financial system as pure evil, we must consider the global prosperity and the technological advancement this economic model has brought about. It has made the rich richer alright but has significantly improved freedom of access and quality of life for more people than ever before. At the same time, we must never drop our watch of the shady practices in the business and industrial world and make all the strict measures and regulations to protect the environment, the consumer and the workforce rights.

The fact of the matter is that we live in a world that is far more complex than any ideology could possibly encompass. There is little use in investing ourselves in radical ideas and extremes so much that our idealism and passion turn into venomous cynicism and defeatism. College students are particularly prone to nonsense in their earlier years of high passion and idealism. While time corrects your course over the years, a consideration of more pragmatic options over what makes you feel good could always lead to a balanced and more productive worldview. And above all, cements your faith in democracy.

We need to see through ideological radicalism for its absurdity. This might help us build more bridges between people while getting things done.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.