From last few years an epidemic is erupting in Pakistan, the epidemic of ‘long march’ and ‘revolution’. Mostly it is the middle class which suffers from it. A blazing rhetoric mobilizes masses with a surging desire for ‘change’ lasting not more than for a few days. Some ‘sage’ from the back channels always exorcises the curse and the epidemic is rooted out in a peaceful manner.
From the long marches of Nawaz Sharif, Imran Khan and now Tahir Ul Qadri, all stood on the promises of revolution. Media projected them while various sections of society especially the middle classes looked up to them as their saviors. At the end they have only brought disillusionment for their supporters now and then. Promises of ‘new world’ and ‘new Pakistan’ could never come true.
The most recent in the series of such marches is the one carried out by Tahir Ul Qadri , an Islamic cleric, self proclaimed ‘Sheikh-ul-Islam’, famous for his fierce oratory who knows how to mesmerize his audience. He drew parallel of his march with that of Mao Zedong. He also made his followers believe that they are fighting for the same cause as that of Imam Hussain, the great martyr in Islamic history who stood against tyranny. Qadri called the present government of Pakistan ‘Yazeedies’ while drawing analogies between Islamabad and Karbala, the latter a hot barren land where Imam Hussain was mercilessly butchered by the Yazeedi army.
While media gave full coverage to this revolutionary march, a little consideration was given to seriously deconstruct these faulty notions of ‘revolution’. To start with, Mao’s Long March would be a good reference point, and then a discussion on the topic of revolution may follow.
The year was 1934, the communists were girdled by the nationalist forces of 50,000 strong Chiang Kai-shek’ troops for more than 2 years. The troops moved step by step with a plan to eventually strangulate the red army of peasants and thus the very existence of Chinese Communist Party. Communists had lost 50% of the territory they had controlled in 1933, and 60,000 red army soldiers were killed. Backed by the American and British imperialists, the nationalists had the clear ability to fully destroy the Communists. This was the time when Mao Zedong decided to retreat towards safe sanctuaries of Yan’an province to evade complete annihilation of Chinese Revolution. Thus on October 1934 some 86,000 people on the Jiangxi-Fujian border broke through the nationalist lines. The caravan included red army soldiers, women and administrative staff. The March travelled on foot for more than a year covering more than 10,000 KMs. It passed through snow covered mountains, rivers, marshes and all sorts of hostile situations. By the end, only 10,000, out of more than 80,000 who started the March, survived to reach the sanctuaries of Yan’an province. The man leading them Mao Zedong also lost his wife (Yang Kiahu), son (Mao Anhong) and brother (Mao Zeten). This is called a ‘long march’.
Similar is the connotation of the word ‘husainiyat’. The way Qadri has used this term is nothing short of an insult to the whole legacy associated with this concept. Hussainis never embrace Yazeedies. Imam Hussain taught us to struggle till the last breath of one’s life. It doesn’t matter even if your brother is being lynched in front of you, your 18 years old son treaded under the horses, your 6 months infant took his last breath in your hand, and then your own body has been cut into pieces. Hussainis never surrender their principles.
Revolution does not mean only changing the faces, it means challenging the class relations too. French Revolution is an example in which power was transferred from the feudal, clergy, and nobility clique to the new emerging middle classes. Similarly in Russian, Chinese and Cuban Revolutions power was transferred from the hands of feudal and capitalist nobles to the working classes. The call for revolution also calls for challenging the existing political and economic structures. It needs to be seen if any version of change may qualify as revolution without considering prevalent semi-capitalist, semi-feudal, aid-based economic models.
The question arises why every time our masses get mesmerized with these mimicries of ‘revolution’. In fact a huge vacuum and a corresponding demand for change do exist. But these are the rightist forces like Qadri and others who hijack these sentiments and divert them to non-issues. In such conditions, the left and liberal forces need to come out of the dogmatic and sectarian tendencies of the past and give an alternate. We need to adapt ourselves in accordance with the requirements of our objective conditions and work for a true revolutionary vision.
—Written by Fahad Rizwan
Fahad Rizwan is a social activist, general secretary of the National Students Federation in Rawalpindi/Islamabad district.
(Published in The Laaltain – Issue 7)