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Mundane Minority Politics

Had the constitution of 1973 existed prior to 1973 and been enforced in its true spirit, we would have had no Bangladesh! And most probably there would have been no violent movements in any part of Pakistan!

By Dr. Khalil Ahmad

Had the constitution of 1973 existed prior to 1973 and been enforced in its true spirit, we would have had no Bangladesh! And most probably there would have been no violent movements in any part of Pakistan!

Basically it is a constitution that binds state authority to protect life, property and natural rights of individual citizens. Without it or in the absence of its implementation, who suffers most is the individual. He finds himself abandoned in a wilderness, lost in a crowd, and forgotten in a collective. It is this predicament that forces him to seek refuge in this or that affiliation.

This depends on a host of personal and non-personal as well as local and non-local factors that which group or class he inclines to ally or merge with. It may be ethnic, like the present Baluchi and Sindhi movements; linguistic, like the Mohajirs’ organizations in Karachi; political, like the Pakistan Peoples Party’s followers; religious, like the Hardcore and Softcore Taliban.

Suppose we have a constitution in force ensuring the fundamental rights of each individual without any discrimination; we have the rule of law treating everyone equally and providing justice; we have an independent judiciary securing fundamental rights to each and every individual citizen. Will we still have individuals allying with or merging their beings in this or that identity? We will, and it is their due right.

An individual enjoying his freedom and life as he wishes is a settled being. He is not at war with himself or others, i.e. society, as especially the present-day religious people are in Pakistan. A state operating strictly under a constitution and protecting this individual from other individuals or groups of individuals acts like a long term guarantee to the security of his and his family’s life, their property, their freedoms, and their future. Through the rule of law is he made to respect other individuals’ freedoms, he learns this, as the Americans and Europeans have, and enjoys it also.

This includes the freedom to associate himself with any entity, be it ethnic or linguistic, political or religious, or merge with it or die for any personality (as some did when Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was hanged) but obviously he has no right to encroach upon and trespass any other individual’s person, property and his freedoms.

That this is not the case in Pakistan no one will deny.

Hence, the minority politics in Pakistan. It was the same minority politics that Muslim League pursued in the united India. Likewise, it was the same not-fundamental-rights-friendly politics that Awami League stood for and won the 1970 elections with, and then secured a Bangladesh. It was the same not-addressing-the-East-Pakistani-individual’s-fundamental-rights politics of the ‘West’ Pakistani government and political parties which forced the individual citizens of the East Pakistan to ally with the Awami League.

For lack of constitutional rights, the individual faces two options: he looks for ways to assert his fundamental freedoms both negatively or positively. It is his individual initiative. It is affirmation of his individuality. Or, he throws himself into nearest available denomination, ethnic or linguistic, political or religious, to negate his individuality, and to lose it into a collective. This may be seeking an ideal or fighting for something he cherishes most. Such an individual is most vulnerable prey for organized groups and we see this in suicide bombers blowing themselves and others to death.

Mundane minority politics (MMP) is all about not the real issues, such as fundamental rights, rule of law. It packs up individuals into various ethnic or linguistic, political or religious minority boxes. It makes them believe they are being oppressed and exploited by a majority. Thus, it breaks the natural alliance of individuals, and puts them at war with each other.

By raising irrelevant issues MMP deflects a fundamental-rights-movement in the making from its real direction to sideways. We have our ‘some Baluchi fellows’ violently asking for independence from Pakistan, though it is not that forceful and supported by the electoral backing like it was in East Pakistan. Some other voices are making their demands within the parameters of 1973 constitution. Surprisingly they too are oblivious of individuals’ fundamental rights in Baluchistan. Sometimes, they focus on provincial autonomy, sometimes on ownership of resources, sometimes injustices done to them by the federal government, and the like.

Also, MMP itself comes to represent and protect interests of the elite classes of the minority. A number of new homelands could never achieve what was due to individuals inhabiting them. (But only in US after 1776, if any. Or in some form in West European states.) In the same homelands, new MMP start and culminate into another homeland. Pakistan gave birth to Bangladesh. Now the remaining Pakistan is again facing MMP in Baluchistan and in some form in Sindh also. Who gains through all the MMP is elite classes. They have another homeland to rule and misappropriate the wealth created by its individuals.

In view of the above, an MMP is justified in demanding a separate homeland only if it fails to achieve for its individuals security of their fundamental rights within the parameters of the existing constitution. Their right to a separate homeland must be honored, if it is supported by majority of its population. This is the Pakistan Principle. It is this principle which created Pakistan out of an MMP when the Muslim League had exhausted all the options to seek these rights within the parameters of one constitution.

Has the Baluchi leadership exhausted all the options to struggle for securing these rights? Or has the Sindhi leadership done every effort to secure the same rights? The writer thinks this is not the case.

However, this does not preclude any MMP or pretend to provide anyone with any excuse to ban or crush on this or that pretext any MMP which aims at achieving a new homeland. The writer feels strongly that such MMP, be it in Baluchistan or in Sindh, or somewhere else in Pakistan, will be an exercise in futility. Better we should give up MMP and start doing Fundamental Rights Politics, FRP, which benefits individual, not elites!

The writer is founder/head of the Alternate Solutions Institute.