Friday, March 04, 2011

A Way Out for Pakistanis

"Cowing down in front of extremism or being apologetic on their demands is what we have been doing. Abdicating responsibility and state power by agreeing to the demands of men of evil that block our streets to celebrate the murderer of a brave man who stood up for a poor Christian farmhand is what we have been doing."

There is a way out of this. It is not something Pakistanis accept easily. I've only witnessed it once, in 1971, when an anguished Pakistani diplomat consulted with my father about what to do as the Pakistani Army went on a rampage in his homeland. He decided to work to create Bangladesh as the only alternative to accepting mass murder imposed on his people by the government he had sworn allegiance to...

You have to assume the attitude that you, personally, are responsible for the fate of yourself, your family, and your neighbors. That means taking your own words seriously: the government has abdicated responsibility so its all up to you.

You have to organize. You'll have to safeguard your home somehow. You'll have to make like-minded friends.

Next you'll have to start building your own structure of self-government. Don't ask anyone's permission: I suggest you congregate together somewhere safe and set up your own democratic system. The Mayflower Compact is a good place to start. Ignore most external government regulations but continue paying your bills.

Very soon you'll be noticed. If the police object to your community you can point out that your democratic credentials give you a greater standing than their masters. Challenge them to follow the rules of your new community instead. What, would they rather be commanded by the Taliban?

Soon your community system will gather the loyalty of surrounding neighborhoods. Local politicians from the existing government will try to control you with kindness. You must reject them all. Your legitimacy is from popular support and the existing politicians have soiled themselves. You want to remain as clean as possible.

As your political sphere expands so will your responsibilities and the doors open to more power in the existing structure. I'm afraid you must reject these as well. Pakistan works by rule-of-force with a smear of democracy on top, all lubricated by corruption. My guess is that only the establishment of bicameral legislatures, democratic accountability, and checks-and-balances can "fix" the country. That will happen only if you make a successful start. If all goes well existing politicians will seek YOUR support. At this stage the new democratic system will gain legitimacy and the loyalty of the existing bureaucracy. At this point you'll probably want to call a Convention to draw up a new Constitution to formalize the changes.

(This route is similar to the route taken by the United States between 1776, when the American Colonies declared independence from Britain under the unwieldy Articles of Confederation, and 1789, when after a dozen-plus years of experience the most successful elements of state government together with the perceived necessity for greater central government helped craft the U.S. Constitution. In the end, the President of the Continental Congress surrendered the little power he had without a peep.)

I'm sure you'll reject this recipe the first time you read it so I urge you to read it again, ponder, and consider. It takes a lot of courage to step forward, and ordinary Pakistanis don't do this easily. But do you really want to spend your life "cowing down in front of extremism"? Or will you flee abroad, suspecting in your heart that in your absence your homeland will take further steps towards assured nuclear destruction?

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