By: Naeem Tahir
What has been happening in Islamabad is unprecedented. Most noticeable is the strength and presence of women in this huge effort by the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) to bring a real change in the country. While the outcome of the protests is not yet known, as I write these lines on August 28, there is no doubt that women in Pakistan have shown their determination and commitment. I have been to the Islamabad protest venues and have met their leaders and supporters.
There is no doubt that the number of supporters is unprecedented. When I wrote my articles ‘Democratic revolution is required — I’ (Daily Times, June 20, 2014) and ‘Democratic revolution is required — II’ (Daily Times, June 21, 2014), I was not aware that such a mass of people was of the same thinking. It is continuous bad governance, nepotism and favouritism that have brought the masses to the edge.
It is Dr Qadri and Imran Khan who had the ability to activate and move the populace. What Dr Tahirul Qadri and Khan are proposing is for the benefit of the country. The message is correct even if some people have differences with personalities. Let us see the message even if we have reservations about the messengers. How can anyone justify the broad daylight massacre of men and women in Model Town on June 17, 2014? How can anyone justify the massive rigging suspected in the previous elections in May 2013? Finally, how can anyone believe that a fair, impartial inquiry will be held under the authority of those who are the suspected culprits? If the suspects are innocent then they should not have any fear of investigations. The reluctance to let impartial investigations take place creates further doubts. Even the first information report (FIR) ordered for recording by the Lahore High Court was thwarted. Why?
The crowd of protesters included thousands of women in both groups. The PTI protesters give the impression of being from middle-income groups and the PAT protesters are largely from lower income groups. However, both have a large number of women, families, men and children who have braved hardship for over two weeks for a ‘cause’. This may not have been possible if women had not contributed in such large numbers. This fact has encouraged men as well. It also provided the media with a convincing and even surprising depth of public support. Government representatives sneered at the number of protesters but that is not the point. It must be understood that in no mass protest can everyone in the nation come onto the streets. Each person present in the marches represents a large number of the members of society. The government has been in denial mode and it will not work. One can see the total determination on the faces of women and men who have obviously burnt their bridges.
No nation can ever progress without the full participation of females in matters of life. Unfortunately, for a long time and even now, sections of our society have tried to suppress women. On the other hand, all records show that the rising force in the country is now women. They perform better in education, they are performing better in professions and have shown greater honesty and integrity. In Bangladesh, the most successful microfinance bank trusted women in extending loans to them and the women responded to that trust. I have always believed that the future of humanity would be better if women shared full responsibility. Men have been unnecessarily burdened since the time of the pharaohs. The concept of male superiority is prevalent. Men took upon themselves more than they should have and loved the macho image. They are now fatigued as a gender and it is good for men to feel that they can share responsibilities. Personally, I have seen that my mother, who was part of the first batch of medical doctors in the subcontinent, helped build up a family I can take pride in. She qualified in the second decade of the 20th century and pioneered education for girls in the family. One can see that in a family where the mother is educated and working, a better family is raised. Women have almost always shared the family’s responsibilities in one way or the other; in villages they all share the work in the fields and at home. They mostly go unacknowledged. But now it is time that the nation, particularly men, learn to respect the contribution of women in the progress of the family and the nation. By this substantial support in a vital national issue of great importance, the women of Pakistan have shown that they are aware and responsible. They have shown that a decadent system is unacceptable and that they must join, and even be the leading force for revolutionary change.
The current protest is on two important issues: killings and rigging. In fact, it is for a much larger cause. It is for better governance and justice. This struggle rejects old fashioned, feudal dominance. Now the requirement is for an efficient state with social justice and economic progress for all, governance according to the contract in the constitution. The constitution of a country is not the 12-page book that Ziaul Haq said is “a piece of paper”. It is a social contract. Constitutions can be changed to meet the needs of the nation by due process but the constitution of a country needs application in full and not in part. The present government and several earlier governments have failed to follow the spirit of the constitution. The present government too is only using it to hide behind and cover its misdeeds. This will not work. The politicians, the establishment and the public must understand this ‘revolution’.
The writer is the former CEO Pakistan National Council of the Arts; chairman Fruit Processing Industries; chairman UNESCO Theatre Institute Pakistan and COO ICTV, USA. He is the author of Melluhas of the Indus Valley 8000 BC to 500 BC. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org