The people of Pakistan must decide on their own what they want for themselves
Any intervention in changing hearts and minds of society, be it liberal or conservative, is contrary to democratic values and freedom of choice and expression
The narrative of Pakistan is an approach which is top down and not bottom up. By top down it means that the state enforces the narrative on its own without taking pulse from society and institutional mechanism is bypassed. This practice has made the whole narrative insecure. Whereas a secure and sustainable narrative can only survive if public supports the perspective and that makes inroads in an organic fashion. Pakistan’s civil-military elite have always stressed that since Pakistan is facing great challenges and because of extraordinary circumstance the state will have to take extraordinary measures to jell society. So fragility of circumstances and public’s non interest led leaders to develop the top down approach.
So Pakistan, as a state, has been interventionist in deciding its affairs and matters of national importance. The public has not been involved in decision making. I will justify my argument with two examples. First, legislation at the national level has been done by military regimes with support of so called democratic leadership which normally were considered king’s parties. Second, political parties which contest elections and reach parliament normally do not allow dissenting opinion in parliament so even public representatives have limitations while being inside legislative forums. So the public has been ignored and this is because of revolving door democracy, hybrid regimes, absence of intra party elections and lack of democratic culture.
Be it religion, politics, culture or social values people are dictated to and the state somehow intervenes to establish norms and values under official tutelage. This intervention in establishing norms and values in every field has disturbed an organic outcome of all these behaviours. So when the state reiterates that we have threat to ideology of Pakistan and national security is in danger it means the very narrative which has official patronage does not have roots in society. Because a narrative which has roots in society cannot crumble so easily. So what matters is having an organic national narrative which is very much coming from public aspirations and not from the elite’s vested interests.
Issues of high and low politics need to be separated for broader cooperation which is necessary in this highly interdependent and complex world. Since Burhan Vani, a young Kashmiri who represented youth of Indian Occupied Kahsmir (IOK) was killed there has been perpetual instability in IOK. Obviously tension between India and Pakistan has sparked as well because of the Uri attack, which is purely indigenous anger of Kashmiri youth. India bitterly got exposed in the subsequent surgical strike drama. High politics is at peak but most damage has been done to low politics which is culture, sports and people to people interaction.
PEMRA has banned Indian movies, dramas and songs. Well this is a decision which the public does not like. Majority of Pakistan enjoys Indian movies and songs. Such a decision will hit Pakistan economically because now people rather than getting Indian stuff legally will buy it illegally. In the 21st century it is next to impossible to cut cultural and entertainment ties. This is the state’s interventionist behaviour which does not have roots in public. Jingoism and hyper nationalism must have proportionate equilibrium.
Recently a PTI lawmaker from Sindh demanded dance be banned in private schools in Sindh. Because it violates the norms and values of our society and this dance is contrary to religious values. Looking at this, private school association directed schools to end classes of dance. Later the chief minister of Sindh gave a statement that the provincial government did not support the ban on dance in schools. Responding to this, the private association of schools in Sindh said we only discourage vulgar dance but classical and Sufi performances are allowed. This is very much interventionist attitude. Do state and so called private associations really think parents who are paying heavy prices in private schools ignore their kids and do not know moral values?
Recently a “push up” issue by Pakistan cricket team after winning matches or completing hundred runs was considered a serious civil military divide. Lawmakers from Pakistan Muslim League N stressed that Pakistan cricket team must offer special prayers rather than push ups. According to lawmakers the world was not getting a positive message from the push up whereas players were giving tribute to their trainers. Later on PCB executive committee chairman, Najam Sethi, clarified that celebrations are the discretion of players. It is beyond understanding when micromanagement from the state will end in sports. Politicisation of sports has damaged sports a lot.
Any intervention in changing hearts and minds of society, be it liberal or conservative, is contrary to democratic values and freedom of choice and expression. The people of Pakistan must decide on their own what they want for themselves and for coming generations. Any state which will be interventionist in deciding choices for society without having consent of it will make masses uncomfortable.