The ‘Traitors’ Of Pakistan Will Turn Out To Be Its Saviours
The macabre scene of abducting a senior journalist Matiullah Jan from Islamabad in broad daylight is a redolent of a dark era and a mindset which we call fascism, writes Talimand Khan.
Notwithstanding the innovations and prevarications meant as disguise, the fundamentals and the footprints remain the same. The macabre scene of abducting a senior journalist from Islamabad in broad daylight is a redolent of a dark era and a mindset which we call fascism.
In front of a school where Matiullah Jan’s wife is teaching, a group of men donning black shirts homologous to the insignia of Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) appeared, while the other were in plain clothes. The CCTV footage of the school evinces that Jan had been manhandled by the group before being forced into a car. When the cars sped off, the CCTV footage shows a white, supposedly Toyota, truck with the signature flashing police lights on its top.
Along with the timely social media outrage by the journalists and wider civil society including politicians, the CCTV footage perhaps played central role in the recovery of Jan approximately 12 hours after his abduction. Otherwise, in the past, the victims of such sting operations either did not return alive or were harmed by the abductors. Journalist Saleem Shahzad’s body was found following his abduction and SP Tahir Dawar also did not make it out alive. Journalist Umar Cheema was badly tortured during his captivity. Thus, the CCTV footage proved Jan’s lucky star which denied his tormentors the luxury of plausible deniability.
However, there is a little difference between the tactics of the 20th century Italian fascism and the current regime in Pakistan. The Italian fascists had a declared or notified paramilitary of Black Shirts to oppress, suppress and even eliminate the dissenters and opposition. The Pakistani brand of Fascism is practicing its revised version wherein the core apparatus is invisible but subtly penetrated in the entire state apparatus and using its paraphernalia as front and cover.
Although the term ‘fascism’ is now usually used as a pejorative, the mindset still lurches in the shadow. Fascists believed that ‘liberal democracy is obsolete and regarded the complete mobilisation of society under a totalitarian one-party state as necessary to prepare a nation for armed conflict and to respond effectively to economic difficulties. Such a state is led by a strong leader – such as a dictator and a martial government.
Moreover, fascists employed the mélange of fear psychosis and an illusion of national glory. One of their main reference points was the gloomy past wherein Italy had gone under disintegration and fractured unity and the contemporary political and economic disparity between North and South Italy. The sense of deprivation was causing wide fissures in the unity of the state.
But the problem was, what was the remedy to cure Italy had been dubbed by the fascists as poison. The pre WW II Italy was in dire need of national consensus through liberal democracy, judicious distribution of political power and resources between the north and south, and investing resources and mobilising the population toward industrialisation and economic productivity instead of militarisation and jingoism. Alas! This strategy could lead Italy to a cherished prosperity and glory but cannot serve the vested interests of the fascists power hungry junta. Any dissenting voice opposing fascism had been crushed brutally but what the fascists did to Italy in the name of unity and glory is now history. At the end, those dissenters saved Italy from its utter destruction.
Now come to Pakistan, the time, terminologies and tactics might be changed but the core mindset is the same. The powers-that-be employ the fear psychosis that the state is facing a perpetual existential threat from known and unknown ‘inimical forces’. The dismemberment of Pakistan in 1971 – although the outcome of the very mindset which labelled the remedy as poison – had further reinforced this mantra.
Besides, Pakistan is a multi-ethnic and cultural state with resentments and complains of political and economic disparities. The remedy of state fortification and national integration lies in a federal democratic system of government with politically and economically autonomous federating units, the supremacy of the constitution and sovereignty of the parliament. However, this scheme can strengthen the federation but leaves no room for the few to have unaccountable power.
Therefore, the powers-that-be, like the fascists, runs in the opposite direction. They also believe in a unitary totalitarian state controlled by a single powerful institution, mobilising the population and resources only for militarisation and conflict preparation for illusive glory without a sound economic base. Intrinsically, this state project stands at the cost of industrialisation and economic well-being of the citizens.
Apparently presented in the cover of abstract concept of national unity and glory reinforced through black propaganda, it actually serves sectional vested interests. Inherently, such state project is nothing but a chimera, and therefore averse to the arch light. Whoever, trying to shed light upon the chimera will get a knock on his/her door by the proverbial black shirts.
But, at the end the black shirts were overpowered by the disillusioned people of Italy. Those were the same people whom were once brainwashed, indoctrinated and fed with populist slogans through propaganda. The traitors of yesterday emerged as the great patriots of today.
The author is a political analyst based in Islamabad.