Malik Nasir Mahmood Aslam feels the confusion spread all around
The events of the last few weeks have pushed the Pakistani society from its perennial state of confusion to a point where it looks thoroughly bemused. It appears clearly that no segment of Pakistani society was ready for the kind of result that came out of the intense polarisation and was surprised to the extent it is allowed to feel the effect of the topsy-turvy for the turn of events in the country. The surprise element clearly pointed out to the inadequacy of information and instruction that makes a social system properly equipped to handle all kinds of changes whether they are good or bad. This lack unfortunately has been ever-present in the Pakistani societal make-up and it has become extremely difficult to keep the social sentiments on an even keel. The result is the confounding mix of hot and cold reactions to the events that took place recently making the society to go in a hopeless repetition of clichés that pose no useful purpose. It is a lot to say about the resilience of Pakistan’s social structure that it has survived waves after waves of despondent events that otherwise may have broken the back of many social systems.
The typical makeup of Pakistani society points out that it is still rated to be in a nascent stage as it is still trying to overcome the structural dynamics of state formation, legitimisation and consolidation. Right from the outset the Pakistani state had adopted national security concerns dictating political decision making with the result that the contours of the society were shaped according to the prevailing environment charactarised by overcentralisation and authoritarian exercise of power. Despite such setbacks the Pakistani society has gradually progressed to become a system caring for the family, catering for the wellbeing of communities, endeavoring to alleviate poverty and attempting to spread welfare services.
While looking at Pakistani society it is imperative to recollect that the idea of society has ancient roots in human civilization, most potently, in the basic necessity of man to survive and cohabit. From the initial days, human communities required cooperative behaviour for survival and progression. Society was organised where a need for improvement occurred and as a result, people with varied backgrounds and interests combined as a particular whole to achieve their desired goals. Society is defined in numerous ways: the most common understanding is of civil society as an intermediate sphere between individual/family and state, though the exact ingredients of this sphere vary. In its ultimate essence society emerged as a socially sought-after substitute both to the state of nature and the heightened individualism and serves as protection against the command of people by the state and indeed as a counterbalance which helped to keep the state responsible and effective.
Looking down deeply it transpires that society is a cogent platform for citizens to actively work to meet their own requirements, whether in terms of freedom of expression or in providing services for their own members. The traditional subgroups constituting the Pakistani cumulative society were biradari, panchayat and jirga comprising religious leaders, village landlords and town notables. These arrangements articulated, expressed and mobilised public outlook. Additionally Pakistani society is strengthened by the religious notions underpinning its structure and movement and they are the institutions of Zakat and Khairat (alms). The overweening factors governing Pakistani society are based upon the principles of Huqooq-ul-Allah and Huqooq-ul-Ebad.
When Pakistan came into being, it was a nation occupied in the process of becoming unified. Regrettably, nation building was sacrificed at the altar of state building under the pretext of pressing problems and state insecurities. Hence, right from its source the state was strengthened with the support of bureaucratic authority at the cost of civil society. The societal groups however kept on increasing heir validity and their expansion included wider welfare activities. Nevertheless, disappointment of state interventions and policies in plummeting rural poverty and improving livelihoods as well as in delivering vital services to the society resulted in the developing of civil society consciousness. Civil Society has in many ways filled the space formed due to gloomy performance and apathy of government towards a range of developmental activities.
It is often observed that the Pakistani society is in dire need of sensitisation about various social evils and the legitimate rights of the poor and deprived community. In addition, it has been observed that the core segment of Pakistani society, the Civil Society has largely operated in the reactive mode in the country. It is energized periodically to react to the state’s excesses and dispose-off corrupt and ineffective governments. For short durations, its divergent groups and components come together to confront a regime that becomes too self-serving or unresponsive. The need however is that this core element should assert its voice as a sustainable body operating according to deeply embedded principles of communal welfare instead on the basis of sporadic political and social events.
On the other hand it is duly acknowledged that Pakistan being part of the Third World has several socio-economic setbacks, requiring adequate government attention. The poor performance of the Pakistani state in delivering vital public goods and services in spheres of education, health care and security is moderately compensated by the flourishing tradition of civil society to a certain extent. Considering that Pakistan’s civil society works in the fields of advocating human rights, including professional groups, trade unions, social welfare organisations and faith based organisations it would be relevant to fine-tune their strategy to reach out and engage with communities and increase awareness among marginal sections of the society. And at the same time, during this stage, the idea of civil society also met its evolutionary phase in Pakistan. The budding dominant factions comprised the pastoral feudal and urban bourgeoisie who in some way managed to conserve a political supremacy and came to wield their political authority.
The recent crisis that was not only political in nature but also has strong signs of social dissent that have come through owing to the neglect shown to the socio-political mores by successive government manipulated by a nexus of dominant segments of the country. These segments are widely condemned to be extremely self-absorbed and is unwilling learn from the past mistakes and is unwilling to change the way it lives and works. The difficulties confronted by Pakistani social matrix currently is due to the flaws of the state structure that are now clearly visible as there was very brittle economic and political infrastructure limiting the purpose of civil society mostly limited to oppositional role. It is accordingly observed that Pakistani society looks like two corresponding universes, one made of the urban, modern, liberal, cultured and image conscious while the other consists of ethnic, sectarian, tribal and clan based organisations that promote traditional values. What is worrying is the fact that there is no discernible effort to gel these two diverse segments of the population so that the process of national harmony starts tom address such differences. It is a tedious difficulty to face but the results of the lack of such a process or its subsequent failure may keep the Pakistani society in a state of flux as became evident by the recent upheaval. The Weekender