Plebeian states


Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

The people of the world are segregated into Patriarchs and Plebeians, and this distinction is reflected among states as well. They too are classified according to their standing and rank in the hierarchy. Our status can be determined by the way we are dealt with by those who lord it over the world and with what degree of condescension they treat our sovereignty and the rulers here. Yes, the very same rulers who try to portray that the fate of the entire Universe hinges on their precious and eternal presence in the seat of power.

I have sought Sheikh Saudi’s wisdom to help us understand the dichotomy of our sovereignty, a sovereignty which is rigorously and ruthlessly practised by the rulers against the people but meekly and timorously surrendered and relinquished to their overlords.

In the preface of Gulistan he says:

Gar Che Shatir Bood Kharoos Ba Jang

Che Zanad Pesh Baaz Rooeen Chang

Gurba Sher Ast Dar Giraftan e Mush

Laik Mush Ast Dar Masaf e Palang.

It means,

However brave a fighter the Cock is

A fierce Falcon it doesn’t tangle with

The cat is a lion for the mouse

But for the lion it is itself a mouse.

A hikayat by Saadi in Bostan will further elaborate our standing in the pecking order hierarchy in the world. ‘A village elder accompanied by his son suddenly came upon the army and entourage of an Emperor on the move. The son was deeply impressed by the heavy armour and the finest clothes. His father had become pale and weak at the sight of that immense power and splendour. Understanding his father’s predicament he said, ‘Why do you lose hope father dear, after all you too are a power unto yourself in your village and you shouldn’t tremble and quiver.’ He sighed and replied ‘No doubt I am a ruler and a power but only when in the village and my powers are limited therein. You should realize we are not in the village where my fiat holds sway. In the presence of the Emperor we register nowhere’ ’

‘Sovereignty’, ‘the writ of the state’ and the ‘national interest’ are the handy excuses with which the rights of the people are trampled upon. This treatment is reserved only for them, ‘the people’ who need to be ‘fixed up’ and sorted out according to the will of the rulers. No regrets are expressed over Akbar Bugti’s murder, no remorse expressed over the ghastly murders of 50 people on May 12th and no compunction shown over the illegal suspension of the Chief Justice of Pakistan.

The Baloch, Sindhis and dissenters of all kinds are on the receiving end of the wrath of the rulers. Abdul Nabi Bangalzai, former BSO Chairman, is in prison since February 2001 on trumped up charges as is Alam Pirukani since September 2000, Munir Mengal, the MD of Baloch Voice TV, since April 4, 2006, Dr Safdar Sarki is missing, as are innumerable others. The trend of enforced disappearances and victimization of defiant politicians like Akhtar Mengal and Javed Hashmi continues relentlessly and ruthlessly.

For the people the state’s retribution, reprisal and reckoning is in its severest form, but when the Patricians violate our sovereignty as in the Bajaur and Damadola bombings, there isn’t even a peep or a whimper in protest. They lose both the tongue and the spine then.

Even when dealing with the moneyed Gulf States, who are patricians by dint of greenbacks, ‘sovereignty’ is a mere word not even worth the paper it is scribbled upon. The rulers kowtow to them obsequiously and do their damnedest to please them. They are singularly committed to appeasing them. More like Saudi’s cat in front of a lion or the village head in the presence of the Emperor.

Remember when the PM soon after being elected had taken a huge entourage to the US. At the airport the leading lights of our government were subjected to a humiliating and degrading body search, which was quite shamelessly explained away as routine. Even Sharifuddin Pirzada had to take off his cap three times in the freezing weather to satisfy the searchers. I hope mentioning him doesn’t violate the latest guidelines regarding ‘sanctity of institutions’ because he deserves that status after serving so many illegal regimes.

In contrast, Mr. Wasi Zafar’s son, with impunity, can manhandle a citizen who questioned their right to pass the immigration counter without checking. Yes the cat among the mice is a lion. The village elders act thus in their village.

The General-President has repeatedly said that he would seek re-election from the present assemblies and he will continue to wear the uniform as well. This was reiterated by the 101 Corps Commanders meeting recently. But it seems the US State Department either did not know or considered it a lot of hot air as the statement its spokesperson of June 12th shows.

Mr. Sean McCormack said on June 12, ‘I understand President Musharraf has said in public that he intends to run in that election.’ Then he turned to the uniform issue, recalling that General Musharraf had already pledged to ‘put aside’ his uniform if he continues in political life.

‘And we take him at his word at that and we would expect him to follow through on his commitments,’ said the US official.

The spine and spunk possessed by the rulers was thoroughly exposed as no rebuttal was forthcoming. The village elder has to heed the words of the patronizing Emperor because his fiat in the village (banana republic) depends on the will of the Emperor.

Then on the 13th we were regaled by the trip of Mr. Richard Boucher, who came to personally deliver the message conveyed by the spokesman. His trip and utterances should leave no doubt about who the real masters of our fate are.

The heading in a national daily on the June 14: ‘US pressuring Musharraf to hold fair polls: Boucher’, says it all. The news states, he said ‘he had met the chief election commissioner earlier in the day and would examine (yes sir examine) the fresh voters list prepared by the Election Commission of Pakistan on Thursday.’

Without elaborating, Mr. Boucher told the politicians that General Musharraf had made some commitments on the issue of free and fair elections, the uniform and war on terrorism, and the US believed he would fulfil them.

The power that the village elder wields in comparison to the Emperor or the position of a cat in front of a lion is very well elucidated by his trip. Americans are the worst guests possible. They are insulting and arrogant but we welcome them with open arms. It shows how sovereign we are and how we are viewed by the masters and mentors. It seems they come here to keep reminding us that we are plebeians and should not have wrong notions about our status.

Talking about notions, I suppose we have absolutely warped and absurd views of our position in the world and these views are reinforced by the rulers’ naïve friends. I was amazed to read a news report of June 8. Imam and Khateeb of Al Masjid Al Haram Mohammad bin Abdullah as-Subayyal has said, ‘Don’t forget that Pakistan is a great Muslim country, a fort of Islam, as described by the late king Faisal, and which indeed is considered a protective armour to the Muslims. Your country enjoys a distinguished and coveted place in the Islamic Ummah as it possesses a weapon of which the enemies of our Ummah and religion are terrified, so you need to protect this blessing and be united against them.’

Terrified of the weapon we possess! Terrified, my foot; this weapon doesn’t even register in the frame of reference of those whom it was supposed to terrify. Israel certainly is not wetting its pants while bombing and murdering the Palestinians in the nine long years that this ‘terrifying weapon’ has been in the possession of the ‘fort of Islam’. Nor has it stopped the US from invading Iraq and Afghanistan and bullying other Muslim countries. Will someone kindly tell us when is this ‘terrifying weapon’ going to show its terrifying effect ‘Or is it only supposed to terrify the people here’ Weapons do not turn plebeians into patricians because mercenaries too have weapons.

What use and purpose is this terrifying weapon if the US dictates to us and bombs our territories? Even the Maltese foreign minister on behalf of the EU tells the General that he should doff his uniform and the reply is an insipid, ‘he would not do anything unconstitutional’. So it seems that the US is out to skin General Musharraf, the second skin only though, but no one knows how good they are at skinning second skins; they have an outstandingly excellent record of flaying the first skins. Remember Noriega, Saddam and many others who, once having outlived their shelf-life for US interests, were disposed off.

Be under no illusions that all these glorious things like election by new assemblies, transparency of elections and doffing of uniform are about to happen; they won’t because that will not serve the purpose of the Patricians. Plebs we are and plebs they want us to remain. Democracy and Patriarch status can only be achieved by the people through their own efforts.

Tail piece: The above was written before Negroponte’s visit but our plebeian status doesn’t change with his more diplomatic language on the issues mentioned above. His visit also explains why it is that Benazir has been sitting on the fence in this struggle of the judiciary, terming it a conspiracy but not telling who the conspirators are. I think the conspiracy is against the people, a conspiracy being hatched by Musharraf, Benazir and the US to deny the people their inalienable rights.

This article was first published on 19 June 20007

The writer has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He tweets at mmatalpur and can be contacted at mmatalpur@baluchsarmachar

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