Editorial: Ramblings of a digital, armchair warrior

Sabin Muzaffar shares her two cents on desanctifying democracy in Pakistan.
Ramblings of a digital, armchair warrior

Sitting thousands of miles away in a land of privilege and safety, one might easily be labeled an armchair digital warrior. Taking refuge and solace (perhaps) in the cliché, pen is mightier than the sword, an attempt must be made to find some semblance of sanity during these dark, chaotic times in the land of the ‘pure’.

Regardless of being glued to the news, trying to absorb the horrors ensued on democracy and basic human rights or turning your head the other way – a blind eye in utter naivete. It affects not one but all. These are truly harrowing times marked with polarization, friends becoming foes, unbridled violence and misgovernance – if there had been any governance in the first place since inception!

One is most certainly reminded of a time when East Pakistan transitioned into Bangladesh. Friends becoming foesengulfed in the smog of vitriol propped up by propaganda, mis- and disinformation – now and always. Politics may be bad, problematic, true; then again it is made worse through the intervention by stakeholders who should only be there to protect and serve!

It would not be untrue to claim that citizens of Pakistan have had a love-hate relationship with its military ‘junta’. The media has always been into an overdrive with its hyper-patriotic content reeking of pseudo-moralistic stance. Masses have historically been engorged with propaganda on the pretext of guaranteeing security from external threats. All the while internally infected and in a comatose state with the cadaverous pathogen of vast economic upheavals, political corruption, and structural violence – to name but a few.

Junta, the military, has always been right in the center of it all from the very beginning with coups, takeovers, martial laws and decades of overt as well as covert military rule, essentially deposing and ‘desanctifying’ democracy. Voltaire had rightly said and certainly rings a familiar bell: ‘where some states have an army, the Prussian (read Pakistani) Army has a state’. Let that sink in, if it hasn’t already over the 75+ years of ‘independence’.

But what does it all mean for the common citizen? It means turning one against the ‘other’ through mass ideological polarization, crackdowns on citizens’ basic human rights, nurturing as well as weaponizing militarized machismo and hegemonic masculinity, among other things.

With yet another ouster of an elected prime minister, on any excuse, who had but a few more months left before the next elections. Things can never look good when it comes to democracy. Case in point and the end result: the current dire state of affairs! And if things couldn’t get any worse, those in power vowed to open more anti-terrorism courts to counter violent street protests (many would debate where the violence stemmed from) and the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) indicating the Pakistan military’s intention in a press release to bring ‘arsonists’ to trial under the Pakistan Army Act and Official Secret Act.

Trying civilians in a military court not only goes against international laws which Pakistan has signed and ratified. It is according to Amnesty International, a flagrant disregard for due process, lack of transparency, coerced confessions, and executions after grossly unfair trials.

To reiterate, politics may be bad, problematic, true; then again it is made worse through the intervention by stakeholders who should only be there to protect and serve!

But then again, one only has to turn back history pages to find numerous examples including public floggings during General Zia-ul Haq’s time or going even way back to the critical Hamoodur Rahman Report that assessed and unveiled the gross violations that has been a part and parcel of the powers that be.

What seems to be the difference between now and then? A lawyer – a daughter – indignantly holding down her mother’s – a politician’s – victory sign as the latter is released from prison – a sign of resistance and resilience or that of stubbornness – it is all about perspective.

What seems to be the difference…? Strategic dissemination of propaganda especially through social media, gaslighting and intimidation attempts against human rights advocates who seek to side with social justice in a country where one or the other stance is the only idea accepted.

Quoting a tweet that entirely encapsulates the present state of affairs: ‘What (is) deemed “legal” is not always the right thing. Slavery was once legal. Apartheid was legal (and in many places, it still is). Segregation was legal. Aurat ki gawahi aadhi hai is legal.’ So is the intention of trying civilians in military courts, or police brutality especially against women.

To reiterate, politics may be bad, problematic, true; then again it is made worse through the intervention by stakeholders who should only be there to protect and serve!

History repeats itself for we never learn!!

Image by Fajrul Falah from Pixabay

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