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Friday, November 16, 2007

Will This Cyber Revolution Fly or Fizzle?

Utho meri duniya ke ghareeboñ ko jagaado
Kaakh-e umara ke dar-o deewaar hilaado

Rise, awaken the poor of my land
Rattle the palaces of the rich men’s band
– “Allama” Mohammad Iqbal

Khomeini’s cassette revolution that he launched from Paris suburbs to oust US backed Shah opened a new era in mobilizing the masses.

The ‘free’ electronic media in Pakistan turned its guns on its benefactor. It refused to be silenced even when it was locally muzzled. It spawned another cyber movement, this one led and aided by bloggers.

The western media co-opted it and gave it further impetus. BBC, NYT, Slate, WP et al appealed for their help and contribution.

Benazir is sensing a kill without thinking it through. Nawaz Sharif is marginalized. JI and other parties in opposition act impotent.

Electronic Media is brimming with righteous indignation. Lawyers’ protests seem to have been over shadowed by those of the Press. Students have confined their shouting on the campuses only.

How much of this flow of information and views filtered down to where it really mattered? How much of the aftermath of protests affected the ordinary Pakistanis?

This raises two important questions. Can the political parties effectively mobilize any street power? Or are they in collusion with the Army and prefer back door negotiations for power realignment and share in the pie?

If the citizens refuse to come out no real change of power structure will occur. Street power is the only force that can effectively take on the occupying army. In ’88 Asia’s best equipped army refused to come to the Shah’s aid when it confronted the street power of the Iranians.

The other possibility is what Pakistanis have experienced previously and seemingly refuse to learn from. The pressure is brought on but merely results in a change of face. Sweets will be distributed and everyone will go home with a smile.

That is what happened when Ayub was removed – and Yahya, Bhutto, Zia, Benazir, Nawaz, Benazir again, Nawaz again and Musharraf. And if things are not calculated wisely perhaps the past will be repeated with another Khaki face.

The ‘upright, professional soldier’ will take over and make the right promises – free and fair election - in 30 days, 90 days, one year, next year! And in another ten years, if Pakistan survives, the dissatisfied elites would again band together to demand freedom and justice and free and fair elections.

Who will make the citizens rise?


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