I do not know if you in Pakistan had seen that picture. (It is in the print edition and if I succeed in finding a link I will put it up here.)
Is this what the struggle is all about? Who will uphold the law in tomorrow’s Pakistan?
And while I was thinking of writing about this I read a column by Nadeem F Paracha which was along the lines of thoughts whirling in my mind. I have written here about this struggle and how it appears elitist (which has offended some friends) and have lamented about the people - (what civil society!) - the participation of people coming out on the streets.
Paracha, I feel is talking about the same thing when he bemoans the lack of participation of students from government schools and colleges!
For this one requires a well laid out ideology. And for that one requires a discourse of various ideas. If some say civil society is right with their protests and I disagree, that’s a discourse. I think the “student movement” and the jumpy, high-strung young media protesters should learn from such a discourse, instead of glamorising failed politicians, eulogising their supporters and demonising those who do not agree with them.
"Lately, my email inbox is being bombarded by letters from young men and women angered by my “cynical” stance on the on-going “students’ movement” in the country.
Most of them asked: how can a former student activist like me who stood up against the Zia dictatorship ridicule today’s young guns against another dictator?
First of all, there is a difference between cynicism and scepticism. I believe a journalist has to be sceptic to be effective. Otherwise journalism becomes boorish pamphleteering. After going through most dailies these days, this is exactly what is happening. Reading most of these newspapers today is like going through multi-paged protest pamphlets. Headlines have turned into slogans and the articles sound like raving, rambling manifestos.
The most ironical aspect of this is that even though much of this hue and cry is being done in the name of democracy and freedom of speech, those holding opposing views are being conveniently blacked out by some publications. Recently, a reporter from an English-language daily called me up for my comments on “the movement.” I criticised it for being a media construct. The next day when the story appeared my comments had been edited out. This meant that the “all-round story” lacked even a single opposing comment, because it was felt that since the publication belonged to a group whose TV channel is off-air these days, my comments were seen as rationalising the ban.
The bottom-line is: it is government colleges and state-owned universities that are a more accurate reflection of the majority of the student and youth sections of the country. And like it or not, a “student movement" without the involvement of conventional student organisations such as the National Students Federation, the People’s Students Federation, the Pakhtoon Students Federation, the Baloch Students Federation, the All Pakistan Mohajir Students Federation and the Islami-Jamiat-i-Tuleba, is a movement that will always seem floozy, disconnected and suspect, even if one keeps calling it “independent.” "