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Our causes Leak on Pakistan

May 21, 2011

A man watches Wikileaks memos at an electronic shop in Karachi, Pakistan on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2010. Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari sought a pledge from the United Arab Emirates to allow his family long-term refuge - as they did for his late wife - if he died or was killed, according to a secret diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks. – AP Photo

As WikiLeaks finds new media friends in Pakistan, there is a deafening silence in some corridors of power. Whatever leaks we are bombarded with, one thing that our moralist urban middle class need to understand is that real 'politik' is not what their consciousness of individualistic morals constructs.

Politics is meant to gain control over how to take or not to take major decisions in order to maintain or break the status quo. It shouldn't imply that all politics is devoid of principles. You pursue your principles of policy, and create possibilities to achieve your defined goals.

The rhetoric of 'our leaders don't care about us, they just want to save themselves' needs to be reviewed as well. Keeping themselves relevant and enabled to play their role at sustained basis is no crime. In fact we all do that in our individual lives. Politicians and leaders need to do that in order to give themselves enough time, stability and sustainability for playing their political and leadership role in bringing change to the polity in line with their party ideology.

Having said that, it must also not be forgotten that creating a public opinion using your mass influence, based on falsehood and then using it for your advantage is in no way in the long term beneficial to either the people, the country or the parties themselves. The way public opinion was created around the issue of reinstating the Chief Justice, drone attacks, Raymond Davis's release etc and was later used for negotiating with the 'other' party from the position of advantage. Sometimes, this 'other' party was America, sometimes it was just another political party and sometimes it was people.

The main tool and victim of this process of building public opinion based on falsehood and outright lies has been our 'educated' urban public. These urbanites have proven themselves to be most gullible lot of all the actors in all this theater. They have been arrogant to the rural, largely 'illiterate' people for being 'uneducated' and thus unaware and unwise. Similar conceit was shown to the elite for being exploitative and selfish. This gullible middle-class was, however, so badly used by all the contenders of power, be it army or shortsighted politicians pursuing short-term benefits unwisely.

When Nawaz Sharif was looking for a platform to be relevant in a Pakistan he had left to save his life, he found these 'masses' rallying on streets for reinstating an activist lopsided chief justice. Without much thought, he grabbed the opportunity and gave these urbanites a cause to fight for – justice. The problem remained with the definition of 'justice' although. But our educated, moral, righteous middle class living in small and big urban centers (self included) would hardly think of that. Mass rallies for this newly emerged cause – justice – were organised and covered heartily by the media, in which we often heard the good barrister, emphasising the importance of justice. 'Free Judiciary' was the slogan embellished with the demand for democracy. We got seduced.

Similar was the story of other extremely noble causes we were pushed to adopt, all through this drama. Sovereignty is one such cause and noblest of all. We believe in a strange notion of sovereignty, although. It does not get a hairline fracture even, when USA mediates between two political parties of this country, when political leaders discuss internal matters with American Envoys, when Arabs come and hunt our endangered birds and even children for their camel races or when terrorists come and shelter here. This strange notion of sovereignty is invoked selectively by those who are by now, too used to manipulating our opinion and our propensity to fight for causes defined for us by others.

I haven't even touched here the way strong public opinion and political space was created against drone strikes and how a big politics around this issue was built while simultaneously negotiating more drone strikes to fight terrorists. Would have been much more advantageous and even expedient if people were told the truth and public opinion was ascertained – rather than engineered – in order to fight terrorism to make this country peaceful. I do not distrust any of these leaders, political or military – for not being sincere for Pakistan. Their concept of 'national interest', it seems, doesn’t match with the national interest in real terms and the interest of the people.

The Pakistan Papers expose the behind-the-curtain chats only to confirm what most of us had been saying ever since right wing parties and even the banned organisations took upon themselves to support the cause of justice and free judiciary in Pakistan. We, the educated and aware class, could not make two plus two even when Laal Masjid's 'ghazis' joined the long march in 2008 that ended without a much-anticipated dharna (sit-in). Imagine a terrorist or a miscreant who has recently waged war on the state, coming to street for a 'free' judiciary! We either missed the meanings of free, or the judiciary.

Moral of the story? Let's always make our causes prudently and try asking questions before blindly believing what the state or the leaders tell us using highly selfish and biased media. It is hoped that our political leaders would understand the difference between leading public opinion and engineering public opinion that too, based on falsehood and complete fiction.

Marvi Sirmed is a right’s activist and political commentator based in Islamabad.