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Past present: Broadening horizons

November 04, 2012

Politics is like a game of chess in which rival politicians use clever ways and means to outwit, subdue or eliminate their rivals for personal success and political domination.

Generally, political parties in a democratic society are given enough space to play their role. If they are not allowed to raise their voice or to express their views openly and freely, democratic institutions become weak and this way one party establishes its hegemony over others.

A democratic society needs diversity, not tyranny of the majority. Rivalry between individuals who wish to assert their supremacy in the party either breaks the party into two factions or leads to the establishment of a new party. A democratic society demands space for an individual or a faction to act without any hindrance.

In our brief political history, there have been  many instances where individuals have been denied the space to play their roles. In order to create space for themselves and their political agenda, they either retire or form their own party.

When Gandhi arrived in India in 1919, Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah had earned the reputation of a secular, nationalist and an anti-colonial leader in the Congress. Gandhi from the very beginning tried to sideline him, depriving him of space in the political field because both leaders had different views, which contradicted their agendas in the struggle for freedom.

Instead of reconciliation and accommodation of Jinnah’s position, Gandhi made attempts to exclude him from his top position in the Congress.

As a result, Jinnah was left with no choice but to join the All-India Muslim League and demand partition of the subcontinent.

However, even after partition, Jinnah did not tolerate any opposition. G.M. Syed, a prominent leader who promoted the Muslim League in Sindh opposed Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s political demands. Eventually, G.M. Syed was punished by the ruling party and marginalised from national politics. Successive governments followed the same policy and labelled him as an anti-state politician who was against the ideology of Pakistan. Consequently, he became a Sindhi leader and raised the slogan of Jiye Sindh and Sindhu Desh. National politics hence lost a talented leader who could have played a constructive role in making Pakistan a strong democratic country.

Similarly, in the Frontier region, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and his party was declared anti-Pakistan and excluded from the mainstream politics. Consequently, the slogan of Pashtunistan was raised.

The history of Bangladesh is another shining example. The most recent is Balochistan where disappointed and disillusioned young people have resorted to an armed struggle for their fundamental rights in the same way that Baghat Singh and his associates had turned to violence after finding no space to express their views.

It is time for us to learn a lesson from history. Instead of denial, views of all political parties must be accommodated and politicians must be provided space to present their ideology and be involved in active politics. This would deter violence and solutions could be found constitutionally.

Violence either from the state or political groups cannot solve problems. The declaration of individuals or parties as anti-state and launching action against them is a failed strategy which only results in more chaos and disorder. We must adopt a strategy to include rather than exclude political groups and thereby create a broader political space.