5 QUESTIONS: ‘I have not lost hope’
Published: July 6, 2011 - 14:33 Updated: July 11, 2011 - 14:58
Based in Rawalpindi, Nusrat Bokhari practises medicine
How will you describe the current crisis in Pakistan. Is it an artificial crisis, a pseudo-western construct? Or is it an authentic, deeper, existential, political, identity crisis?
The crisis is not artificial. It is the culmination of a long history of bad governance and policy making, and ill-conceived alliances at the international level. The extreme existential anxiety, not all of it unjustified, but still very deleterious to the cause of nationhood and progress, has been systemically inculcated in the nation’s psyche and used to serve a vested interest.
What is the divide between the fundamentalist and secular/liberal/moderate paradigms in civil society? Are the moderates
There is hardly any liberal discourse in Pakistan, if there is, it is scattered and weighs in little on matters of national importance. Barring a few examples, what goes by the name of ‘liberal’ in Pakistan is only a few random ideas borrowed from the West and dressed up for the part. The majority of Pakistanis have always been what is called ‘moderate Muslims’ (though I am rather loathe to use this term), but many might not be discerning enough or politically motivated enough to work towards a positive change. Many others are still too vulnerable to exploitation at the hands of their tribal and religious leaders.
The ‘fundamentalists’ enjoy quite significant clout with people in pockets of the country. They play on their religious sensitivities and now on the anti-American feelings that are rife due to drone attacks etc. However, there are still very few who would enlist with these groups and participate in their activities; those who do are driven more often by their poverty, ignorance and lack of purpose in life, rather than by any ideological motivations.
Is it true that the educated elite in Pakistan has betrayed the country?
The large majority of the civil society is too busy making ends meet; with food and fuel prices having hit the roof, it is no mean feat. Also, the majority of population lives in rural areas and is not really politically emancipated, though there can be exceptions to that.
The educated in Pakistan mostly exist on the periphery. The ‘elite’ is formed of the wealthy landlords, and factory owners, and yes, I think, they have betrayed the man on the street, politically, culturally and economically. The ‘educated’ ones are mostly divorced from the reality of a poor Pakistani, they sit in their ivory towers and issue verdicts: the English language press is a case in point.
Do you, personally, feel trapped? Do you see windows of hope, resilience, resistance? Can you give examples…
I feel that things are probably going to get worse before they will get better but I have not lost hope. Hitting rock bottom has shaken many out of slumber, there is a constant effort by at least a few to work out solutions, to rethink our nationhood and come up with ideals that we can all work towards. And, of course, it has led to renewal of tensions between the various strata; but, as long as we can keep talking, there would be hope.
The young in Pakistan are experimenting with new music, prose, poetry, theatre, cultural expressions. Do they signify a flight of imaginative liberation?
Yes, I think it does, perhaps what ideas cannot unite imaginations will. We are returning to Bulleh Shah, Rumi and Khwaja Ghulam Fareed, and that must have some significance.