Dharna: Grabbing at straws | Pakistan Today

Dharna: Grabbing at straws

  • Do rulers care?

Eight days since its inception the most recent dharna in Islamabad has undoubtedly been yet another drain on an already exhausted, mismanaged economy and a huge inconvenience; but then that’s what dharnas do, and yet politicians– who claim to care for the country and its people organise them.

The dharna in 2014 was no different. It too led to massive economic losses and disruption, roads were blocked, and routine was interrupted. In fact, the current sample has an edge over that one in that this time around– as yet– there has been no violence. Whereas in 2014 Al-Jazeera had reported that the protesters had used cars to break through the boundaries of the National Assembly and were occupying its grounds. Then the inevitable tear gas and rubber bullets were used, and batons were wielded. It is said that three people died as a result, and hundreds were injured.

Yet the PTI leadership claims to be outraged. Fawad Chaudhry, currently the Minister for Science and Technology, in his media conference had things to say about the dharna and about Maulana Fazlur Rehman. He accused Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s dharna of disrupting normal economic activities and schools. Mind you, schools had been closed down in 2014 too when the PTI organised its protest/dharna, because thousands of police had been housed in them. The Minister also had a personal swipe at Maulana sahib, saying that disruptions of schools probably didn’t matter to Fazlur Rehman since the Maulana’s own kids, now grown, never went to school anyway. Not sure where he got that from, but it is unlikely that the children of a man who did his Masters from Al-Azhar grew up uneducated. Still, Maulana sahib should count his blessings for having escaped a slap, literally, unlike a news anchor who was assaulted by Mr. Chaudhry sometime in the not too distant past.

Without being in any way an admirer of Maulana sahib, in fact very, very far from it, you have to admit the participants of this dharna have had a different style, almost as if they were enjoying themselves. Here is where we find the common man of Pakistan, impoverished, desperate, a fervent believer in an irrational variety of religion; these men grab at straws, at anything that might alleviate their desperate plight. While the powers that be indulge in verbal attacks, they have organised games, prayed, talked and laughed on the pavements and roads, in the rain, in the open and in tents. You suspect– and you’d probably be right– that this event has been a mode of relaxation for them, a desperate satire on Glastonbury. When else could your average farm worker, fruit seller, shopkeeper find time to spend a few days in the company of thousands of others like himself, when else could he take such a long-time off work? As for amenities, who has amenities anyway in the segment of society represented by these men? In the side lanes in bazaars can be seen lines of horrifically impoverished homes, shoulder to shoulder in noisome lanes thanks to open, blocked, overflowing sewers. Does anyone care, even their elected councillors? This is not where many of these men live though. That would be something even less attractive. Nothing is being done about such environments. No one in government, in short, gives a hang about them or a thought to his or her actual job. No one ever has.

The protestors in such rallies know little about systems and means of establishing and changing governments. That is for those who lead them to explain, instead of which those who lead them capitalise on that ignorance and take them along down routes such as dharnas, using the sheer number of followers as a clout. Nothing will be achieved at the end, not for these participants anyway. Governments might remain or they might fall, these men will go back to the same homes and live in the same conditions they always did. A good education will still be beyond their means, as also a full stomach, while a decent home will remain the stuff of dreams

Nasim Zehra spoke to many participants of this dharna when it had just started. It seemed the reason most of them were there was that life had become too expensive for them, and they just wanted someone to do something about it, please. They weren’t wrong.

The protestors in such rallies know little about systems and means of establishing and changing governments. That is for those who lead them to explain, instead of which those who lead them capitalise on that ignorance and take them along down routes such as dharnas, using the sheer number of followers as a clout. Nothing will be achieved at the end, not for these participants anyway. Governments might remain or they might fall, these men will go back to the same homes and live in the same conditions they always did. A good education will still be beyond their means, as also a full stomach, while a decent home will remain the stuff of dreams.

“This march will enter the corridors of power and sweep away the trash,” said the JUI(F) chief during one of his addresses to the participants of the protest.

Well, at least the man recognises himself.

Rabia Ahmed

The writer is a freelance columnist. Read more by her at http://rabia-ahmed.blogspot.com/



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