Can Pakistan witness an Egyptian style revolution?

Published: July 7, 2012

Every Pakistani is willing to spend hours on criticism; what if they spent the same time taking charge of things instead?PHOTO: AFP

Mohamed Bouazizi was a Tunisian street vendor, who poured fuel over and set himself ablaze in an elegant double-storey building with arched, azure shutters. The hard-scrabble loitered in the hospital for a few hours before breathing his last breath. His self-immolation became a catalyst for the Tunisian revolution.

Khalid Mehboob, a depressed and dejected father of six, jobless and poor, self-immolated himself outside Karachi Press Club. Unlike Tunisia, normal life sustained in Pakistan.

According to the annual Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), 12,580 people were killed all across Pakistan in 2010. Thousands of innocents fall prey to sectarianism, ethnocentrism, drone attacks, abductions and judicial killings every year. Between August 24 and September 26, 2011, 166 people committed suicide in Pakistan.

So why doesn’t Pakistan tread the same road as Egypt or Tunisia? Why don’t we have throngs of protestors on our streets? Why aren’t the establishment and the existing political forces on the verge of a collapse?

There are two types of Pakistanis with two types of thought engines apparently.

The first type of Pakistanis believe in an external locus of control and they attribute the nation’s shortcomings to their sins; thanks to religious agitators.

The second type thinks that the establishment is the reason we have never prospered as a nation. Every Pakistani is willing to spend hours on criticism; what if they spent the same time taking charge of things instead?

Pakistan’s ruling political parties have had years of experience trying to assert themselves over the powerful establishment, and they have learnt their lessons the hard way, no doubt. Nawaz may threaten mass protests but he fears the military taking over at the back of his mind.

Don’t we remember that street power played an imperative role in the resignation of ex-president Pervez Musharraf in 2008?The movement which was spearheaded by the legal community, paved way for the same old political demagogues.

Pakistani people protest for a change in government, but not for a complete wipeout of leadership.

Loyalty to one’s leader is imperative in Pakistan and don’t you think otherwise. The masses protest on the orders of their leadership which, obviously, would never aim to wipe itself out.

Political parties in Pakistan are still an effective tool for political mobilisation and association. Unlike Egypt and Tunisia, Pakistan is witnessing the emergence of a civil society. Pakistani media ─  no matter how much it believes in propaganda and sensationalism ─  is still free to a great extent. Many anchors have gone beyond limits to criticise the existing regime and the establishment even. This is surprising as Egypt is the most deplorable and Tunisia is the most repressive country for journalists if compared to Pakistan.

The most commonly missed things are those that are right in front of our eyes. In all the commotion, we have failed to notice that there is a process underway; a journey to democracy and power distribution. The existence of a free press, elections, political party system and a defying judiciary has enabled Pakistan to survive in these tumultuous times. According to Pakistani political pundits, the existing political structure is better than an unknown political order.

The conclusion is clear; Pakistan may see a lot of political instability in the future, but it is unlikely to witness an Egyptian style revolution.

Shan Nasir

Shan Nasir

Is an IBA graduate having interned at Sanofi Aventis, Engro Foods and The Citizens Foundation. He strongly believes that individuality and free thinking should not be penalised in the land of the pure. He tweets @shannasir

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Modazul

    Egypt and Pakistan are different countries with very different characteristics. Egypts political parties are not well grounded like Pakistans and Pakistan has had it’s share of protests and overthrows in it’s history. Egypt has had very few. Secondly Egyptians are a united people who call themselves Egyptians and not Muslim or Christians. In Pakistan everyone is divided on ethnic basis and overthrows will not lead to anything besides the army taking control or political parties starting gangfights to take over important areas of the countryRecommend

  • https://twitter.com/#!/Rehman0092 Rehman

    Answer is NO. We as a nation are cowards! As simple as it is! Recommend

  • http://na deep

    It will not because it will be years before ordinary pakistanis recognise their true enemy – perhaps one can begin by questioning how generals become so rich in pakistan – and why were the Nato routes opened – so that the army could get its allowance.

    the drone attacks allow the establishment the luxury to stay on tv talk shows and in the barracks and not actually face the homegrown terrorist. the enemy gets hit and the army remains blameless – something about the snake dying and the stick not getting broken. the establishment has played a masterful game with both the americans and the ordinary citizens of pakistan.Recommend

  • BlackJack

    There are a couple of reasons why an Arab style revolution cannot take place in Pakistan:
    1. Ethnic diversity: Such revolutions usually only take place in regions with ethnic homogenity. In Pakistan, such a revolution would result in different elements straining in different directions and could unravel the fabric of the nation – especially one with a future that many citizens have ceased to believe in.
    2. Insecurity: Majority of Pakistanis still believe that they are in greater danger from India/ US/ Israel etc and that their woes are not self-inflicted. Because of this persecution complex, the army continues to survive and live happily off the fat of the land despite never having delivered in a crunch situation. You can’t have a revolution if you continue to support the organization that has ruled Pakistan for most of its existence.
    3. No clear alternative: A revolution necessarily means forming of a new system to achieve certain objectives; it could be anything from overthrowing an autocracy to imposition of sharia/ establishing a caliphate to becoming a communist state. (A revolution to reduce corruption seems to be a bit of an over-kill). Given that Pakistan already has an (albeit poorly) functioning democratic structure, any revolution would be at its expense. This may not receive mass support because the alternative is not well-defined.Recommend

  • Shadytr33

    The revolution in Egypt is an Islamic one where the president that is now elected is the leader of Muslim brotherhood Organization. Even if there is a slight movement like this in Pakistan which is an Islamic revolution, the civil societies call it the “talibanization” of Pakistan and get so scared that they start a counter propaganda. But the fact is also there. The type of Islamic movement that happened in Egypt is quite different from any Islamic movement that will happen in Pakistan. Here there that movement will bring an Afghan culture with very limited rights for the people. And the Islamic Movement in our area won’t be Islamic at all. Because majority of us don’t even know what Islam is as Arabic is not an understandable language here. Recommend

  • Great article. It seems we are all guilty of this, we will blame one force or the other but getting up and fighting Arab Spring style is simply too much to ask.Recommend

  • Mo/CA

    there is a lot of bias in your arguments.
    You mention nawaz, yet dont criticize teh people’s party, you call that we as a society are loyal to our leaders and yet dont give any examples- are you also afraid of the MQM.

    But other than that I think your articles are quite all over the place. Although there are some solid points, but there is no conclusion to those points. Maybe this is your first piece, but I think you can write much better than this.

    All the best for the future, Recommend

  • Ali tanoli

    Pakistan and Revolution hahahahahahahah need Bhuto …..Recommend

  • faraz

    They witnessed a movement for democracy, we already have one!Recommend

  • Confused

    I’ll wait for IK’s tsunami revolution to just settle it all out. I’m sure he knows exactly how to do it, like the ending corruption bit, how brilliant is that. /s

    Seriously though, I agree with @Modazul, too many religious, cultural and political diversities to carry out a wide scale revolution. You don’t see our elected ideals uniting to run the country, how can you see us then.

    We aren’t cowards, we’ve just been backstabbed and betrayed so many times we’re too paranoid to trust anyone right now.Recommend

  • whats in the name

    I am from across the border. From my observations. there cannot be a revolution of the magnitude similar to what is going on in the Middle East. Reason being, though full fledged democracy was never allowed to percolate and to its full term. None the less, it was done to some extent. There are political parties representing almost all the ethnicities, linguistic groups, which was not the case in the Middle east. Only the ruling elite were enjoying the privileges.Recommend

  • Shadytr33

    The revolution in Egypt is an Islamic one where the president that is now elected is the leader of Muslim brotherhood Organization. Even if there is a slight movement like this in Pakistan which is an Islamic revolution, the civil societies call it the “talibanization” of Pakistan and get so scared that they start a counter propaganda. But the fact is also there. The type of Islamic movement that happened in Egypt is quite different from any Islamic movement that will happen in Pakistan. Here there that movement will bring an Afghan culture with very limited rights for the people. And the Islamic Movement in our area won’t be Islamic at all. Because majority of us don’t even know what Islam is as Arabic is not an understandable language here….Recommend

  • Sipaaahi

    Only Imran Khan can bring a revolution in this country. The urban elite have waken up. We need to realize that.Recommend

  • Jat

    How can you “witness” anything when your eyes and minds are closed ? When was the last time you opened the windows of your minds and let in some fresh air ?Recommend

  • Noise

    Pakistan is already living under a “democracy” whether the real power is in the hands of the military and intelligence agencies. The Egyptian “revolution” seems to have thrown up a similar system.
    The question is whether Egypt can avoid becoming like Pakistan?

    Pakistani people protest for a change in government, but not for a complete wipeout of leadership.

    Mubarak’s party bagged nearly half the vote in this Egyptian election. Wiped out they aint. Minorities like the Coptic Christians who optimistically supported the revolution are already disillusioned and embittered with it allRecommend

  • Parvez

    Whas happened in Egypt, Tunisia and Lybia has already happened in Pakistan in small doses over a longer period of time. The end results in our case has been unsatisfactory but its ‘work’ in progress towards something the people may call satisfactory. Recommend

  • Hashmi

    This article reflect that the urban elite are not on the right track. What does the statement: ‘People will come out on roads’ mean anyway? Recommend

  • Mustufa

    We fail to realize that revolutions bring in the same old people. Revolutions are not useful. Its better to have a known political order, unstable it maybe.Recommend

  • Super Pakistani

    I think the only solution to Pakistani is the wiping out of the existing political order and getting a new one. Pakistani’s should be able to sacrifice for their country. We need to take charge of things.Recommend

  • Dual Citizen

    The writer should have also discussed that institutions need to work within their framework. Something which pakistan has yet to achieve. Great article though.Recommend

  • Common man

    Karachi is the bloodiest for a political people, according to recent surveys. In all the mess, what should the common man do? where should he go?Recommend

  • Shan Nasir

    It seems we are all in the same boat, we will point fingers or the other but getting up and fighting Arab Spring style is simply too much to ask.Recommend

  • Hi :)

    @Rehman:
    Straightforward and simple. I like.Recommend

  • alicia

    According to most people the Egyptian revolution has only led to a puppet government where the army is the real power.

    Another thing is that Egypt is a homogenous society. People speak the same language and 90% are hanafi sunni muslims. Pakistan is just to diverse (even though we don’t like to admit it). So many languages, cultures, etc. To have a “revolution” we need unity which unfortunately is non-existant at this moment.Recommend

  • khurram kaleem

    Egyptian revolution and the arab revolution is not due to economics reason but truly its the achievement of ALQAEDA philoshopy of ending the STATUS QOU in the arab world whose leader are pro western and pro american.

    Muslim brotherhood in Egypt is the jamaat islami version of Pakistan.so egypt need atleast 30 more years to settle down and make their new constitution.hope there is no bloodshed as in case of Syria Recommend

  • MEI

    @shadytr33

    The protesters that were killed in the Egyptian Revolution would turn in their graves if they heard you call it an ‘Islamic Revolution’.

    It was not with the intent of establishing an Islamic regime in Egypt that the revolution occurred – it was to upturn the status quo. The Muslim Brotherhood simply happened to be the only somewhat established political party in the country. Recommend

  • Anwer Mustufa

    Only in Karachi we have 12 ethnicities. Its a civil we need to deal with now. One power will triumph on the another one day.Recommend

  • Ignorant

    We are insecure and scared of the existing political entities. That is why we don’t protest.Recommend

  • Khurram

    I dont want a new political setup. I want to change the present for the better.Recommend

  • R.I.P

    we have seen one when gen Ayube khan was sent out of his office and second when gen. Musharraf was sent out of his office.
    we are celebrating 18 hours of power outage, declining industry and booming religious hatred among our people, there is no such thing as nation or national identity, Its just a horde of selfish cowards.

    Arab spring is an agenda to turn Arab countries in oil drilling slaves who don’t object to heir true masters NATO and the US.Recommend

  • saeed

    why ? Pakistan have democratic system . Eygypt always rule by dictators. we have elections and laws run by courts where other Arab countries or Eygypt don’t have this type of luxury .

    Or you just want Jamat Islami type party come in rule without any democratic process.
    and truth Any middle or lower class person have six kids , is in trouble irrespective of country.Recommend

  • http://x S.A.Sheikh,

    No sir no, never. Egypt is a country inhabited by people called a nation. We have Pakistan which never exited as a country, neither before 1971 dismemberment of Quaid-i-Azam’s Pakistan nor now we seem to be an entity like a sovereign country, nor we have the required ingredients of a nation. The net result is that we can not have Al-Tehreer type disciplined demonstrations by millions of agitating Egyptians. While here in Pakistan a few dozen or hundred demonstrators come on the streets with ‘danda’ and start destroying everything, public or private and indulge in looting or put shops/houses on fire. And what we see of late is that police/administration disappears from the scene of demonstration and re-appears when damage is done and agitators run-away.Such things never happened in Egypt. And no Pakistani president or PM could think or act like the newly elected Egyptian President Murci. We are a confused people whose elected leadership is never on page one in their words and actions and our national life is full of contradictions. We are a nuclear power and also the world’s most illiterate, the most unemployed and ill-fed people living a life below human level and we can not hope to live a life like normal human beings with 20 hours load-shedding. All this sorry state of affairs is due to our bad luck that our rulers can not see beyond their nose, the nose of greed,selfishness and ‘lootmar’ through corruption.Recommend

  • Fizza Shahid

    Does this chap notice that Pakistan is already a democracy? Recommend

  • Khubaib

    The quality of democracy can only be judged by its quantity.Unfortunately, we had too many military rules.Recommend

  • Khubaib

    @saeed:

    But our courts are not working within their framework. They are being influenced by the establishment. Why don’t they pursue ISI cases? Why derail democracy?Recommend

  • Namoos Hayat Qasmi

    Yes, it can. But for this, the Pakistani people must have to understand few things, 1) they are living in a country which possess all the resources that can be used for the betterment of Pakistan. 2) they have a lot of passion and they are intelligent enough to improve the society. 3) they are such people whose history possess world’s most brave heroes, they would have to understand the fact that they would have to stand against what is bad, they would have to fight for the right things. PAKISTAN IS NOT A COWARD NATION AT ALL!! 4) They must fully understand and admit the fact that they would GET NOTHING BY ABUSING THE CURRENT POLITICAL LEADERS. THIS IS SOMETHING WRONG. Actually people of our country laugh upon our leaders because they satisfy themselves by doing this, they think that they can run away from their own mistakes and hide them by laughing at the leaders but they don’t understand that not only the leaders are corrupt, we are also corrupt, you know how? because keeping aside some exceptions, all of us do corruption wherever we can, students do corruption by cheating in the exams, doesn’t they? THEY DO, Doesn’t the Government and Private job holders do corruption just for some money? they sell their self respect, THEY DO. Our media, CORRUPT, and hence our leaders CORRUPT. From beginning till the end corruption all around. Why don’t we end our corruption instead of running away to other countries for jobs? why can’t we correct ourselves, instead of calling ourselves coward. Why can we stop abusing current leaders and have a look at ourselves that we are doing wrong. WHY CAN’T??? 5) Since a long time, Pakistanis lack a leader on whom they had some confidence, and they believe on him, but now they have one! Imran Khan, now they had to do only three things and revolution would surely come, a) Correct themselves. b) Stop abusing current leaders. c) Follow the right path, and right leader. AND REVOLUTION WOULD COME. InshaAllah.Recommend

  • Ahmadi

    @Jat:

    I agree. Our educated people live in a curtained world. Its really sad. We think about worthless things throughout. What if spent the same time taking charge of things?Recommend

  • hypocrite

    @Fizza Shahid:

    I think this chap notices its a democracy which needs to do some work. If you read the end, he says ‘its a process of democratization and power distribution.’Recommend

  • hassan

    Egypt is on its way to becoming a soft-theocratic state, with a semi-democracy backed up by a powerful army. To put it short, it is becoming a new Pakistan.

    If we want a revolution, it should be the one to take us to the level of Iran. I think Imran Khan will provide the inspiration for that !Recommend

  • Osama

    @hassan:
    Imran Khan is a populist elitist. We are in a state of civil war where one has to triumph over another. How will he bring change?Recommend

  • Uncle

    I fail to understand how Pakistanis are able to survive in such tumultuous times. They live in hell and are still happy. Karachi saw more than 250 deaths last month. Karachites are still hopeful.Recommend

  • American Pakistani

    Pakistan’s are more interested in personalities. They ignore policies.They have the leaders they deserve. Revolution is a change in mindset. Recommend

  • mamoo

    @Uncle:

    Uncle, we need to spread awareness. It is our media’s fault. They focus on issues, not on solutions.Recommend

  • Atheist

    @mamoo:

    I think the issue is that our people tthink that God willsolve everything. Why work when God will do everything for you?Recommend

  • Shan Nasir

    The revolution in Middle East is an Islamic one where the head of state that is now elected is the leader of Muslim brotherhood Organization.If this happens in Pakistan the civil societies will call it talibanization.Recommend

  • Umer

    @ Osama

    Imran Khan is not an eilitist. Please notice the jalsas he has done in impoverished areas.ThanksRecommend

  • Hassan

    @Mo/CA:

    I do not undestand what MQM has to do with this article? The organization is a Karachi based asking for representation of its people.Recommend

  • Master

    @…:

    I agree. We are people who criticize and sleep. We can never unite and fight for a common cause.Recommend

  • hassan

    @Osama:
    My point is that Imran Khan, once in power, will change Pakistan into a beta-version of Iran.

    Whether it is good or bad, you can decide !Recommend

  • Sane

    We are unable to awake. We are dead. Leaders are also reflection of people. Being dead we can bear everything…….load shedding, drone attacks, living without bread, street crimes, target killing, kidnapping for ransom, atrocities and high handedness of police and govt. officials, corrupt govt.. Taking the positive side: we are the best in the world and have tremendous surviving capabilities. DEAD MENRecommend

  • amir

    @S.A.Sheikh,:
    Sir You took a real picture completely agreed with you Recommend