A headless revolution

Published: September 2, 2010

Revolutionary leader Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto

Bhutto had the popularity and a vision, right or wrong, required for changing Pakistan’s outlook. His journey did not last long. Revolutionary leader Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto

Pakistan will not experience a revolution any time soon. While the idea may seem fascinating, moving in that direction will plunder the wealth of the country like never before.

Revolutions seen by the world to date were inspired by a thought or an idea. Thinkers, philosophers and visionaries were responsible for highlighting the need for a better social setup and gave alternative ideologies. A radical social and political change in the organisational structure can only bear fruits if it is ideology-driven. Presently, Pakistan doesn’t have that. Without an alternative ideology, there can be no revolution, just anarchy.

The much quoted French Revolution did not just happen because the population was feeling miserable. Great philosophers like Voltaire and Rousseau were the ones sowing the seeds. Voltaire’s thoughts on economic disparity within the society and ideas on freedom of expression and religion were fresh and appealing. Rousseau’s argument that nature was good while civilisation was bad meant something to the people. He spoke strongly against the class-made institutions that helped the strong rule the weak. Hence, the people knew what they wanted. They realised that monarchy was the disease hampering their way of life. The goal was a people’s government. As the frustration grew exponentially, the anger erupted and the goal was achieved. While the thinkers were not leading the conflict directly, they were the spirit of the change.

Turkey saw a visionary leader. Kemal Ataturk was a military genius and a charismatic leader who had an alternative to the crumbling society. His secular agenda required basic changes in the Turkish society such as reinventing the Turkish language, promoting European dresses and removing religion from the official role. In this case, the person with the vision led the movement. People were motivated to think like Ataturk to the extent that they changed their lives forever.

Ayatollah Khomeini was yet another profound personality. His aim was to reform Iran and rid the country of the West-supported secular monarchy under Shah Pahlavi. The roadmap was clear, the leadership was available and a revolution materialised. This particular revolution was different from the others since the driving force was Islam.

In Pakistan, even if the people burn down the institutions and topple the government, they will have no place to go. This essentially means that things could get worse than they already are. There is no vision, just emotions. The last time the country saw a personality capable of changing Pakistan’s ideological foundations was Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Bhutto had the popularity and a vision, right or wrong, required for changing Pakistan’s outlook. His journey did not last long.

Since we have not defined what a post-revolution Pakistan would look like, seeking a revolution is childish. In a country where a huge chunk looks up to Dr Shahid Masood and Zaid Hamid as thinkers, ‘thinking’ can be termed a grave issue. A ‘developing’ country is more than just the industrial and financial status – it is a state of mind.


Samir Butt

A former Youth Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Fulbright undergraduate scholar, freelance writer, public speaking trainer, IT consultant and marketing professional. He blogs at samiranwar.net.

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