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.

  • Dr. Altaf ul Hassan

    I fully endorse.Recommend

  • khalid

    And there are certain resourceful elements who finance the revolution; poor people cannot bring a revolution on their own even if they are ready to become the cannon fodder. There has to be a combination of elite which replaces the vacume created by the revolution. French monarch was replaced by bourgeois democracy, not peasants or labourers. Recommend

  • http://Bristol,UK Faheem J. Khan

    Good write Samir.

    Let me add here that revolutions aren’t always productive. Its very important who is bringing revolution (the team), what are their intentions (vision and ideology), and what would be the expected outcomes in the longer run (the third party independent observation).

    Adolf Hitler’s Nazi ideology was also a revolution for Germans, and the consequences were: World War II; the Cold War; US-NATO versus Soviet-Warsaw Alliance; and then US-funded Pak-assisted Soviet-Afghan war – even today we (Pakistanis) are facing its aftermaths.

    In my opinion, we have the Jinnah’s vision of Pakistan; we have the Iqbal’s philosophy of Khudi; we have the Sir Syed’s dream of knowledgeable society; we have Liaquat’s practice of simplicity; we have Mahbubul Haq’s idea of welfare state… but (unfortunately) we are not recognising them.Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/1336/the-democracy-of-detachment/ Syed Nadir El-Edroos

    Quite true! Revolutionaries feed of ideals, ideology and vision; our leaders regardless of their political association cultivate power through fear. Recommend

  • http://secularpakistan.wordpress.com aliarqam

    Agree to the article, though calling khomeni’s as a revolutionary is a bit hyperbolic. He was the one who hijacked a revolution by the moderate forces to the rule of Mullahs, read the history and check out who was chosen to be the first president and why he has to resign.Recommend

  • Haris Masood Zuberi

    I agree Samir, the most essential elements in the form of direction or leadership are missing. Without which results could be somewhat like the February Revolution of 1917 which means power falling into the grip of make-shift leadership constituting semi-popular beneficiaries of the void–eventually leading to more unrest and revolt to follow, only ideally in the same year. Recommend

  • maheen usmani

    Food for thought. Well said, Samir.Recommend

  • watchdog from UK

    Who is going to bring revolution?
    Altaf Hussain? Oh no.

    He does not even fully know what French revolution was.
    Charles De Gaulle was a visionary and migrated to the United Kingdom. He was sincere and was a courageous leader. He founded resistance against the occupation of France by Nazis. Altaf can rely on some corrupt generals to bring a coup d’etat but that will not be revolution. Altaf Hussain neither a Khomeini. Recommend

  • Farid Ahmad Malik


    Bhutto is gone.And his legacy(or lack of it) is not really his legacy.
    Zaid Hamid is not a leader,he promotes war and uses hate speech.
    What we need is someone who thinks about Pakistan,only.
    Someone from the middle class.Someone who can speak.Someone revolutionary.Recommend

  • Mustafa

    In the present set up, the most popular demand (ideology) of Pakistanis is the Rule of Law. People launching country wide protest against the sacking of CJ was a revolution per se. Rule of Law also happens to be the main slogan of Justice Party of Imran Khan.
    Imran Khan might have the guts to lead a revolution.Recommend

  • Rzza Bakir

    Nice SamirRecommend

  • DoublyLinkedList

    Revolutions are usually attributed as ‘bloody revolutions’ for good reasons. No one really wants a revolution, it’s always the last straw. Pakistan in my head needs a revolution, this can go really bad in a lot of ways. The number of parties/groups or ideologies we have this will never be a good idea, ever. But at the same time, this is the only idea which can stop the steady and rather not so decline of the overall financial/social state of the nation.Recommend

  • Ghausia

    “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.”

    Truer words never spoken. Great article Samir. I believe the revolution that is being spoken of these days is yet another fancy word for “oh look, they’re massacring people for weeks again”. Same old riots, same old atrocities, but all under the name of a “revolution.” At least the current government is just lining its pockets; God help us if MQM should be in power.Recommend

  • parvez

    Really good article, loved reading it.
    Revolution is a harbinger for change. Apparently what agitates your mind is that we should not change unless we know what we are changing to. What Pakistan should have looked like was clearly defined by our founding fathers, that this vision has been completely distorted mainly for personal greed is our misfortune. So we know what Pakistan should look like but who will do what is right for this country ? You need a giant and we have are pygmies.Recommend

  • http://theterrorland.blogspot.com/ Nasira Parveen

    Fantastic article, you are absolutely right. Recommend

  • Samir

    @the person who suggested Imran Khan has the ‘guts’ to lead a revolution:

    Mr. Khan has absolutely lost it. He supported Altaf Hussain’s call for Martial law one day, backtracked the other day and asked the government to stop taking aid from the International community for the flood victims. People like these don’t lead revolutions. Recommend

  • Mustafa

    I agree with you to the extent that Imran Khan neither has the charisma to lead a revolution nor political acumen to come to power. But you have to agree that Imran is the change Pakistani youth desires for. If you conduct elections where only students are allowed to vote, Imran will win hands down. His party is well organized and his manifesto is appealing as well.
    But yes, I again agree with you that some of his decision making has been weird like boycotting elections, taking solo flight right from the beginning and the ones you mentioned above. He is very slow in learning the rules of politics. Politics is a game of flexibility, compromises, dialogue, alliances etc. He is too rigid in his approach. Unless he acquires political sagacity, he is unlikely to make any headway in Pakistani Politics.
    He wants to play clean politics. He should know that where traffic is unruly those who abide by rules will get hit.Recommend

  • Samir

    @Mustafa… Charisma and acumen are probably the first two things you need to lead the masses.

    The first problem is that why should we justify an election where only students vote? When we say people, that includes everyone within the age framework. Secondly, you should look into Khan’s last elections venture where he supported a candidate from Rawalpindi. The candidate got 10k votes less than he got when he stood in the last elections as an independent candidate.

    Khan is not a politician. The fact that no strong personality joins his party (I can’t name one influential leader in PTI other than Khan) speaks volumes about his attitude.

    Yes, I believe he is honest. His contributions towards social work is very commendable. Recommend

  • Mawali

    Last I heard it takes two to tango. If people are dying as a result of “massacres” they include members of the MQM as well. Without getting too racially charged and turning this into a ridiculous argument like “God help us if MQM should be in power.” Suffice it to say that MQM (for all its imperfections) is the only party that has the guts to stand up against the Taliban and its sympathizers and to call for the much needed land reforms and the end to a feudal society that has plagued Pakistan since it existence. Unlike the feudal masters you admit “At least the current government is just lining its pockets” earnestly at work robbing Pakistan blind and along the way killing scores of helpless by depriving them of the funds allocated for their uplift.
    It is literally nauseating to hear the pseudo intellectuals defend the current crop of misfits, highway men and plain old gangsters pretending to be the guardians of Pakistan. It is equally nauseating to read comments like .” At least the current government is just lining its pockets”. The sense of apathy reeks of a rotten to the core attitude because of self pity and victim mentality. Is this what Pakistan is now reduced to?
    Altaf Hussain may be the biggest goober to walk on this Earth. However, at this point in time this goober is the only one who makes most sense amongst the wolves in sheep’s clothing. Pakistani’s have repeatedly like fools given second, third and umpteen chances to the same old round of suspect’s i.e. the PPP and the PML with their umpteen names and manifestos’ not to mention manifestations. How about taking a chance on someone different?
    At least MQM is bringing real issues and ideas unhindered by the shackles of religious mumbo jumbo. It beats just sitting around and yelling “God help us”. Pakistani’s have been relying on God for 62 years now how about getting off the tukhas and stop playing the victim all the time. Reality is that democracy and the feudal system cannot co-exist and if a for a fleeting second you think that your harmless feudal lords are “only” lining their pockets then I urge you to step out of that cool drawing room for a change. Capeesh! Recommend

  • Syed Schumail Afghan

    Its a very good evaluation of the situation and the angst that we feel overtaking us. My ideology is to get rid of all the kafir mullahs, who practice & propagate naozobillah the underestimation of the Prophet (P.B.U.H), his Household, his Companions, the Aulia Karam/Walis, against the words of the Holy Quran, and use teenagers for suicide attacks sponsored by the American Ruling Class (call it CIA,Free Masons, 11 families of District of Columbia, Capitalists Pagan Jews Zionists etc.people who brought down the World Trade Center, removed the evidence, killed the Kennedys,ZA & Benazir Bhutto and employed a very popular actor Mr. Osama Bin Laden to first fight the afghan war and then take over Iraq, Afghanistan,Pakistan, and ultimately Iran) to kill Shias and Sunnis and spread nationwide hatred and fear in this economically crippled country and steal the power from their mentors, their creators, behind the scene rulers of Pakistan, Our Army. Second the Corrupt Faujis, Bureaucrats, Government Servants, Corrupt bankers, Tax Evading & Corrupt Businessmen will be caught with recovery and repentance intended, failing to which public death penalty and life imprisonment will be awarded according to the intensity of their theft. Most Industries will be nationalized and employment given to the youth and deserving, with strict punishments for corruption. Middle Class will be protected and fully involved. The Judiciary and the Police will be cleansed and Strengthen. Justice will be speedy and free. Ill gotten wealth will be confiscated.And,Most Importantly the Looter Politicians, Rice, Flour and Sugar Mill owners,Gaddi Nashheen Waderas(Saien Sarkars), Chaudrys and Maliks of Sindh, Punjab and Baluchistan will be stripped off of their Acres of Agricultural kingdoms and head offices of cruelty.All these lands will be divided and distributed among the poor haris and kissans of lower Punjab, all of Sindh and all of Baluchistan. Their Children will be provided education and opportunities to create their own future.The borders with Afghanistan will be sealed with electrocution. And a trade union with India, China, Iran, and Bangladesh will be formed. Those who have brought this revolution, after taking all the above steps will hold the fairest election in the History of Pakistan, and those who have freed the poor people from slavery of the plunderer murderer ruling class, will be elected. If political parties bring reforms in themselves by then, and agree to serve the people according to the spirit of Humanity and the Spirit of tolerance,love and peace given by Islam, they will be allowed to do so. Education, Health and social security will be provided to every citizen free of cost.All minorities will have equal rights. The constitution will be re written and the all laws and governance will be formulated according to Quran and the Authenticated Sunnat. The Economy and Banking System will be Interest-Free and the society will be provided all platforms for personal, economic, and spiritual growth, All this can take place before America and Saudia Arabia attack us. That’s my Ideology of a Revolution.What’s your Ideology Sameer..?? Please let me add that contrary to the big talk when a protest rally was called at Lahore Press Club last Saturday, as “Justice for Muneeb and Mughess”, only 5 people including me were there with playcards, the rest 1000+ Mummy Daddys who had promised to attend where sitting in their homes watching Sri lanka cricket Match. Maybe this is just drawing room talk, or maybe something worthwhile. Only ALLAH knows.Regards.Recommend

  • M. Musabbeha

    @Mawali you have some excellent points but I’m sorry reality is different. The true reality is, that we as Pakistani’s are not ready to give in that sacrifice to bring about a change. Look around, articles “like a Pakistan with no hope”, and such ideologies are a proof to our shallow mindset.
    What we need to realize is that that we need to bring about a change from within us, if the people are corrupt a ‘danda’ will never rectify the situation. It may be a short term relief from the situation, but in the long run it will never benefit us. The reason why democracy isn’t allowed to prosper, and why we have the same dried out, corrupt political parties is because we don’t give it that chance.
    “Sitting back” and asking for a change is not only myopic, but also shallow and cowardly, what a democracy states is that the people rule, and for that- even if it takes time- the people need to bring about such a change from within themselves.
    Wanting someone to come and clean up the mess, is selfish, lazy and ignorant-even if it takes time, this is a struggle we need to put in- I know we’re sick of struggling- but this struggle is essential- and this period right now defines what our country demands from us.
    As an average Pakistani, I would welcome a revolution, but what WE need to realize is THAT is not what Pakistan requires.
    And here is where the paradox comes in, as a populace we live in our “self righteous” bubbles, we harp on about the many problems that riddle our country, but how many of us have actively done something for it. Not to mention we’re impatient, can we afford to put in that struggle in order to achieve a brighter Pakistan- I’m not so sure.
    Maybe that is why we say we need an Altaf Hussain to come and clean up the process, that is why we say we demand a revolution, because deep down we’re too cowardly to admit that “saying we want to help Pakistan”-are at the end of the day- for us,-just words-hollow and meaningless.
    Actively, we don’t want a part of it, and THAT is what defines the fine line between being patriotic and actively wanting a better Pakistan, as opposed to sitting back and asking for a “revolution”.
    Revolutions are bloody. And at the end of the day, it’s the poor people who suffer, as we sit back in our “cool drawing rooms”.
    I’m sorry but I think they’ve already suffered enough, I don’t think they deserve to suffer anymore. Look at the word itself “revolution”. According to science, it means going round in a circle. According to the English dictionary it means, riot, insurgency.
    Altaf Hussain’s demand for a revolution is not only plain twisted, but its heartless. As a country its not going to help us go forward, it would be like going round in a circle of violence, more bloodshed, more bomb-blasts, more dead bodies lining the streets,-using our poor masses as cannon fodder, oh another hundred heartbeats.
    And that is where the question comes in for all of you who love criticizing our country, and adding to the babble of comments, you’re not hoping for a better Pakistan for yourself or for that small segment of society which you belong to, -you’re doing this for that 160 million people, who are Pakistan. Recommend

  • Talha

    your blogs are always thought-provoking and having a logical flow.. keep up the good writing!Recommend