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Globalisation and violence

Outsourcing of global concerns has caused irreparable damage to Pakistan

Globalisation and violence

The recurring spate of violence that post-colonial societies like Pakistan undergo has drawn the attention of many analysts. The role of the state apparatus has also been scrutinised on a continual basis, largely because of the incapacity of the state to resolve outstanding disputes and conflicts, which are thought to be the prime reason for the situation that we find ourselves in.

In the case of Pakistan, the vulnerability of the state to global events is too clear. The tightly woven net by globalisation leaves hardly any space for any post-colonial state to manoeuvre. The roadmap for post-colonial nations is laid out not by their own selves but by those enounced at the very ‘core’ of, in the words of Wallenstein, the metropolitan world. One cannot wriggle out of the tightly woven situation that globalisation warrants without resorting to violence. In such a dispensation, states like Pakistan, act more like a cog in the machine.

For Pakistan, specifically, the problem is two-fold: it not only has to cater to the needs of the global overlord, obviously the US, but also is supposed to return the favours of our financial benefactor Saudi Arabia. If Iran is included in the equation then one can make sense of the new form our social configuration has assumed in the last thirty years or so — it reflects influences these three countries have cast over Pakistan.

One can sum it up as a society divided by modernity and religious tradition, riddled with sectarian fissures to an extent that rationality is impossible.

In Pakistan, Islamisation practically means Sunnification. It seems our method of resolving sectarian differences is to obliterate anything different from the mainstream.

Post-colonial theorists may argue here that the religious tradition is a product of modernity which I completely endorse. However, in the current scenario, the religious ‘right’ sees modernity as a diabolical ‘other’ and refuses to appreciate any complementarity between the two. The political will needed to put our own interests ahead of those of the US or Saudi Arabia is missing, and that is completely understandable in these circumstances. Thus history keeps repeating itself. Global concerns and internationally orchestrated priorities are dictated to us and we prove to be far too obsequious to act in our own interests.

There comes a time in the history of nations when they have to rediscover their ‘authentic being’ by standing up against such global arm-twisting. Going against the wishes of global actors will of course be a tall order but breaking the shackles of acquiescence to the global overlords is a prerequisite for freedom. By being subjugated to dictates of the global overlords, like the US or Saudi Arabia, the state loses its raison d’être as a guarantor of its citizenry’s freedom and it s inherent right to act and think freely — and thereby is robbed of its self-esteem. People deprived of freedom can never have self-esteem.

The blatant outsourcing of global concerns has caused irreparable damage to Pakistani society as well as the state, leaving it to tame the genii of sectarian and ethnic violence coupled with religious extremism. The terms jihad or kafir that existed at the periphery of our mainstream discourse have become the mainstay of our vocabulary since 1980s. One can surely argue that these phrases found currency in our daily conversation as a result of the Afghan jihad were imposed on us through a petty, self-serving dictator.

That was the beginning of the end of peace and harmony in the land of the pure.

Consequently, a plural ethos spanning over many centuries has been ripped. Financing seminaries and select groups of a peculiar religious persuasion to promote the ‘right’ version of Islam has plunged us into chaos.

At this particular juncture of our history, the policy of acting as a proxy of either the United State or Saudi Arabia calls for an incisive scrutiny. The Pakistani state has mostly acquiesced to global overlords or the oil-rich Saudis which, in consequence, has eroded its credibility among the Pakistani citizenry. Globalisation, coupled with the notion of the Umma, has worked as a double-edged sword for the Pakistani polity.

Ironically the discursive category of Umma and nation state (of Pakistan) works at cross-purposes. I have my doubts whether it is employed in any other Muslim country in the same way as it is in Pakistan. I think it is in our best interest to become inward looking to serve our national interests well.

Globalisation intrudes into any polity through the media. In the South Asian scenario, the media’s role, traditionally ascribed to the State and the ruling elite of the country, has been taken over by the media houses. The format of the talk shows on Pakistani and Indian channels presents us with anchors that mediate between acrimonious politicians decrying each other. To maintain this role of a mediator, it is imperative that political stakeholders keep fighting – something our mediapersons quite conscientiously ensure. The display of such shouted exchanges has an element of entertainment too.

The point that needs to be underscored here is the erosion of the state as an instrument of mediation. One wonders, if the media was to stop reporting and transmitting the gruesome acts of violence that ISIS or TTP perpetrate, would they still continue cutting throats and burning people alive.

Tahir Kamran

tahir kamran
The writer is Professor in the faculty of Liberal Arts at the Beaconhouse National University, Lahore

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