Cultivating Hope for Political Process …. (by Aejaz Karim, Washigton DC)

As a young adult, I have noticed that I am automatically categorized as being part of a generation that knows nothing or very little about politics nor seems to care about it. Rated as one of the most politically apathetic region in Pakistan, it makes one wonder whether we are really concerned with what’s going on around us. We seem detached with the political process in our own area. Majority of us (educated youth) don’t vote either. We see thing going on in wrong directions, but don’t react. Why? Because we don’t care; we have to complete our education; we are busy with our jobs; our leaders are not good; our political system is redundant; we don’t have time to think about. There are so many excuses for our irrelevancy and aloofness. But, it seems that we need to concentrate on this very important process of our social life. We must be serious about our political leadership, and political process or simply the most ignored part of our social life- politics.

Things are changing now. Over the past few years people, mostly the educated population, have started to realize that we are lagging behind in political development. They are now more critical about our political system. They have started to raise questions about the worth of our political leadership. They realize that the existing political system is not addressing the core needs of our society. They feel that our political leadership has failed to play their role to give us a proper direction, identity and recognition. There are so many question marks on the role of our political leadership. We need educated leaders, highly educated ones. This feeling seems started to take place and break in every mind in Hunza valley. People have realized that Hunza is lagging behind in political development inspite of achieving an honorable level in socio-economic development.

“I don’t know when the people of Hunza will think about an educated leadership at political front”, this question of Syed Yahya Shah at a seminar on “50 years of evolution of development in Hunza/Nagar-opportunities and challenges” on November 7, 2007 in Karimabad (Quoted by A. Zulfiqar, 2008), is enough to provoke our thoughts. It is adequate to open our eyes; it is sufficient to challenge our educated youth’s position and role in our political life. Why did he ask this question?

Hunzakuts are not only thinking but also striving to bring in the “educated leadership”. Unfortunately it is the prevailing political culture in our country which restricts the abilities of those leaders. Instead of leading the community they are falling prey of their personal gains and interests. Instead of actualizing their “broad vision” they are indulging themselves in a very narrow interpretation of development and progress. They are weighing their success with the yardstick of road and water channel construction, or establishment of few vocational centers. Elections have been an exercise of “spend and earn” in our country at all level.

Regrettably our political system has been monopolized by an array of corrupt politicians. Here I am not talking about the political system in our nameless land, Northern Areas, but I am talking about the entire country. Our system has been infected by innumerable social diseases, economic viruses and political germs. These, altogether, are blotting the immunity of every “educated leader”.  Our political body is not sound, while a sound body is must for a sound mind. In this situation how can we expect that we will be able to bring some positive change at our end? It seems pleasant notion to elect educated and worth leading persons without any political affiliation, but when the entire political game has been played under the flags and shadows of various parties it is not easy to distant ourselves from certain political influences and affiliations. Let us say the educated segment of our society will do so, but what percentage of voters do they constitute? Our past experience shows that election results have been changed overnight. How and through what means we all know.  

Strengthening our civil society organizations is the best way to foster the political process. It is, no doubt, the most effective method to enhance political awareness and develop our political leadership. But a sound and fair civil society structure always poses threat to the vicious interests of the corrupt politicians and the redundant political system or the ruling authority everywhere. They will never bear a sound civil society structure. What is happening in our country today is its best example. The game of spoiling civil society organizations is not only in progress on national level, but on regional and local level as well. It is also important to strengthen our CSO’s through active participation; through knowledge, skill and time contribution. Our educated youth is equipped with these requirements and they are also determent to play their due role. I hope they will.  

Lack of political awareness is one of the major causes of our political backwardness. But what is political awareness? Political Awareness in its widest sense is an educational process whereby individuals explore and come to understand the influences which can affect their lives and those of others. Another question, why is it important?  It is important because this process helps individuals to:

Think beyond themselves.

Recognize when change is necessary.

Build-up the skills and confidence to enable them to feel sufficiently empowered to contribute to change or action.

Make a positive contribution to society.

Secure the optimum quality of life for themselves and others.

Increase their knowledge of local, national and global issues.

It is not any overnight activity, but is a long term systematic process. It is a process of changing the mindset of people; it is a process of enabling people to decide for their future. So it is sophisticated too.

We need time, we need resources, we need opportunities, we need willingness, and above all we need determination and commitment. Both determination and commitment are crucial to raise political awareness and build strong political institutions in our area. We need to change the prevailing traditional undemocratic political culture of political parties. In order to bring change we need to give people awareness about collective cause and collective thinking. We need to make the people realize how precious their vote is. People must know how to use their vote. They must know what kind of leadership we need. They must trust our educated youth.

Let us not be pessimist or hopeless, let us come together and take step towards cultivating hope about a political system based on true democracy having pluralism as its base. Let us come out from our small packets: packets of villages, packets of localities and packets of regions. Let us work on political awareness.  

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  1. Mr Karim,
    Your emotions are worthy enogh to be written in atext book for the students of Matriculation or Intermediate in the subject of Political Sceinces.It will have agood effect on our youth’s health that educated Leadership,awared people and good planning can make a society prosper etc.
    But in the rael arena of Politics in aregion like Northern Areas and cpountry like pakistan,you need aleadership who would be symbol of Distinction and a Protocol owner nationally and internationally by being a lkeader of the people of Fairy land the Hunza ,a last dynasty in the Karakuram Mountains where the peole had a kingdom.This is a distiction which has broght tMir Ghazanfar Ali Khan as anpotential asset for Hunza not only in the national but ion the ionternational level of Political Community of World Celeberties.Please donnot lose this golden asset which is plus to the mervoulus romantic Shangrilla having the global attraction ,The Hunza which if has its Royal daynasty in Power it makes this land an incompatible place on the world stage where people all around the wprld want to pledge their support and take interest in developing thuiis unique culture,As we see the world celreberities are visiting the area which is ahealthy sign for the people .Because the more ypou emerge on world stage as unjique Fairy land the more you get reputation,respect and attention which can change this place from Hunza a third world rural village s Vally to a living World Touristic Resort where people would like to charter plans even the roads are not friendly du e to situations in the region.
    God save our beloved King


  2. Kindly read the extracts from speeches of MHI appended in the following lines:

    Democracy And Its Essentials

    “Democracy is young and still relatively ineffective in support of modern development activities. While a strong civil society can and does help to counter-balance such ineffectiveness, the processes of democratic government must also receive more attention and support.”
    “Political situations with a theological overlay are causing disaffection or antagonism between communities of the same faith, and even more so among different faiths,” he said. “At the centre of this turbulence is Islam. We cannot let this continue. On the other hand, the sheer scale of the problem added to its complexity, making it an issue which the Ummah in its entirety can better address, rather than individual schools of interpretation within it.”
    “Tolerance, openness and understanding towards other peoples’ cultures, social structures, values and faiths are now essential to the very survival of an interdependent world,” he said. “Pluralism is no longer simply an asset or a prerequisite for progress and development, it is vital to our existence.”

    “Pluralist societies are not accidents of history. They are a product of enlightened education and continuous investment by governments and all of civil society in recognizing and celebrating the diversity of the world’s peoples.”
    In a vigorous exhortation to “governments, civil societies and peoples of the world,” His Highness the Aga Khan, Imam (spiritual leader) on Saturday night suggested that enhancing “pluralism is as critical for the welfare and progress of human society as are poverty alleviation and conflict prevention.”
    “The attempt by communal groups, be they ethnic, religious or tribal groups, to impose themselves on others” aims to “eradicate the cultural basis of group identity” said the Aga Khan, citing Central Europe, the Great Lakes region in Africa and Afghanistan as examples. “Without cultural identity,” he said, “social cohesion gradually dissolves.”

    “Actions to enhance pluralism, “the Aga Khan noted, “have to be matched in the developing world by programmes to alleviate poverty because, left alone, poverty will provide a context for special interests to pursue their goals in aggressive terms. “Urgent humanitarian assistance is indispensable,” he said, “but should be conceived as part of a long-term strategy of helping the recipient community develop its own resources” to improve socio-economic conditions of the poorest. “Development,” he warned, “is sustainable only if the beneficiaries become, in a gradual manner, the masters of the process.”

    Ladies and gentlemen, I put it to you that no human development initiative can be sustainable unless we are successful in achieving three essential conditions.
    • First, we must operate in an environment that invests in, rather than seeks to stifle, pluralism and diversity.
    • Second, we must have an extensive and engaged civil society.
    • And third, we must have stable and competent democratic governance.
    These three conditions are mutually reinforcing. Taken together, they allow developing societies gradually to become masters of the process and make that process self sustainable.
    I will speak first about pluralism.
    The effective world of the future will be one of pluralism, a world that understands, appreciates and builds on diversity. The rejection of pluralism plays a significant role in breeding destructive conflicts, from which no continent has been spared in recent decades.
    In this effort, civil society has a vital role. By its very nature, civil society is pluralist because it seeks to speak for the multiple interests not represented by the state. I refer, for example, to organisations which ensure best practices such as legal societies and associations of accountants, doctors and engineers. The meritocracy they represent is the very foundation of pluralism. And meritocracy is one of the principles of democracy itself.
    Village organisations, women’s and student groups, micro-credit entities and agricultural co-operatives help give access and voice to those who often are disenfranchised.
    Journalist associations also play a key role, explaining the political process, guarding against corruption and keeping governments accountable. Responsible reporting and competent comment on critical issues, and the hard choices that society must address, are an essential element in the functioning of a democracy.
    Civil society organisations make a major contribution to human development, particularly when democracies are failing, or have failed; for it is then that the institutions of civil society can, and often do, carry an added burden to help sustain improvements in quality of life.
    I believe strongly that a critical part of any development strategy should include support for civil society.
    Take as an example the phrase “clash of civilisations” which has travelled far and wide. I have said many times previously, and I would like to reconfirm today my conviction that what we have been observing in recent decades is not a clash of civilisations but a clash of ignorance. This ignorance is both historic and of our time.
    The challenge is therefore, clear. We must create the human and institutional resources to build and sustain young democracies.
    “Elections and the existence of political parties do not by themselves guarantee stable governments, competent political leadership and respect for the constitution. Nor do they guarantee good economic management and the absence of corruption,”

    “The replacement of fear by hope is probably the single most powerful trampoline of progress,” he said. “When hope takes root, then a new level of tolerance is possible, though it may have been unknown for years, and years, and years.”

    “Instead of shouting at one another, we must listen to one another and learn from one another,” he said. “As we do, one of our first lessons might well centre on those powerful but often neglected chapters in history when Islamic and European cultures interacted cooperatively – constructively and creatively – to help realise some of civilisation’s peak achievements.”

    Three concepts seem to me to be essential in creating, stabilizing and strengthening democracy around the world, These concepts are meritocracy, pluralism and civil society.

    A democracy cannot function reasonably without two preconditions.

    The first is a healthy, civil society. It is an essential bulwark that provides citizens with multiple channels through which to exercise effectively both their rights and duties of citizenship. Even at a very basic level, only a strong civil society can assure isolated rural populations, and the marginalized urban poor of a reasonable prospect of humane treatment, personal security, equity, the absence of discrimination, and access to opportunity.
    The second precondition is pluralism. Pluralism means peoples of diverse backgrounds and interests, coming together in organizations of varying types and goals, for different kinds and forms of creative expression, which are valuable and deserving of support by government and society as a whole.

  3. Lack of political awareness is a wide dilemma among the educated youths of the whole third world countries and when we observe the situation in Pakistan that is much wide and being a part of political atmosphere of the country, we too does not have any inclination to the political activates. Now the current scenario and the past few decades which depict having affiliations with any political party you need to have a pistol and might have fought with baton at college or university level. In such circumstance we do discourage to join any politcal party at national level and locally and there are many such reasons which discourage the youth to think about the political process and its dimensions which is the ingredient of well established civil society.

    Now as we are approaching towards a political process we need to change the course of politics in our region and need to involve the youths and intellectuals in this process so as to get different results as comparative to the rest of the areas. One thing is required to be kept in mind that we must be fully aware of interests that will be and are attached to the ongoing and upcoming political process.

  4. Dear Ejaz,

    your thought provoking article compelled me to ask a few questions.
    What is the political asset that the political leaders in Gilgit-Baltistan or on a lesser extent the political leaders in Hunza strive for?
    Where is the political mechanism that our political leaders need to embrace and follow.?
    What powers a political process would bring to Politicians in Gilgit-Baltistan?

    We have lots of politicians who do the “thana and kacharee” politics and the politics of “funds and development”. But what we need is politics of “Legislation, governance, rights, power and authority”. A strong civil society would do wonders but it is not a substitute for any political system.

  5. The name Political Process is very beautiful but in practise it is my dear Aejaz “Cultivation of Hatered” Please let our society run with oneness and united.You know that what this so called process has given to Afganistan,Kenya and Nepal where people are in severe hatered against one another.Please rely on your self and find every thing good by bringing some innovations in the fandamentals of your political set up which protects you socially as human beings by promoting love and unity rather differences ,Party politica and extreme hatered.
    I hope we will learn to rely our selves.
    Aziz Ahmed Jan

  6. Dear Aziz,

    Political process is the essence of democracy. It is this same process that is taking Afghanistan, Nepal and Kenya out of the medieval, despotic and cruel form of governance towards a more civilized rule. Why are you forgetting that this political process is the basis of great democracies like Great Britain, the USA and other Western European countries. The absence of a genuine political process is the cause of the current malaise of Pakistan and a real Political Process will lead the people of Gilgit-Baltistan towards achieving their fundamental rights.

  7. Dear sajjad,
    I exactly mean what you say but I wanna clear that we should learn what they had in this “Process”.It is not necessary to taste all those hasardous experiences of genocide,killings ,burnings and much more.We should go to bring changes in fandamentals through a consensus and giving enough time.The so called process “overnight”is only sowing the seeds of hatered forever that in any way you cannot prais the aftermaths like in Afganistan,Kenya or nepal where people once again are on the tabels of discussions and finding solutios through dialogue.
    But you know what happened to all the 14000 innocent dewellers of villages in Nepal who were cold bloodly killed and the thousands of childern,women and innocent people were murdered in Afganistanin the name of this very politics on ethical basis.And what politics and political process means in our region is also ultimatel yethical,which a famous writer Farid Zakria in Newsweek predicts for all the people of the world if this Process goes under”What the people die for”that people will ultimately die for this ethinic identity .And he has vgiven examples of Pakistan in the begining of his article.It is not athing of pride to harbour hatered among people in the name of politics but you need consensus and hormony even you are having problems you should give enough time phase.
    Thanks for your response.
    Aziz Ahmed.

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