By Ankita Shree
The Jan Lokpal Bill movement led by Anna Hazare that swept across India last month had a spill over effect in Pakistan generating a mixed response from this Islamic nation. This article analyzes the different responses that arose in Pakistan related to the movement? And if Pakistan is drawing any parallels from the movement for itself?
Different responses could be seen from scholars and academicians in Pakistan on this phenomenon. A large section of the academia felt that Pakistan needs a similar movement in the country as the issue of corruption plagues both of them. They identify the separation between political and judicial arenas of the two countries and strongly advocate for a similar movement in Pakistan. There is now a major institutional breakdown in Pakistan accompanied by the financial meltdown. Politicians are involved in a number of corruption cases and lack compassion or will to work for the development of their nation. Unlike India there is no effective system of checks and balances and rule of law is often disobeyed in spite of judicial review. In such a scenario the need for an anti-corruption drive in Pakistan is much higher than India.
These views reflect the yearning for a new leadership within Pakistan. They view Anna as a “messiah” for the corruption-stricken Indian society and aspire to have a person of similar stature to mobilize the masses of Pakistan. As M. Rafique Zakaria in the Dawn writes, ‘only civil society can save Pakistan from corruption, injustices, lawlessness, poverty, unemployment and internal and external threats and there is a need for Pakistan’s Anna Hazare to stand up.’
While another section of Pakistani scholars criticizes the movement and have raised scepticism about the leadership of the movement itself. They fear the movement has grave similarities with the Hindu nationalist movement of the 1980s in terms of mobilization and incitement. They attribute the success of the movement to the pressure which the Indian political leadership has post Common Wealth Games and 2G spectrum scams. Also they see the movement as more of media propaganda in terms of magnifying an agenda beyond its proportion. Questions have also been raised on the stability of the Indian parliamentary democracy and constitutional procedures as the protestors have completely undermined their legitimacy.
Another group of scholars have viewed it as a window into the future of India as a superpower garnering support from its middle class and youth, who are awakening to the realization of their role-play in the decision making process of the country. They see it as a major change in India that for the first time the educated youth have taken to streets irrespective of caste and religion. Arfia Noor in the Dawn compares the movement to the Judiciary Movement of Pakistan that took place three years ago and attributes the success to the middle class values. Umar Waqar in the Nation equates the movement as the Indian Spring, whose success would confer Anna with the title of biggest anti-corruption jihadist of our times. They see it as a more practical model to be adopted in the South Asian region than the Arab Spring.
The movement in many ways has inspired Pakistan to undertake a similar movement. As Jamil Nasir in The Daily Times points out that there are two major inspirations that Pakistan can draw from Anna’s movement. First, the movement has broken the myth that only political elite with abundant resources can exert influence over the masses. As Anna, belonging to a humble background with no political affiliations and meagre resources, has been able to mobilize people on a large scale to fight against corruption, which Pakistan can take as a role model to be adopted for such a drive in the nation. Second, Pakistan needs to realize the potential of its media, middle class and the youth who are the main driving factors behind Anna’s movement in India and must channelize these constructively to fight against corruption.
Though due to internal conditions of political and economic turmoil it is difficult to execute a similar movement in Pakistan but there exists a hope in the Pakistani academic circle that a similar movement to bring a change can be envisioned for their country. The recent fast to death initiative by social activist Jahangir Akhtar on the lines of Anna Hazare movement against corruption and bigotry in allocation for national defence can be seen as the first step towards it.
Research Intern, IPCS
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