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Posts Tagged Elitism

THE MAN WHO FOUGHT BACK BY RIMMEL MOHYDIN

Pakistan Think Tank Hero

 

 

THE MAN WHO FOUGHT BACK

BY RIMMEL MOHYDIN
Arjumand

IN CONVERSATION WITH ARJUMAND AZHAR HUSSAIN, ONE OF THE MUTINY LEADERS OF FLIGHT PK 370.

 

The Man Who Got Two VIP’s Off The PIA Flight…

When the law doesn’t work, when the judicial system doesn’t work, when Parliament doesn’t work, then you’re only left with one way of dealing with problems: the media.
Cellphone videos of the anti-VIP mutiny on PIA’s Karachi to Islamabad flight PK 370 have become a viral sensation, even in India. The flight was originally scheduled to take off at 7 p.m. on Sept. 15 but was delayed, according to the government, by 90 minutes because of technical reasons and another 25 minutes because of Sen. Rehman Malik, Pakistan’s former interior minister, who was running late. The passengers revolted and, through their jeering, forced the also-tardy Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, a lawmaker from the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), off the plane. When Malik finally made his way toward the plane, he was forced to turn back as angry passengers shouted at him. Malik’s party members have claimed this was a conspiracy, replete with allegedly inebriated passengers and plants from the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, to defame the senator and his Pakistan Peoples Party. This is stretching it. We recently spoke with Karachi-based Arjumand Azhar Hussain, one of the mutiny leaders and who has worked in the hospitality sector and for PTV, about the extraordinary scenes from PK 370 that most Pakistanis view as inspirational. 
Excerpts:
The scenes you filmed have been hailed by most Pakistanis and inspired an anti-VIP campaign in India. Did you expect this act of rebellion to become so widely appreciated?
No, I really did not. God has His own plans, and maybe I was chosen for this particular thing. I’ve been thinking my whole life, when are we going to change this VVIP culture? I want to leave, in my own humble capacity, a better Pakistan for my kids.
What convinced you to take a stand and confront the two politicians?
I’ve taken this stand several times before. I was driving one night from Peshawar to Islamabad and right behind me was this car with about six floodlights on—essentially blinding me and people on the opposite road. Eventually the car overtook me. I chased after it and told the driver to pull over. I saw that the car belonged to a judge. I got down and said to him, ‘Sir, do you realize you’re a judge of the Supreme Court and you are breaking the law?’ He said nothing. He smiled, seemed a little embarrassed but didn’t do anything. I have been on many flights which faced delays because of politicians, chief ministers, generals, judges. I just always sat there thinking that one day it has to stop.
How do you end the undue privilege accorded to VIPs?
We have to change our attitude, and fight back every time and on every front. If you’re in a queue at a bank, make sure you and others follow it. If you’re in an aircraft and you see somebody delaying the plane, stop him, immediately. This must continue, and it will continue. I’ve heard that [the prime minister’s daughter] Maryam Nawaz Sharif was also given the same treatment [as Vankwani and Malik] recently, so it’s already started. The bullet has been fired. I don’t know whether the protests in Islamabad will change anything or not, but somehow I think the entire pattern is beginning to change.
The PPP has suggested that you and the other protesting passengers may have been put up to it by Imran Khan’s PTI.
Not at all! The PTI wanted me to come to their demonstration [in Islamabad] and I said, Sorry, I’m not a political worker. I’m not affiliated with the PMLN and certainly not with the PPP, obviously. I’m not even a supporter of Tahir-ul-Qadri. I’m just an ordinary Pakistani. I’ve been getting compliments and messages of support on Facebook. People keep calling me and children have come up to me asking for a picture.
Not everyone has celebrated your actions on PK 370. Some have criticized the mutiny as ‘vigilantism’ and ‘mob justice.’ Is this fair?
You can call me a vigilante or anything else you like, but I’m not going to lie down and take it anymore. The Quran tells us, categorically, that you have to protect yourself and your family. The government and the system are not giving us what we need, whether it is security or clean water or even an on-time flight. So we have to do things for ourselves or at least for the next generation. The power of the individual is paramount. It took a Rosa Parks to change everything in the U.S.
Who do you hold responsible for the flight delay that day, PIA or the politicians?
Oh, absolutely the politicians. PIA people shake in their pants when a VIP comes in. I have seen this with [PPP’s] Khurshid Shah, I have seen this with judges, and I have seen this with generals. Just wait and see: flights will take off on time because now every aircraft will have a ‘vigilante.’ They will have another person who is like me and will ask questions about why passengers are being made to wait. PIA’s inefficiency is, of course, another matter.
What was the flight crew’s reaction to the mutiny?
A stewardess told me that the delay was because a few passengers were late. Then another crew member whispered in my ear that we were waiting for Mr. Rehman Malik. You’ve seen what happened next. The crew was extremely happy that we said and did something. They told me that they were fed up with this [VIP] attitude and the flight delays it causes. They all thanked me once we took off.
Why was it so important to film these events?
When the law doesn’t work, when the judicial system doesn’t work, when Parliament doesn’t work, then you’re only left with one way of dealing with problems: the media. Today’s media is more powerful than Parliament and we’re going to continue using it until we achieve some sanity in this country.

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Non-Violence Versus The System

 Over a century and a half ago, Claude Frédéric Bastiat, a political economist, a liberal theorist, and member of the French Assembly warned:

 “When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men, they create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.”

Non-Violence Versus The System

NAJMA SADEQUE

September 03, 2014

      To settle disputes, parties follow universally accepted rules. So the current standoff arises from opposed perceptions of democracy. Some take human rights very seriously, not just on paper. For others it’s a convenient label slapped onto an established feudal and patronage system. What some see as elitist entitlement, others see as corruption and nepotism. Entire economies can be dynastic fiefdoms or special-interest cabals; police and bureaucracy are merely tools of enforcement. Democracy is perfectly adhered to in appearance and form. — Except that the media exposes its ugly, hidden side.

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     Some sections of relatively comfortable civil society insist that  the ‘democratic process’ should not be ‘derailed’ under any circumstances;  but  that’s exactly what protestors don’t want either; that they be activated  instead.       There is deafening silence on the part of some ‘democratic process.’ Even a section of civil society working for social and human rights don’t see the dead-end reality of double standards; of laws selectively applied  to the weak but not the strong. The Model Town case is no big deal; nor  the other underhand police actions that followed!        Diversionary tactics swept primary issues – basic needs and curtailing corruption – under the carpet. Not once did the government offer  to correct these with clear-cut plans. Yet revolutionaries — out to undo the status quo – are expected to follow ‘rules’ that government itself  refuses to. After two generations, and millions having passed away  without  ever knowing a decent life, many are unwilling to wait for the  turtle-slow ‘process’ to bring results.        After 17 days of peaceful, determined non-violence, viewers watched in horror and incredulity the unexpected all-night assault that unfolded on television screens, with militarized riot police using methods usually reserved for enemy combatants on battlefields.  Comparisons flashed through countless minds. How is this qualitatively different from the way the Israelis enclose and oppress the hapless, unarmed Palestinians in Gaza? Or was it more like Iraq, where phosphorous and other chemical weapons were used, passed off here as  ordinary tear gas? Or did it resemble the infamous 1919 Jallianwala Bagh  (Amritsar) massacre when Colonel Dyer and his men mercilessly gunned down  a  crowd trapped in a walled-off area?        A non-violent movement gives despotic governments a bad image. Once  the idea is understood, non-violence makes it easier for the poor and  weak to join up and swell the ranks. So it becomes necessary to nip it in the bud – to drive people to a breaking point that can spark violence in the  most non-violent of persons, when opportunistic mobs can no longer be  differentiated from real political workers.      When the call was made to move to the lawns of the Prime Minister’s  house, it was touching to watch the women carrying their babies, their  rolled-up mats, their water-cans and bundles of clothes, to trustingly walk forward. That day the crowd had swelled to a peak: an unexpected  side-effect of the ‘dharna’ was that it served as ‘langar’ (free food kitchen) for the curious or unemployed looking for a free meal.        Several times during the 17 days when police contingents would suddenly appear and surround the protestors, there would be a palpable “silence of the lambs” – before police relaxed or melted away. Protestors were lulled into confidence by government statements that they’d never be fired upon. Unfortunately, their non-violence made them sitting targets.       It takes a particular kind of person to be violent on order without any compunction whatsoever. If lucky, soldiers trained for war may never see battle, while others return as psychological wrecks because they belatedly discover they can’t stomach killing and atrocities. After all, people are not born violent, cruel and sadistic. The potential may be  dormant, but degree and willingness vary. Some cops are able to impersonalize the violence they inflict on others. Some come into it for livelihood because of a lack of choice; some to acquire power which they don’t otherwise have, so that others can’t push them around. Few choose it so they can be Robin Hoods.        What kind were those involved in the Model Town and PM House operations? It’s a frightening thought, especially when it’s been going on and growing for almost seven decades. With fellow-citizens like these, who needs enemies? With ‘democracy’ like this, who needs martial law? Some emperors become so devoid of guilt and shame, they no longer care about being seen without any clothes on. An old adage from Bengal baldly summed up the attitude of ancient kings: “It’s because I am shameless, the  kingdom is entirely mine.”       One question remains unanswered. When unarmed protestors, including women and children were shot from the back and shelled all night, why didn’t the army step in — not to declare martial law, but to stop the Punjab Police assault? Can’t citizens expect that much without compromising the army when their own government attacks them?         Hopefully PTI and PAT have learnt many lessons:

  •      – don’t trust party-hoppers;
  •      – playing cards aren’t shown off once dealt;
  •      – all boats shouldn’t be burnt; and
  •      – chickens shouldn’t be publicly counted before they’re hatched.

They inadvertently armed the sharp-speaking lawyer, PPP’s Aitzaz Ahsan, who set the tone for other speakers to safely follow, to take pot-shots at the PM to grab away some bargaining chips while leaving the dynastic parties of the three provinces intact (in the same breath undermining PAT and PTI – albeit to an already captive National Assembly).

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