Written by admin on Monday, July 31st, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Judges, military, and the urban middle class
SOURCE: Daily Times
Monday, July 31, 2017

*With this recent verdict, the Supreme Court has reminded the professional class that it is also worthy of the adulation with which the military is held in their circles

Probably the most shocking aspect of Panama verdict is the disdain with which the judges treated an elected Prime Minister during the hearing.

Far from the unbiased adjudicators that they are supposed to be, the judges showed public contempt for the entire Sharif family by equating them with the Sicilian Mafia. Such behaviour forced some observers to suspect an active collusion between the military establishment and the judiciary culminating in the ouster of Nawaz Sharif form office. While it is difficult to ascertain for a fact whether a conspiracy was hatched against the PML-N government, it is certain that the members of these two institutions are bound by ties of class and ideology which led to this decision.

Judges, military officers, bureaucrats, corporate employees, university professors, doctors, etc (you get the idea) form the professional urban middle class of any country play a dominant role in constructing its culture, setting moral and ethical boundaries, and influencing the masses who aspire to join this class. Although a minority, this class also forms the bulk of Pakistan’s consumer-base and thus influences advertiser choices which consequently determine what is discussed in the media. Even after yielding such dramatic influence over the society, this class finds itself alienated from the electoral process due to its small numbers.

This alienation then creates a disdain for the entire electoral process and the business and landed elite which dominates politics through patronage.

On the other hand, members of this class carry a soft corner for military governments since economic development under dictatorships has traditionally favoured them. Their growing numbers through the 2000s gave them the confidence to coalesce around Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) harbouring an aversion toward ‘traditional’ politicians.

However, the masses did not buy PTI’s message of change and continued to vote for Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) in the 2008 and 2013 elections, respectively. Such voting choices of the low-income masses place them at the receiving end of scorn from the professional class for being ‘ignorant greedy idiots’ who would sell their votes in exchange for a plate of biryani.

As this class was losing hope in the electoral process and Imran Khan, then COAS General Raheel Sharif emerged as its divine deliverer backed by an aggressive marketing campaign by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR). Military establishment is an old ally of the professional class providing protection, economic stability, housing, and other services in exchange for the social influence wielded by members of this class.

Unlike politicians who belong either to the elite class or the masses, military leadership belongs to the professional class and vicariously provides access to power to its peers through ascribed (family, caste, or kinship) or achieved (friends, acquaintances, or clients) relationships.

Such an arrangement allows these two power-brokers to influence the political elite which relies on support from low-income masses.

Support from the professional class allows the military to enjoy an unchallenged control over the country’s foreign and national security policies even as the constitution bestows the elected representatives with absolute authority over the armed forces. With its narrative-building prowess, the professional class controls who gets to be portrayed positively or negatively in the national mainstream discourse.

The traditional industrial and landowning elite of the country, on the other hand, is portrayed as corrupt and self-serving in the national discourse for much smaller sins than the military and bureaucracy.

Politicians are exclusively blamed for everything that is wrong with the country while ignoring the fact that they have never had any real governing authority.

Who is traitor and who is patriot, who is blasphemer and who is pious, who is corrupt and who is clean, which issues should enrage us and which should delight us, which news should be discussed and which should be suppressed. Such decisions are made by the military and internalised and propagated by the professional class. Don’t you ever wonder why Hussain Haqqani is considered a traitor for supporting the Americans, whereas ex-ISI chief General Shuja Pasha is hailed as a hero after playing a crucial role in releasing Raymond Davis for the same Americans?

With this recent verdict, the supreme court has reminded the professional class that it is also worthy of the adulation with which the military is held in their circles. Judges want to be portrayed as crusaders of justice in the national mainstream discourse and attract love and respect from the professional class. They want to be recognised as champions of the interests of the urban professional class by using their powers to subdue the will of the masses even if it requires them to produce bizarre decisions on frivolous grounds while ignoring due process. Much like a general who assumes power through a coup or publicly undermines civilian authority through tweets.

Far from their positive image of being law-abiding, tax-paying, hardworking, and college-educated individuals, members of the professional urban middle class are primarily responsible for the instability in the country. This class is responsible for alienating the masses from power, derailing democracy, and supporting adventurous generals and judges throughout our history. It is time for this class to step down from its sense of entitlement and privilege and allow the democratic process to take root in the country for true progress.


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