“History repeats itself first as tragedy then as a farce”. This quote is attributed to Karl Mar —albeit incorrectly—the quote is actually from Hegel who is thought to have begun this quote with ‘historical entities’ rather than the word ‘history’.
As per latest reports, Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed was successful in appeasing the horripilating mob. The footage coming out from the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP’)s official social media handles showed a group of young men sword playing to what appeared to be a war song (or either a Mullah in the background hurtling abuses at the ‘infidels’)— a mobocracy displayed an asinine show of idiocy and mobbing. It was ludicrous at best and displaying a very myopic understanding of the world at worst.
What makes a mob think that every time they take to the streets, they can bend the government to their wishes? What emboldens such a foolhardy mob? Needless to say, this is how it has always been, insofar as a mob composed of religious zealots is concerned, the government has shown an inkling to give in.
The TLP is an outlawed/banned group (but not the can’t-contest-the-elections type of outlawed which the interior minister took pains to elucidate). The group shares its objectives with the ruling party, according to the PM. And the military says that the TLP comprises ‘our people’ (It goes without saying that this is meant purely in the rhetorical sense, as in, they are Pakistanis too).
Much can be said and made of the sudden rise of the TLP—a religious pressure group—that became the fifth largest political party of the country. Their politics and electioneering notwithstanding, it is important to recognise the threat it poses to the writ of government, which it repeatedly challenges every winters. Simultaneously, the state shall not act as a guarantor of every wish that this frantic band of holy warriors puts forth. Media reports have it that this time too, the state has knuckled under and promised to release 350 of the so-called banned outfit’s members and also take it out of the Fourth Schedule.
We ought to ask questions like what becomes of the damage to public property? What, if any, compensation has been paid by the government to the citizenry whose lives are disturbed in the last quarter of every year.
Same questions were raised in the Faizabad verdict in which the judges ruled, “Protestors who obstruct people’s right to use roads and damage or destroy property must be proceeded against in accordance with the law and held accountable.” Of course, the Faizabad judgement is important for what it tells us, and how it apportions the blame for the state institutions’ failure to contain the situation when it first appeared.
The judgement should be read every once in a while. It nonchalantly reads, “The perception that ISI may be involved in or interferes with matters with which an intelligence agency should not be concerned with, including politics, therefore was not put to rest.” It then goes on to stress that unlike the ISI other intelligence agencies of the world are run under the mandate of clearly defined laws—laws that are public. The judgement also lays out that the mandate of the ISI “did not include either politics or the media.”
Let’s go back towards the start of this opinion piece where we read Hegel’s quote. Hegel said this quote when Napoleon the third, a nephew of Napoleon the first, was usurping the power for himself resulting in a coup d’etat in 1851. Marxist conception of history was materialistic (and at times fatalistic). Marx outlined the gist of this quote when he wrote an essay on the constitutional crisis of 1851 in a German daily arguing that, “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.”
A simplistic extrapolation of this narrative would be the TLP phenomenon when it first came to the fore. In 2017, when Dr. Frankenstein first created the Frankenstein monster— the monster delivered for its master unlike its literary progenitor. Eventually, the monster Frankenstein couldn’t keep control of its phenotype for long. In 2017, Dr. Frankenstein threatened the Chairman PEMRA lest he stopped the coverage of the TLP’s righteous struggle, but in 2021, Dr. Frankenstein took an about-face and had the City 24 Channel thrashed for covering the same TLP. Only that the first time it was a tragedy and every other time since then it has been a farce.
Nonetheless, it will be an intellectual dishonesty to overlook Dr. Frankenstein’s other creations over the course of our history, because as it happens this too goes back in our history. While the 1953 riots are not directly linked to Dr. Frankenstein—other permutations of the TLP are strewn across our history. PNA, IJI, and PAT directly come to mind. Zia ul Haq also patronised anti-Shia terror groups during his long rule. There is so much introspection to be done. So much introspection to be done on the Dr. Frankenstein’s part that one wonders will another 75 years be enough for Dr. Frankenstein to realise its mistakes. More importantly, will Dr. Frankenstein ever feel the need for introspection?