Almost six decades ago, a glimpse of Frantz Fanon’s work on international affairs was published in Les Damnes De La Ierre – translated as ‘The Wretched of the Earth”. Fanon, renowned as a psychologist and influenced by Marxist philosophy, wrote a collection of connected essays that provided an allegorical critique of the colonial methods of domination and their impact on the colonised communities. His exquisite articulation of the intricate modes of colonisation in those essays was regarded as a testimony to his genius and rightly hailed as “The Handbook for the Black Revolution”.
Even though the essays were directed toward understanding the relationship of colonisation between the wretched Europeans and Africans, they still show a glaring similarity with the current affairs of Pakistan. By admitting that no words can replicate his intellect captured in those essays, hereby, I will reiterate some of his arguments before reverting to show how consistent techniques of colonisation have made Pakistan a “brother of the colonial”, a fate that can be only described as regrettable.
Fanon writes, “decolonization is always a violent phenomenon”. Colonials are violence specialists who tend to create and maintain colonial states through the use of violence or threat of violence. Since the entire modus operandi of the colonial is dependent on violence, he argues that only violence can reverse these power relationships. Fanon further illustrates that the mantra of an independent nation is a myth – “an empty shell”. The middle class that assumes power after independence is neither adequately prepared to replace the colonial system, nor has the power to remain fiscally independent from the colonial power. This forces them to seek “frenzied appeals for help from the mother country” and allows them to be exploited further. The nation, therefore, even after independence is merely a “brothel of Europe”.
What Fanon describes resonates perfectly with the current affairs of Pakistan. The independence of Pakistan was a colonial project. The struggle for it resulted in nothing but violence and blood for the people of Pakistan.
To take his critique a step further, Fanon shows that colonials compartmentalise between the leaders of the state, who are massively westernised into the western culture, dress and language, and the peasants who are subordinates to them, the lumpenproletariat (the disenfranchised mass of humanity). The tension between both is exploited further by the colonials to ease their domination.
Lastly, Fanon discovers how this physical domination is accompanied by the planned psychological depreciation of the self-worth and degradation of the colonised.
What Fanon describes resonates perfectly with the current affairs of Pakistan. The independence of Pakistan was a colonial project. The struggle for it resulted in nothing but violence and blood for the people of Pakistan. The blunders made by Mountbatten in mapping out the India-Pakistan border leading to the death of millions, and remembered as a bloody legacy of the Indian partition, were just a start. Since then, Pakistan has been controlled and ordained to serve – and only to serve. The maintenance of this control has been affected through streams of violence against the people of Pakistan. From the fears of drone attacks to terrorist attacks by funded groups, from the exiles in the Guantanamo Bay to enforced disappearances in the country, from using the land of Pakistan to deter the Taliban to using it to destabilise Pakistan, the people of Pakistan have been enveloped in the shadows of violence.
Any attempt to counter such violence through “absolutely not” has backfired and the governments replaced by new subservient. No elected government has ever been able to complete its tenure. The message has been clear, side with us or cease to exist. The leaders have been hanged, shot, or killed in plane crashes, and the societies polarised, ready to take arms supplied by colonialists against their own if needed. These streams of violence have not only destabilised Pakistan but have defamed it as a nation of violence as well – appeasing the objectives of the colonials.
Through those masters, the colonials have ensured that the masses remain ignorant about this structure and whosoever raises a voice against it, is removed through unforeseen circumstances.
The economic starvation and deprivation of the people of Pakistan, along with the fragmentation of classes, have a striking resemblance with Fanon’s explanation as well. Left in the dungeons of underdevelopment, Pakistan and its people have been made dependent on nothing but debts. If the destabilised economy has ever dared to be free by making progress in sports or businesses, the colonials have ensured, through violence and other means, the impossibility of such occurrence. The debts, therefore, have been paid only by other debts and through each debt, the country and its people have undergone new bonds of slavery. The journey from Europe, America, Arab Nations, China and eventually to IMF has been an endorsement of this process, the seeds of which were cultivated much earlier.
The colonials have further ensured that the masters they have created in Pakistan are either influenced by the West through their education, have businesses, bank accounts or assets in the West, or have a place in the West as a safe haven. This has isolated them from the classes within Pakistan and cultivated distrust within the nation. Through those masters, the colonials have ensured that the masses remain ignorant about this structure and whosoever raises a voice against it, is removed through unforeseen circumstances. The calamity that befalls this transition is the psychological deprivation of the moral worthiness of the leaders of Pakistan as well, by which they are willing to admit themselves as “beggars”. Rarely is such domination disputed, and even if it is, the colonials usually find a way to hide behind the veils.
The lens provided by Fanon magnifies these problems in Pakistan that are deeply rooted. The people of Pakistan have been systemically enslaved and subordinated. The plots of the colonial, their imperialistic objectives and the importation of better-serving bourgeois have reduced their status to inferiors of a lesser world. This fate is only regrettable. Perhaps, it is time for the people of Pakistan to read Fanon – to understand the play they are forced to act in — for verily, understanding the mind of those who seek to enslave marks the starting line of emancipation.