NationalVOLUME 19 ISSUE # 11

Intellectual mobilisation for national renewal

Today, every Pakistani, whether residing within the country or abroad, has come to a stark realization that the state and society are mired in a profound crisis. The prevailing political structures, social institutions, and leadership seem incapable of offering any viable solutions to address the intricate web of issues and problems. Consequently, conscientious Pakistanis find themselves grappling with a pivotal question: How can the country and society extricate themselves from this crisis?

Various individuals present their arguments and justifications for the solutions they propose. However, one aspect that has largely been overlooked is the role of the intelligentsia in this unfolding narrative. Hence, it becomes imperative to delve into this aspect when contemplating solutions to the national and societal problems of Pakistan.

The nation finds itself ensnared in a real multi-dimensional and multi-level crisis, where most state institutions appear ostensibly incapable of navigating the deep morass. The only beacon of hope that remains is the country’s intelligentsia. Yet, the collective capacity of the Pakistani intelligentsia and its ability to respond to the grave challenges facing the nation are yet to be fully understood.

Before exploring the potential role of the intelligentsia, it is crucial to shed light on the prevailing issues and problems within Pakistan. The multifaceted crises include a significant collapse in the political system, looming economic default, and, above all, evident social decay. With politicians, civil society, and the official bureaucracy displaying either insensitivity or an incapacity to address the situation, the intelligentsia emerges as the last bastion of hope.

A study of political science, particularly through the lens of the theory of historical institutionalism, reveals that countries often plunge into crises when tethered to historical path dependency. In Pakistan’s case, the military historically assumed the role of leadership when political governments faltered. However, the current crisis transcends mere political or economic dimensions; it is fundamentally social. Consequently, relying on the military as a path dependency to rescue the nation is no longer applicable. Even in the past, the military’s interventions failed to alleviate prevailing crises, despite commendable reformative efforts by military dictators.

In times of deep political and economic crises, political forces typically take the lead. However, various factors may hinder the ability of political actors and institutions to play their expected roles in Pakistan. Against this backdrop, the intelligentsia emerges as a potential force to guide the way forward.

In developed societies like the US, Europe, and Japan, the intelligentsia diligently studies domestic developments and consistently proposes solutions. Found predominantly in academia and journalism, the intelligentsia’s primary task is to monitor every facet of statecraft, systems, and society. During normal times, the intelligentsia remains in the background, focused on its core tasks. However, in times of national and social crises, intellectuals step forward, influencing decision-making and policy formulation, sometimes even assuming control of these domains. The same is anticipated of the Pakistani intelligentsia.

The pivotal question that looms large is whether, at this critical juncture in our national history, the majority of the Pakistani intelligentsia possesses the will and capacity to assume this leadership role.

When evaluating the capacity of the Pakistani intelligentsia, numerous questions arise, especially considering the absence of any historical examples where intellectuals initiated a movement to address the country’s multi-dimensional crisis. The issue of willingness among Pakistani intellectuals is equally pertinent, with many appearing self-centered and using the situation for personal gain. Notably, a significant number of members within the intelligentsia have received perks and privileges from foreign countries, potentially influencing their stance on the crisis in Pakistan.

While the role of intellectuals in Pakistan during the ongoing political-economic-social crisis has been scrutinized, a section of the intelligentsia has played a crucial role in shedding light on the crisis and its sources, even in the face of state-sponsored atrocities.

However, the challenge lies in the limited strength of conscientious individuals within the Pakistani intelligentsia, rendering their individual efforts insufficient to make a significant impact on addressing the multi-dimensional crisis. To catalyze meaningful change, earnest individuals must unite and set aside personal egos and interests, forming a collective front. Establishing a forum for conscientious and considerate intellectuals to engage in philosophical and academic debates with a focused and time-bound mandate could be a transformative step for the country.

The success of such a forum hinges on the cooperation of key state actors, including the military, judiciary, and political forces. Their full backing would fortify the forum’s credibility and influence. Additionally, the forum and movement of intellectuals must approach the situation with utmost seriousness and sincerity, ensuring that their recommendations are not only insightful but also viable and practical in addressing the multi-dimensional crisis.

The proposed movement should commence with joint meetings of academics, journalists, and lawyers, culminating in the development of a workable plan of action. Political forces, whose governance has often fallen short of expectations, should throw their support behind the idea of a time-bound and need-specific forum and movement of intellectuals, recognizing the potential for easing their own governance challenges.

In essence, the initiation of a movement led by intellectuals holds the promise of ushering in a positive transformation in the political, economic, and social systems of Pakistan, providing a constructive approach to navigate the complex crises faced by the state.