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Old Tuesday, January 15, 2013
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Default The long march

The long march
Farrukh Saleem

There is now a complete disconnect between the rulers and the ruled. Why do long marches take place? Two critical elements: desires of the masses and arrogance of the rulers
The gap between the priorities of the ruling class and the needs of the ‘subjects’ has been growing by the day for the past two thousand days. And it is this gap that attracts long marchers. To be certain, there is now a complete disconnect between the rulers and the ruled.
The rulers are almost completely engaged in extracting public assets to fill private pockets while their subjects are looking for the security of their lives and limbs.
What we have is a state where monetary rewards of political power are extremely high. What we have is a state where public policy is for the rulers. What we have is a state where taxes are also for the rulers to consume.
What we have is a state where investment into human capital is extremely low. What we have is a state where investment in infrastructure is extremely low. What we have, as a consequence, is a weak, fragile state.
I can walk out and gather a crowd of ten. A political leader through his network of patwaris, MNAs and MPAs can manage to gather a few thousand. But what happened in Lahore on October 30, 2011 and then on December 23, 2012 is a completely different phenomenon.
It is true that Dr Qadri has a huge religious following but attracting several hundred thousand is symbolic of the huge gap between the priorities of the ruling class and the needs of the subjects (and the longing for ‘change’).
A long march needs two things to be successful: a critical mass and sustainability. A critical mass, learning from the Arab spring, is no more than a hundred thousand and sustainability could be anywhere from a week to four weeks (depending on the intensity of the violence).
Once a long march attains critical mass, the government gets trapped into a no-win situation – an under reaction by the government is seen as a sign of weakness by the long marchers and an over reaction by the government could result in bloodshed which would further strengthen the long marchers.
Again, learning from the Arab spring, long marches put the guns in a difficult position. The guns have three choices to choose from: side with the long marchers, protect the regime in power or stay neutral. Protecting the regime in power or staying neutral ultimately becomes a factor that revolves around the sustainability of the long march (once critical mass has been achieved).
Why do long marches take place? Two critical elements: desires of the masses and arrogance of the rulers. How do long marches take place? Two phases: individual frustration that over time transforms into collective violence.
The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad.
Email: farrukh15@hotmail.com
Twitter: @saleemfarrukh
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