Public intellectuals vs pseudo-intellectuals
PUBLIC intellectual has been defined as an intellectual, often a noted specialist in a particular field, who is well-known, intelligent, erudite person whose written works and other social and cultural contributions are recognised by academic audiences, readers and society in general. Like Sartre and Noam Chomsky, public intellectuals usually are polymaths, knowledgeable of the international or world order, the political and economic organization of contemporary society, the institutions and laws that regulate the life of the citizens. Last month, an author and poet had written an article captioned ‘Where is academia’, in which he rightly stated: “All over the world it is academia who lead the discourse on every subject of import. They set up and lead think tanks. It is university professors who advise governments and help formulate policies. TV talk shows and news anchors invite academics as experts and analysts.”
In Pakistan, anchorpersons invite fellow anchors from other private channels that consider themselves as know-alls and give their opinion on every subject on earth – from macroeconomics, microeconomics, foreign policy, agriculture, industry and security matters. One would agree with author’s other comments, but one would not agree with his adulation of Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy, and including him in his list of public intellectuals. Dr. Hoodboy often expressed views against Pakistan’s military, nuclear program, and tried to create fear in the minds of Karachiites about nuclear power plants in Karachi. The poor, hapless and impoverished people pray for Pakistan’s solidarity, and hope that one day visionary leadership will emerge to rid the country of poverty, hunger and disease. They believe one day this nation-state will assume the actual meanings of the configuration as envisioned by the founding fathers and be identified with one of the civilized nations of the world.
On the other hand, opulent classes, well-settled, well-fed and erudite like Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy have the audacity to challenge Two-Nation Theory, which was accepted by the British and the world at large, and was the basis for creation of Pakistan. He criticized and denigrated Quaid-i-Azam by writing that he was westernized with passion of good food and liquor. Dr. Hoodbhoy subscribes to the Indian stance that Two-Nation Theory has been thrown into the Bay of Bengal. In one of his treatises, he wrote: “Jinnah’s ‘Two Nation’ theory was left in tatters after the separation of East Pakistan in 1971, and the defeat of the Pakistani military. The enthusiasm of Muslim Bengalis for Bangladesh – and their failure to ‘repent’ even decades after 1971 – was a deadly blow against the very basis of Pakistan”. He conveniently forgot about the international intrigue and the role of India in break-up of Pakistan.
Unfortunately, pseudo-intellectuals and some media persons do not see anything worthwhile in Pakistan. Zahid Hussain has written an article in a renowned English daily under the caption ‘A praetorian State?’ In his treatises he has often been critical of Military Establishment, and in the above article he has also pointed out imbalance in civil-military relations. Referring to DG ISPR’s press briefing in which Major General Asif Ghafoor gave institutions’ view on various matters of national import, the author twisted his statement to mislead public. DG ISPR Asif Ghafoor had said: “Show positive image of Pakistan for six months and then see the results.” But the author wrote: “But more importantly, the good General had some piece of advice for the media: show only progress for the next six months. Is there anything left? Should he be commenting on the government performance and opining on political affairs.”
Unfortunately, quite a few members of National Assembly and Senate do not enjoy good reputation, as some of them were disqualified for having attached fake degrees with the nomination papers. A few others are being prosecuted for amassing wealth beyond their means by taking advantage of their position. Some of them aspire to be members of the Public Accounts Committee and other Standing Committees. The primary purpose of Standing Committees is to consider and recommend actions and propose policies in the functional areas under their jurisdiction. The Committee members usually have specialized knowledge or interest in the matters under their jurisdiction. The Committees monitor government activities, identify issues suitable for legislative review. On the Senate website there are 52 Committees, and many members belong to more than one Committee, such as defence, aviation, agriculture, water, tax collection, narcotic control and other subjects.
Could one member be capable of giving expert opinion? Similarly, there are scores of Standing Committees and Special Committees, and some of the members consider them as intellectuals and knowledgeable, whereas most of them do not have even superficial knowledge of the subject. In European countries, the level of the members of assemblies is far better than the parliamentarians in developing countries. In fact there is no comparison. In the US, members of House of Representatives and Senate Committees are mostly knowledgeable, yet they have the support of the Congressional Research Service (CRS). This Service works exclusively for the United States Congress, providing policy and legal analysis to Committees and Members of both the House and Senate. It goes without saying that most Parliamentarians in Pakistan are mediocre; and that Pakistan does not have such forums to educate them and to ensure that National Assembly and Senate members have access to the nation’s best thinking.