What is generally missing from the rhetoric of governance reform associated with internationally supported interventions in the Pakistani power sector is any semblance of democratic participation. As Rashid notes, the concept of a “right to electricity” is reflected in the government’s acknowledgement that electricity’s affordability and availability is central to the wellbeing of the country. Working from the basis of this right to electricity, improved transparency which is oriented towards ordinary citizens can help those citizens make effective claims on the state, see where they stand in relation to each other, and hold the state to account for the promises it makes to them. A genuinely improved governance environment in the power sector requires an active and informed citizenry. Without such a transformation, the fixation on private investment and a technocratic approach to reform in the power sector will only repeat the failures seen in Pakistan and elsewhere.

Technocrats, meanwhile, have developed a discourse of “transparency” to solve the problem of the “failure of national infrastructure.” Proposals include “devolving” the collection of electricity bills to local influentials at the union council level, in a move that mirrors the colonial logic to implement licenses, the terms of which would be implemented by local influentials. Another proposal includes developing a public database of non-paying consumers with the underlying rationale that national infrastructures fail because of the failure of citizens. In other words, this is the neoliberal rhetoric of “personal responsibility” that aims to criminalize consumers-citizens, particularly those who are poor, while keeping the infrastructures and their embedded histories as opaque as possible. In a silence that speaks loudly, there is no similar plan to subject non-paying privatizing companies (Samsung, Al-Baraj, etc) to such scrutiny.


Back with the weekly reading recommendation list: 

Download the free ebook of The Case for Sanctions Against Israel here.

The Practice of International Solidarity by Zehra Husain.

“They are not friends to the Pashtuns.” Report by Mahvish Ahmad.

For our young Marxists: Ken Cockerel, a communist activist with the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, explains capitalism in the most unpretentious and reaffirming language possible.

For our aspiring writers, here is a beautiful and succinct essay on the significance of plot without conflict.

Reading Henri Lefebvre on the production of public and social space is enriching but often dense nonetheless. In order to simplify the oft-hefty jargon that is characteristic of Lefebvre, Stuart Elden provides a refreshing interpretation of the French Marxist philosopher’s work.

The Poetics of Solidarity: Palestine in Modern Urdu Poetry.

Navneet Alang’s There Is No Garden For Us To Return To.

Claire Biship on the participatory art and politics of spectatorship derived from the brilliant and Brecht-influenced work of Augusto Boal’s Theater of the Oppressed.

Finally, for our film students and critics, Harun Farocki’s Inextinguishable Fire is based on the American war in Vietnam. It becomes apropos in light of the ongoing genocide in Gaza.

View list on Tanqeed.

Activists treated as ‘terrorists’

The violent military attack on tenant farmers on July 3, after several years of relative peace, is an ominous sign, and this event is more troubling given that it occurred two days after the passing of the Protection of Pakistan Act (PPA) in the National Assembly. Currently, the Army is reasserting itself as a force against extremism and terrorism, but the events at the Okara Military Farms show how these powers are used and abused against livelihood movements. In the past ten years, dozens of tenant farmers and AMP leaders have been charged with multiple ‘terrorism’ charges in local anti-terrorism courts. It might come as a surprise to some that counterterrorism bills appear to be are more easily applied against peasant farmers, labor union leaders, and journalists than they are against known militant groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and their leaders, who operate openly throughout Pakistan.

Moreover, the rhetoric of “counterterrorism” fails to address the complex and multifaceted problems that confront Pakistanis today. It imposes silence on everyday forms of violence like the increasing rate of poverty, and food insecurity. The current state security discourse represents a major shift away from a class-based analysis to a clash of cultures, and from democratization to militarism. The rhetoric of terror evacuates the discussion of economic inequality and livelihood struggles that fuel popular discontent. Recent academic studies on Pakistan have focused largely on the rise of violence and the growth of religious sectarian networks. Missing in these analyses is a discussion of slow and residual forms of violence that lurks behind these developments. We know that extreme disparities of wealth, diminishing protections for peasant farmers, and large-scale displacement from the countryside have created great insecurity and uncertainty for most Pakistanis. With the PPA, the National Assembly has given the state more recourse to use a militarized response to poor peoples’ struggle for subsistence.”

Dispossession In The Name Of Security by Mubbashir Rizvi

"It comes as no surprise then that cities across the world are becoming increasingly homogenous spatially and experientially. As global citizens we can visit almost any city, and comfortably roam the streets and witness familiar sights, tastes, and smells.

Yet, this comfort often comes at the cost of the well-being of millions of urban poor (often members of ethnic and religious minorities) who are pushed out to the peripheries often through direct state repression. Consider, for instance, the fishing communities in cities ranging from Colombo to Maputo whose livelihoods are threatened by upcoming luxury hotels and apartments fuelled by foreign investments, built on city coasts. Or, residents of squatter settlements in cities such as Islamabad, Mumbai, Lagos, or Dhaka who continuously resist state authorities in order to avoid being evicted from their homes. Frequently beaten up, arrested, tear-gassed and intimidated, they witness a state that prefers to make way for parks, luxury apartments, roads, or large-scale events. While such forms of displacement are dehumanizing in themselves, it is not uncommon for the marginalized to be blamed for the conditions they live in by more powerful and dominant groups. In effect, the direction that cities around the world are headed in seeks to further marginalize the already marginalized, and render them invisible through the rhetoric of development and progress.”

Calvino’s Tales And The City | Invisible Cities on Tanqeed by Fizzah Sajjad & Hala Bashir Malik

اگرچہ اس موضوع پر باقاعدہ تجزیے کی ضرورت ہے، لیکن یہ واضح ہوتا جا رہا ہے کہ پاکستان میں یکایک ابھرنے والی تحاریک کو انجمن سازی اور نسبتی زنگی کے تناظر میں ہی جانچا جا سکتا ہے۔ جس انداز میں مذہبی گروہ مدرسہ کے طالبات کو توھین رسالت کے نام پر سڑکوں پر لے آتے ہیں، یا جس طرح تاجران مسجد جانے والوں کو ٹیکس بڑھنے کے خلاف ہڑتال کرنے ہر راضی کر لیتے ہیں، ان سے عوامی و سیاسی فضا پر ایک خاص قسم کی اجارہ داری قائم ہوتی نظر آتی ہے۔ اس سے یہ بھی اندازہ ہوتا ہے کہ اقلیتی گروپوں کے خلاف ہونے والے روزمرہ تشدد کے واقعات اس ملک کی سیاسی معیشت کے ارتقاء سے جڑی ہے۔ یہ نا صرف اسلام اور تجارت کے درمیان ایک خاص قسم کے سرمایہ دارانہ نظام کے نتیجے میں تشکیل ہونے والے ثقافتی روابط سے جڑی ہے ، بلکہ اس اجارادی کے قیام میں ریاستی سرپرستی پر محنت کش طبقہ کی سیاست پر ممانعت کا بھی دخل ہے۔

ہجوم کی (غیر)معقولیت

قریشی کا یہ فن پارہ 14 مئی سے 3 نومبر ۲۰۱۳ء کو نیویارک میں میٹروپولیٹن میوزیم آف آرٹس میں نمائیش پذیر تھا اور اسے بڑی پذیرائی ملی تھی۔ قریشی مصغّر تصویرسازی کے ماہر ہیں اور ان کے فن پاروں میں سنہرے مغلیہ دور کی تمام نشانیاں موجود ہیں،وہ دور جو آج بھی پاکستانیوں کے دلوں میں زںدہ ہے۔ مغلیہ جمالیات اور پاکستان میں کچھ مماثلت ہے، یعنی اس ملک کے ماضی کا تصور اس بعینہ نقل کی مانند ہے جس کا اصل ہے ہی نہیں۔ ماضی کے اس سنہرے تصورکی بنیاد پر پاکستان کی روداد کچھ یوں ہے… ایک ایسا تباہ حال ملک جو کبھی ترقی کی راہ پر گامزن تھا لیکن پھر تباہی کے گڑھے میں گرپڑا۔ اور پاکستان کے ماضی کی یہ داستان ان لبرل حلقوں میں بہت مقبول ہےجو ۱۹۵۰ اور ۱۹۶۰کی اچھے دنوں کو یاد کرتے ہوئے آہیں بھرتے ہیں۔ قریشی نے پاکستانی مارکسیسی شاعر فیض احمد فیض سے متاثر ہوکر اپنے فن پارے کا عنوان یہ چنا: “And How Many Rains Must Fall Before The Stains Are Washed Clean”، یعنی “کتنے بادل برسیں کہ داغ دھل جائیں”۔ یہ عنوان فیض کی ایک نظم کا مصرعہ ہے جس میں انہوں نے پاکستان کی آزادی پر زبردست تبصرہ کیا ہے۔

کتنا برسے کہ زنگ دھل جا ئے