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The affliction of common masses

Zubair Khan

Zubair Khan

Man is quite eccentric creature of the planet: he surpasses other creatures in intelligence and articulation and in physique and beauty; in power and strength he has tamed the monsters and the rocks to move; in patience and forbearance he has surmounted Mount Everest and discovered the unknown planets; he has even subdued the winds and the waters; yet in cruelty and barbarism he excels the beasts and the demons; at times he has been noted as the most emotional and the most sentimental, the impassionate and above all the weakest creature of the universe. Man is a bizarre mixture of folly and wisdom, reason and emotion, vice and virtue, truth and falsehood, anger and fear, joy and sadness and these feeling predominate him at many junctures of life. He can descend to the most vile and abject position and transgress all the limits ever known to a man in order to win his spurs and in case of sentimentalism. The reality is that the common man always suffers whatever the situations are. The common man is doomed to face the catastrophe both at the hands of fellow humans and nature. Will the common masses ever realize it?

History bears the testimony that the leaders through their Ciceronian utterances moulded the unruly mob into their own favours and the politicians mostly turn the masses around with their little fingers because they know how to play with their emotion. The manipulation and exploitation come to the way of masses in all such cases who are devoid of common senses when they are mob. In Caesar’s Funeral Harley Granville-Barker provides such description. Brutus, one of the nobles after assassinating King Julius Caesar, expresses his feeling before the masses. The masses fervently welcome him and say:

” Let him be Caesar,

Caesar’s better parts shall be crowned in Brutus.”

Granville Barker says: “Men in the mass do not think, they feel. They are as biddable as children, and as sensitive to suggestion”.

Mark Antony, a close friend of Caesar comes, delivers speech and he wins the masses in his own favour. He embellishes the tune with two grace-notes ; one of sentiment ; the other of greed. It is tempting, no doubt, to make men dance to your tune when they stand, open-eared and open- mouthed. The first victim of Antony’s eloquence is the wretched Cinna , who has had nothing to do with Caesar’s murder at all, he was a poetaster, not a conspirator. The mob beat him limb from limb, as children tear a rag-doll.

” Truly, my name is Cinna.’

Tear him to pieces ; he’s a conspirator.

I am Cinna, the poet ; I am Cinna, the poet.’

‘ Tear him for his bad verses, tear him for his bad verses.’

I am not Cinna the conspirator.’

‘ It is no matter, his name’s Cinna ; pluck but his name out of his heart, and turn him going.’ “

Many speakers and writers quote The French Revolution (1789) which was a popular movement to reform the ‘absolute’ rule of the monarch, Louis XVI and to overthrow the feudal aristocracy. The Committee of Public Safety, passed the Law of Suspects, which gave the government the right to execute anybody who seemed a danger to the Revolution. Thus 40,000 people were executed mostly through Guillotine used for beheading humans. In the conflict of the Bourgeoisies and the aristocrats, mostly the common masses (Paris mob) suffered terribly. In the endin October 1795, the Convention used Napoleon Bonaparte and the army to crush the riots, again the affliction befell the poor masses.

Pakistan with its diverse ethnicity is no exception in such matters where misusing of authority and exploitation are on the rise, which is going to be more detrimental in the case of invaluable human life. It is an irony of fate, in all such cases the victims are the common masses: they suffer, they are afflicted, they face the dire consequences and they acquiesce in unwittingly and have to pay heavy prices. The social actors in any situation try to exploit the masses for their vested interests whether they are religious clerics, politicians, teachers, bureaucrats, elders and officers, the catastrophe overtakes the common masses.

Operation Cyclone-the code name for the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) program to arm and finance the Jihadi warriors in Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989,during and before the military intervention by the USSR in AfghanistanIn the mid-1970s, Pakistani intelligence officials began privately lobbying the U.S. and President Zia-ul-Haq was backed by the US president Jimmy Carter, who told National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski that it was vital to “repair our relationships with Pakistan” in light of the unrest in Iran. Along with funding from similar programs from Britain’s MI6 and SAS and Saudi Arabia, the ISI armed and trained over 100,000 insurgents from different states between 1978 and 1992. In Pakistan, the curricula of schools and colleges were altered to promote Jihad (Holy war) and the masses were duped into the war on the pre-text that the Russians are non-believers(infidels) and the Americans are believers therefore the support of the Americans was just according to the teaching of Islam. Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, the champion of non-violence had the insight and he called it a Quixotic plan and requested the government not to involve in the great game of the super powers and that it was not Jihad(Holy war) but a game of interests and he termed it as pugnacity(Fasaad). However, his voice was a cry in the wilderness and he was proclaimed as unpatriotic and traitor by the government and the political parties. The Jihad and the Jihadi groups proved hornet’s nests for the government of Pakistan when Pakistan joined the war on terror in 2001 to support the US and her allies and inflicted many losses on civilians and military of the country apart from millions of dollar material losses. The same Jihad has been declared officially many times by the government of Pakistan as fasaad(pugnacity) and the Jihadi groups as miscreants and since then the government has launched many military operations to eradicate them. As a result, the common masses of the country have suffered heavily and have been suffering since then whether it is Jihad or fassad making no difference.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto has the privilege in the history of Pakistan that he was regarded as the leader of the masses. However, when Zia-ul-Haq, the then Army Chief, took over in 1977 the same popular Prime Minister was declared as traitor and then executed. The common masses protested against the unjust martial law of Zia-ul-Haq and in support of their leader and they had to pay heavy prices and many succumbed to life imprisonment. Again it was April 1988, when Zia-ul-Haq met his inevitable end as a result of the plane blast, yet he was worshipped and regarded as martyr and the same masses were lamenting his death while chanting “Mard-e-momin, mard-e-haq, Zia-ul-Haq”. Later on, during Benazir Bhutto’s regime Zia-ul-Haq was termed as the worst dictator in the history of Pakistan and Z.A.Bhutto was mourned as martyr. Why the common masses are devoid of their common senses? Today they glorify a person and tomorrow they besmirch the same person.

The politicians and men in authority only express sympathies for display and photo shop. Large scale misuse of different laws including the blasphemy law and exploitation of different classes are rampant here. But who cares in this part of the world where the worth of human life is only condemnation? Stupidity not common sense is the hall mark of the masses and they are mere puppets in the hands of others. This is profanity, that is austerity; this is sin, that is felony; this is liberalism, that is divinity; this is timidity, that is bravery; this is patriot, that is traitor; this is freedom fighter, that is terrorist; this is martyrdom, that is killing, this is Sunni, that is Shia; this is Pakistani, that is anti-Pakistani. Why all such labeling against one another? Who is to decide what is right and what is wrong? the state, the court, the politicians, the law enforcement agencies, the religious clerics or the masses themselves? who always follow blindly the men in authority and themselves fall preys to such imbecility.

In Julius Caesar by Shakespeare, the conspirators and noble Romans express vehemently such feeling. “The fault lies in us not in our stars, dear Brutus that we are the underlings”. We are to be blamed for ourselves no one else. If the collective insanity on the part of the masses is not addressed in time, our coming generation will never forgive us for the wrongdoings we do in our time. Great nations never repeat mistakes but try to learn from their mistakes and those who do not learn are vanquished by the tide of time.

By Zubair Khan

The writer is a lecturer in English Department, University of Science and Technology Bannu. He can be reached at 


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