“totalitarian and oppressive states use fear to keep the flock together” Ejaz Haider

Nation-states are not biological entities; they are, to use the cliché, ‘imagined communities’. This, as the starting point, should give you some idea about how easily the concept of the state and its interest can be problematised. Democratic states garner the loyalties of their people through a sense of sharing and participation, through constitutionalism. In comparison, totalitarian and oppressive states use fear to keep the flock together. History shows that the latter break up at some point. No amount of oppression can keep the people chained; it is only a matter of time. Instead, oppression begets violence and deep turmoil. The problem with oppression is thus that it attracts what it sets out to avoid. Therein lies both the irony and the paradox.

Allied with this point is the idea of civilian supremacy, the fact that while the state becomes overarching, those representing it at any point of time have to operate on the basis of accepted and acceptable rules of the game. They are all accountable through two levels of agency. The first and primary level of agency is granted by the people through elections to their representatives; the second, a much more restrictive level of agency, is accorded by the peoples’ representatives to bureaucratic institutions, including the military and its intelligence agencies.

An open letter to General Pasha

Published: June 7, 2011