The first demonstration of this political assertiveness was in the late 1960s when the bulk of the youth began to air their grievances against Pakistan`s military-industrialist nexus headed by military dictator, Field Marshal Ayub Khan.
Owing to its inherently conservative worldview, one expected this middle class to oppose a secular-capitalist military dictatorship by siding with the mainstream anti-Ayub religious parties, but the many young men and women who led the revolt against Ayub turned sharply leftwards.
They seemed to have embraced ideas such as socialism and social democracy, largely expressed through political organisations such as the PPP, the National Students Federation and the National Awami Party.
The young, middle-class Pakistani`s romance with the leftist ideology lasted till about 1974, or until its ideological darling, Prime Minister Z.A. Bhutto, gradually dumped hyperbolic leftist action to play more pragmatic politics.
This was when middle-class leftist groups on campuses began to succumb to infighting and disillusionment. The vacuum was gladly filled by the rise of student parties, such as the Islami Jamiat-i-Tuleba (IJT).
The IJT`s growing strength on campuses was symptomatic of the anti Bhutto and anti-left murmurings that had started to gather steam within the country`s urban middle-classes, espe-cially in the face of Bhutto`s half baked socialist policies and increasingly autocratic behaviour.
By 1976, the middle-classes which, in the 1960s and early 1970s had resonated with progressive proclamations, set themselves to rise once again; but this time in search ol` an Islamic political and economic order.
Thus began the second incident of middle-class-driven agitation in Pakistan that peaked with the rightwing movement against Bhutto`s government.
Interestingly, whereas the middle class youth had targeted military and industrialist instruments during the anti-Ayub movement, the anti-Bhutto agitation was openly patronised and at times even funded by the industrialists.
It culminated in a military coup against the Bhutto regime and the arrival of Pakistan`s third military dictator, General Ziaul Haq, who cleverly adopted the movement`s Islamist idiom.
Throughout the 1980s, the middle classes remained split in their support for/against Zia`s political-economic edifice that crudely fused so-called Islamic policies with a free-l`lowing version of third-world capitalism.
As the progressive and conservative segments went to war on campuses and in the streets, the middle-classes emerged exhausted by the time of Zia`s death in 1988 and the subsequent restoration of democracy.
Only minimal political activity was witnessed from this class in the 1990s when Benazir Bhutto and Mian Nawaz Sharif unwittingly played into the hands of Zia`s ideological remnants in the intelligence agencies and big businesses.
In Karachi the Urdu-speaking urban bourgeoisie became enamoured of the MQM, and was embroiled in the political turmoil that accompanied the state`s operation against the supposed militant outgrowth of the MQM.
It was during this decade also that this class (especially in Punjab) started to slide backwards into its customary conservative disposition when a new generation of the Pakistani bourgeois began responding to social and religious conservatism.
This tendency exploded into prominence after the confusion and identity crisis that followed the tragie 9/11 episode in the US.Gradually large numbers of young middle-class men and women became interested in ultra-conservative fringe groups headed by drawing-room preachers and televangelists.
As the 2000s wore on under the country`s new military dictator, Pervez Musharraf who chose to play a cosmetic role of a `moderate` the state and the mediafailed to arrest the mutating Islamisation trend.
From the rugged mountainous areas along the Pak-Afghan border it started making its way into the drawing rooms in urban Pakistan.
The ballooning electronic media facilitated the born-again variety of a middle-class conservatism by adding another batch of religious talking heads. These figures ideologically and commercially cater well to the bourgeoisie`s zeal and political leanings.
Thus has arrived the middle-class`s third agitation. But the interesting thing is that this time round this initiative is largely cut off from the country`s mainstream political parties, and has taken the shape of electronic lobbying (social media).
What is even more interesting is that though these cyber and TV lobbies are portraying themselves as an alternative movement, these foyers are mostly riddled with a fusion of convoluted leaps of logic, a knee-jerk attitude and a conservative ideological mindset that was actually constructed by the `establishment` and politico-religious parties of Pakistan decades ago.
Unless this section of the middle class decides to work within the mainstream political edifice of Pakistan and participate in the evolving democratic apparatus, instead of being repulsed by it, it will remain an irritant, having only a nuisance value. At best it can become the harbinger of a TV lounge revolution, or worse, the apologetic fodder to pad and even unwittingly justify the madness of Islamist and sectarian violence in the country`s cities and towns.
By Nadim F Piracha: http://epaper.dawn.com/DetailImage.php?StoryImage=24_11_2013_424_001
Open Letter for Pakistan