Revolution derives from the Latin revolvere, meaning “to revolve”. We all come across the word for the first time in Science class, while learning about the Solar System. One revolution meaning one turn of the earth around the sun; getting back to where it started. Unless you are scientifically inclined, you have most probably forgotten revolution in that wondrous, celestial sense.

“Revolution” in the sense of change in social order came across 1450. By the Glorious Revolution of 1688, it was a cemented political word. This revolution was against a king of England whose policies of religious tolerance were opposed to and resulted in the seating of a Dutch King and the drafting of the English Bill of Rights; in which British Catholics were denied the right to vote and sit in the Westminster Parliament.

In a sense they went back to where they started.

Seeing how many of us here in Pakistan are claiming to be hosts to a revolution, it is important to look at case studies in somewhat recent History and compare:

French Revolution

Two costly wars and years of bad harvest led to general loathing of the aristocracy, the ideals of Enlightenment to a demand for change. To appease the Third Estate, King Louis XVI summoned the Estates-General – something that had not been done for 175 years. Despite being the 98%, they could still be outvoted by the other two bodies; the clergy (First Estate), the nobles (Second Estate).

First, they formed the National Assembly and vowed not to disperse until constitutional reform, forcing the King to accept revolt and change.

Then, they stormed the Bastille. This was done in order to secure gun powder and weaponry as they expected a military coup. This storming, July 14, is now a national holiday.

This followed ‘The Fear’; peasants looted and burned the houses of tax collectors, landlords and others of the sort.

In August they abolished feudalism and adopted the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.

In October, Women marched upon the Royal Palace of Versailles and brought the royal family and most of the French Assembly with them to Paris.

Then they fell into arguments over what to do.

A republic was declared in September 1792.

You have to keep reading on because Revolutions don't end this quick; contrary to popular belief in our motherland.

In 1792 also began the Revolutionary Wars. France was now at war with several European powers.

At home, France grew more radical, this gave centre stage to Maximilien de Robespierre, member of the Jacobin party - a party most famous and influential at the time (yes like the PTI) and unofficially linked with the radical agitator journalist/politician Jean-Paul Marat - yes, they had their Mubasher Luqman too.

Robespierre is your textbook revolutionary leader (overtaker); opposed to wars, opposed to capital punishment, opposed to slavery, a republican and egalitarian. Sunshine and daisies. He was loved and called “the incorruptible” by the people.

Only, he took a bit too many U-turns. Sorry, not sorry. Yes, just like ours.

He argued that it was imperative to kill former King Louis XVI to cement the revolution. Louis XVI was executed by the guillotine on 21 January 1793.

Robespierre then instigated ‘The Reign of Terror’; the plan was to kill all the “enemies of the revolution”. The guillotine (the “National Razor”) soon became the symbol of the revolutionary cause. Around 17,000 were executed by the guillotine and some 25,000 by other methods. This Terror took with it Marie Antoinette; the former Queen, Antoine Lavoisier, Robespierre’s political rivals, and then on the 28th of July 1794, Robespierre himself. 

The Great Terror subsided soon after.

In 1799 France saw Napoleon Bonaparte’s coup.

There is a line from Gavroche in the famous ‘Les Misérables’ : “There was a time we killed the king// we tried to change the world too fast// now we have got another king// he’s no different from the last”.

One entire revolution.

Russian Revolution

In two years, this event will be a century old. It is divided into two parts; the February Revolution & the October Revolution. A previous Revolution of 1905 was also a major influence.

It was pretty much the same as revolutions go. People were tired of the Tsar, there was little to eat, the general public was overworked and underfed. On March 11, 1917 as the Tsar ordered the military to quell riots and protests by force, there was mutiny. All symbols of the Romanov dynasty were torn down and governmental authority disintegrated.

The Tsar then took a train back to Petrograd (St. Petersburg) on March 14, which was halted by troops. The Tsar abdicated on March 15, 1917, ending a 300 year Romanov rule.

Power was now shared between the Provisional Government and the Soviet.

Enter Bolshevik Lenin to steal the revolution from the people and start the October Revolution because not everyone has the same idea of what change to bring, c’mon. See, the Marxist idea of a revolution is to bring about Communism. Many people entrust him with the best and love and revere him.

But not all. So he sets out to destroy them. Much like our Khan sahib. 

See, the problem with these “revolutionary leaders” is that they cannot stand anyone coming in the way of their revolution. Whatever they think revolution means.

What ensued was one of the most brutal dictatorships our world has seen.

Around 6-8 million people died under Lenin’s rule from famine, opposition to his policies, a civil war instigated by him, epidemics etc. His opposition was nearly wiped out.

I am sure Lenin had the best for Russia at heart and/or was the lesser evil.

Iranian Revolution

The closest to us geographically and temporally, the Iranian Revolution is a great example in the study of old bearded men using religion and its reverence to people to manipulate the very people they claim to serve and make their own ends meet.

Khomeini said things like: “Those intellectuals who say that the clergy should leave politics and go back to the mosque, speak on behalf of Satan.” Using anti-West rhetoric, labelling anything modern or in opposition to his views “immoral” (olden day “libido/fake liberal”), he won the simple, religiously inclined hearts of the Iranian Republic. And only went on to live in exile in Paris after being kicked out by Iraq.

Fear of the ‘other’ always wins over largely uneducated, desperate for change masses. As Khan sahib knows best.

He also threatened to “slap” the Shah and show him his place at several instances, igniting public fervour and inciting violent emotions - yes all revolutionary “leaders” are cut from almost the same cloth.

Some 3,000 protestors were reportedly killed by the Shah’s military during the Revolution, Khomeini declared 60,000 martyrs to further propaganda. (Do you remember the pictures the PTI team used from Venezuelan and Egyptian protests?)

The film ‘The Stoning of Soraya M.’ also reminds women “this isn’t Shah’s Iran anymore”. I am sure this was not much of Iran’s idea of a revolution.

Khomeini also claimed to have the best interests at heart for Iran, being a marja just bolstered his ability to “lead” the 1979 Revolution.

The Iran of 1979 and after is available for everyone to compare.

So what does Revolution mean?

In the three major cases discussed above, it meant whatever those in command wanted it to mean. It meant using the people to display their power then manipulating it to your own propaganda. It meant satisfaction of ego and the climbing of the ladder of power built upon the shoulders of the commoner.

You may have your blood boiling over like a hormone loaded jawan that does not qualify your call for a storming of the PM House. Demand for change is a right and is respected, but who decides what “change” is for 180 million people? Who decides which change is for the better and what system to be implemented? Certainly not 2,000-3,000 privileged people gathering variably in the capital hoping to catch their beloved leaders’ attention; a leader continuously threatening the nation with violence, retracting statements after getting caught and reprimanded - much like a kindergartener, and using Facebook posts to legitimise claims over a “revolution”.

Whatever the word means, for me or for you, it is not one to be used lightly.

You can call anti-PTI-revolutionary a ghulam all you want, but we’ve done our research and we do not want blood. There are alternatives and the final power rests with the public, something these privileged “leaders” will never want you acknowledging.

Also, for progress’ sake, you privileged “revolutionaries”, read some goddamn Orwell.

Zaitoon Malik is a student, who's a feminist observing and providing critique on culture and politics. She has a keen interest in history.