Is anarchy within Pakistan's reach?
Hate begets hate and PTI would do well to remember that, but the real losers are always the people of Pakistan.
Imran Khan, Nawaz Sharif, Tahirul Qadri: A triumvirate of egos.
This is what it is all about. You’d wish this was about democracy, but unfortunately, it is these three we should focus on to understand this.
Pakistan’s current political crises are a joint concoction of blunders committed by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT). PML-N instigated this with their utter refusal to take the opposition seriously, or accept the legitimacy of their demands. Perhaps they were yet to grasp the reality of the new face of opposition force; that it wasn’t going to settle for a five year ‘sleepathon’. Their provincial government then made worse an already brewing unrest among the masses by failing to take responsibility or hold officials accountable for the Model Town Lahore massacre. They gave political martyrs to PAT which enabled them to press claims in Pakistan’s political scenario.
After PTI’s Azadi march in Islamabad, Imran Khan’s strong hold over apolitical masses cannot be doubted. He connects with the people. Even after accepting all his political failings, people look up to him. And he now knows it only too well. It is this knowledge that has made him hold out in front of such extreme pressure. It is this knowledge that has made Imran Khan use the grievous masses to an almost deadly effect. PTI had the opportunity of a lifetime to educate the people of Pakistan how to preserve a system. They had the opportunity of a lifetime to get justice from the government and define standards of democratic action for generations to come. Unfortunately, and to my immense sadness, PTI has squandered it.
Amidst the egos of Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan seems to have lost. The country hasn’t really united, just formed bigger factions. PML-N, living up to its reputation of being disconnected with the people, has dismissed the frustration and grievances of the masses as a mob mentality. Instead of advocating respect for criticism and dissent, Imran Khan has educated his masses about aggression, irrationality and doing the right thing the wrong way. To achieve the end means of justice and true democracy, he has communicated to the masses to do whatever it takes to achieve your ultimate goal.
My reservation stems from the way PTI had conducted this march, which I wish was carried out transparently. Over the past seven days, its decisions have smacked of desperation and greed for immediate power. The announcement of a direction-less civil disobedience reflects this; by not being a principled move against a certain law or government failing but a pressure tactic to crumble the government. It has endangered financing options for Pakistan by refusing to pay IMF or the World Bank, while Pakistan is already under a legal obligation.
Moreover, the selective decision to tender resignations from all over Pakistan except Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s (K-P) and the threats to dissolve K-P assembly; and, most glaringly, the presence of Mubashir Luqman and Jamshed Dasti, and the announcement of inviting Aamir Liaqat. The impatience to form a new government and to make Imran Khan prime minister has led PTI astray. PTI also went back on its promises to the government; the first being not entering the Red Zone and the second being not nearing the parliament or PM house. Thus, once again, setting a poor example for its followers.
Moreover, PTI has lied to the masses, changed statements, and used crass language against nearly all opponents. Imran Khan has behaved generally in a manner that doesn’t befit the stature of a national leader. He repeatedly declared his inability to control the masses gathered for his cause, threatened and then retracted statements (under the cloak of peaceful protest) that could incite violence, inserted subtle hints that fuel racial divide and repeatedly discussed martyrdom, bullets and death to create a religious overtone for the Red Zone march. In totality, he lost the grace and charm that he had going for him.
It doesn’t matter how righteous you are if your arrogance causes you to damage the very system which is allowing you to carry on this demonstration. Politicians will be wary in the future to never to allow such public demonstrations. Anarchy is just within our reach. Once you realise your power over the masses, that they are with you no matter what, you can direct it to do whatever you will. And as Imran Khan is showing, power can cause a lot of damage.
The worrying factor is that a vast majority of PTI’s adulating supporters have failed to see the danger in this behaviour, which only proves one thing: a majority of humanity’s association and support is partially irrational. Hence, more tolerance for each other is essential. This march could have had the whole country’s support if PTI leaders, workers and supporters hadn’t been injected with such excessive doses of ‘exceptionalism’.
This to me is the reason I fear the masses cannot be expected to unite. You cannot go on publicly abusing a large political party to this extent and not expect retaliation. Hate begets hate and PTI would do well to remember that. You cannot go on questioning the integrity of everyone that opposes or disagrees with you; you cannot label them a ‘paid goon’.
Similar is the case with supporters of PML-N. There is no effort at all to understand each other. The real losers are once again the people. It is clear; they neither trust the courts and tribunals nor the parliament.
PML-N can diffuse the tension considerably if they make Chief Minister Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif, resign. Out of all, his failure to prevent or control the Model Town Lahore massacre is clear; deaths must be answered for. Even if, apparently, Tahirul Qadri looks least interested or serious in getting justice, deaths must be answered for. Never mind PAT’s non-representation in the parliament, Qadri’s threats to initiate violence, his moment in fame and ego-hugging clouding his judgement, or his ludicrous demands for dissolution of all assemblies; deaths must be answered for.
If PML-N is able to take this decision without any negotiation or term settlements with PTI or PAT, not only will PML-N rise in stature, it will also communicate a serving of justice in the masses of Pakistan and hopefully compel PTI and PAT to negotiate. Justice and sacrifice is the only way out of this. It, however, remains to be seen whether the triumvirate of egos can care enough to move out of deadlock and move towards political discourse.