Is PDM sinking under its own crushing contradictions?

PDM is an arranged marriage of ideological partners that make no sense in bed together


M Bilal Lakhani November 29, 2020

PDM is behaving like an angry toddler, smashing everything in its way, unclear about what it wants and making so much noise that the parents believe their best strategy is to just ignore the shouts and screams, while his energy fizzles out eventually. For example, at first, PDM thought the boys were the root of all evil in the country. Today, they want to talk to the boys and share a slice of Papa John’s pizza together. That’s because the government refuses to engage with them or pay attention.

Imran Khan refuses to take a U turn on the opposition’s demand to give them an NRO. In his inaugural speech as Prime Minister, Imran Khan perplexingly delivered a clear message. Read my lips. There would be no NRO with dacoits, he said. No one understood the need to say this at the time, but Imran Khan understood that when you take on vested interests in the country, the mafia or the swamp, will fight, beg and plead for a deal.

PDM is an arranged marriage of ideological partners that make no sense in bed together. At first, when Maulana was selected to lead the PDM, bona fide liberals were outdoing one another to sing the praises of a man who repeatedly misuses the religion card, slanders minorities and holds his own dharnas with no female participants.

Then, when the Maulana quietly booted out Mohsin Dawar from the PDM’s fold, the liberals came after Maulana again. Ironically, Mohsin thanked Bilawal for his support, even though the PPP is flirting with boys more successfully than democracy’s very own diva.

The liberal left has lofty ideas but no street power. The right has muscular street power but no lofty ideas. The only thing they can unite on: take down this system. I guess when opium mixes with the opium of the masses, it creates some dangerous delusions. The real issue here is fearing that Imran Khan is occupying political space in the radical middle and exposing the liberals’ and mullahs’ hypocrisy.

This would be funny if it wasn’t so dangerous in the middle of a global pandemic. Let’s begin with the opposition’s Covid-18 vs Covid-19 contradiction.

The opposition argues that a PTI government is Covid-18 because it has taken many lives, which is an insensitive pun for those Pakistanis who have lost lives and livelihoods due to Covid-19. The substance of the opposition’s argument is that people shouldn’t worry about the dangers of Covid-19 and attend PDM’s jalsas because Covid-18 is much worse than Covid-19. If this argument was made in any other country, these people would be laughed out of whatever little political and media oxygen they command. For example, Bilawal actually caught Covid-19 and is still pursuing more jalsas via video link, which protects him but puts thousands of ordinary Pakistanis at risk. The Pakistani people might be illiterate thanks to decades of mis-governance by these feudal political leaders in power, but they aren’t stupid.

The real hypocrisy here is that this is the same opposition which screamed and shouted bloody murder when Imran Khan refused to order a blanker national lockdown in the early stages of the coronavirus to protect the livelihoods of millions of Pakistanis who earn daily wages. Eventually, Imran Khan’s strategy of smart lockdowns drew widespread global praise for being able to successfully contain Covid-19 and minimise the damage on Pakistan’s economy. Now, the opposition has the guts to argue: if Imran Khan didn’t lock down the country before, why is he against opposition rallies today? There’s a world of difference between enabling daily-wage earners to make a living and creating super spreader events at political rallies.

So, what should the government do now, in the face of this basket of contradictions? They should seek to contrast their care for the public against the PDM’s contradictions. For example, if PDM continues to host jalsas during Covid-19’s rising second wave, despite government warnings, the government should start handing out masks at PDM jalsas. Seize the narrative by doing rather than talking to expose the contradictions eating out the PDM from the inside.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 29th, 2020.

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