The curious case of angry liberals and Imran Khan
January 8, 2012 § 4 Comments
Pakistan’s political environment is electric with Imran Khan’s ‘tsunami’ that has swept across provinces and parties alike. It’s just about two months ago when political pundits were claiming that PTI is a non-entity and that Khan’s claims at bringing about a change are nothing but hogwash. They would sweep their hands in a condescending manner, mid-air, and laugh off his chances in the future politics of Pakistan. I must give them that since his jalsa in Lahore, they have accorded him a little respect at least.
The political environment in Pakistan, which has been stale with old slogans and tried faces, has suddenly turned electric and alive. People, youth, political recluses and hermits are suddenly thronging Imran Khan’s jalsas. This may be perhaps one of the very few and rare instances in Pakistan’s history when a political cause has struck such a chord with all and sundry.
The most interesting aspect of this ‘revolution’, however, can be seen in the liberal coterie of Pakistan. While some select few have chosen to side with PTI and be a part of this change which may be in the coming, others have only grown fiercer in their criticism leveling newer and more advanced allegations against Imran Khan. Here, by liberals we can assume two distinct groups.
One is the group that claims to be the leftist set, clinging stubbornly to an age-old, tried and failed model, stuck to the pre-cold war era and breathing a belief that they can bring about a communist revolution in Pakistan. They are perhaps the smallest political ideology in Pakistan. They read Noam Chomsky by the day, smoke Marlboro whites in anti-capitalist seminars by the night and discuss Lenin and Marx with their ‘comrades’ which, in a given gathering, rarely exceed the figure of ten. Their sole criterion for one’s merit is the extent to which that person conforms to their narrow, set ideology. And anyone who stands contrary to that is a pro-capitalist, elites’-serving, establishment-implanted thug. Period. That’s pretty much the argument.
The second set of critics from amongst the liberals is those who genuinely believe in human rights, separation of state and religion and desire to see Pakistan moving towards a more humane political model, without necessarily sticking to a definite ideology. I tend to believe I am a part of this group. However, I have stark disagreements with these liberals, at large, over PTI and Imran Khan. Most of the criticism that has been mounted against Kaptaan by them is more or less articulated in my earlier article ‘Imran Khan – to vote for or not?’And I absolutely agree to this part of their stance that from a purely liberal view-point, Imran Khan is definitely not a good choice.
But the present political discourse is more of an argument of ideal vs practical. They wish to have a person who is the epitome of secular humanism and would lead them right-away to a Pakistan where religion and state are entirely aloof, rights of all minorities are well protected and military suddenly has absolutely no role in politics. Well, here’s the bitter pill: that’s insanely utopian.
The immediate analysis, by the liberals, after the Lahore jalsa was that Imran Khan gathered people from all around Pakistan and that such a huge crowd after so many preparations wasn’t that great an achievement. The Karachi jalsa pretty much trashed this argument. But then some new arguments surfaced during Karachi jalsa, which were equally ridiculous. A fellow tweeted that security personnel had been ‘instructed’ to attend to jalsa. None of my acquaintances from security agencies corroborate this allegation but that’s not a proof of no-guilty. What is a substantial proof to the contrary is that a mere look at the crowd would have convinced any sane analyst that this was a jalsa where people from all walks of life, all ethnicities and all kinds of backgrounds were present. Even if security personnel were instructed as per the claim, that would have contributed barely a fraction of a percent of the crowd on site. An insignificant contribution to a popular cause at best, if at all, but nothing more.
I also am unable to comprehend the tacit approval and support extended by fellow liberals to PPP. A party that, yes, may have a rather liberal manifesto but one which rarely ever contributed to make Pakistan a more humane state. A party that has been involved in perhaps the worst corruption scandals of all times, with the exception of unearthed billions gobbled by our military, that is. And a party that has been ridiculously adamant in pursuing politics merely for the sake of politics. Why would a sane person in his right mind support such a party any more, especially when BB is no longer leading it and persons with feeble intellects and absolutely no political vision continue to be at its front. For my part, I think supporting PPP any more is hazardous both to Pakistan and to democracy. The other major player, PML-N, too has failed to do anything significant in its current spell. It has merely played the role of an opposition for the mere sake of playing that role. And its subtle approval of the right-wing extremists, the likes of Jamat-ud-Dawa and Sipah-e-Sahaba is as clear as the day! So no, I won’t support the Sharif brothers either.
Incidentally, only a year ago, I was planning on writing an article where I thought I’d propose a mock government with kind of ideal persons (from amongst the available lot) in all positions. I placed IK as PM, Javed Hasmi as Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi as Interior minister and similarly, all best-of-the-worst politicians at a position which best suits them. A year forward, IK is pretty much realizing the very plan. The allegation that IK is suddenly bringing all the ‘used’ baggage to his party is not good enough, to me. I think that on the contrary, may be a lot of people are jumping the PTI bandwagon because things have gone so wrong that they really want to work under someone who at least speaks of bringing about a positive change. And in IK, all these ‘spent’ cartridges have found their salvation.
The case of Javed Hashmi is definitely not that of someone hoping to ‘gain’ political power or someone who’s been ‘advised’ by ‘deep state’ to go join IK or any of the other standard motives proposed by liberals about those leaving their parties and joining PTI. His case is, at least, one glaring fault in the arguments put forth by most analysts. But yes, there are some who have joined PTI as opportunists. And such morons will always do so during every major political transition.
And as a matter of fact, PTI doesn’t have much choice in this. If IK chooses unknown, never-heard-of candidates to contest elections for PTI, PTI will once again lick the dust in the elections. But if IK takes these eminent politicians within the folds of PTI and at the same time, manages to stick to his vision and proposed policies, this can well mean a definite step forward. Not the best move, mind you, but a step forward. Let’s not forget even a politician of Bhutto’s stature did end up including Khar in his league.
Also, if IK was someone with a liberal manifesto and PTI a party well divorced of all things religious, as our liberal coterie would have him, I don’t think they could have bagged more than a seat or two. The liberals ‘need’ to understand that if they keep looking for an ideal person and stand aloof from the ground realities of a country whose masses still are steeped deep in religion, they will never find anyone good enough. But if they are looking for the ‘better’ of the ‘worst’, they may find, in Khan, the very choice.
On a concluding note, criticizing from the distance and trashing virtually every political entity by counting out the flaws while never endeavoring to be a part of the setup and try and improve it, pretty much renders all arguments from the ones who merit the aforementioned qualification, illegitimate.