PTI has helped muddle up the distinction between the state and the government
It’s been over a month since the dharnas came to the capital.
And although Imran Khan warns of a civil war, the political temperature has come down considerably, but not after exposing Pakistan’s weak political structure.
To start off, with rumours and fears of a coup id the rounds earlier; a most alarming reminder has been the persisting existence of the Third Umpire on the political front. Including a counsel of restraint on both sides, advocacy for facilitation of negotiations and advising the government not to use force, Dawn’s editorial published on September 2 spoke on this string of the army’s statements and inaction towards the protesters that attacked parliament despite Article 245 as:
‘The carefully constructed veneer of neutrality that the army leadership had constructed through much of the national political crisis has been torn apart’.
It is obvious that need to redress the civil-military imbalance is urgent yet perilous, since the third umpire will not be leaving a field it has dominated and played on for decades anytime soon.
Secondly, while mudslinging and uncivil rhetoric has been and is an inherent component of Pakistan’s chaotic political culture, current developments have assisted their swift mainstream resurgence; lest we forget Imran Khan’s volley of countless allegations and accusations against the sitting prime minister, ministers, parliamentarians, judiciary, police, journalists, bureaucrats and the media; and his free and open use of “oye”, “main choroon ga nahi”. The on-going rumpus has promoted the crude rhetoric of violence and slander in Pakistan’s political discourse to once again rear its ugly head.
In the domain of the government, the consequences of ignoring political protests, as PML-N initially did with Imran Khan’s, have been dramatically revealed
More importantly, a tweet by Mosharraf Zaidi on Imran Khan’s audacious release of his workers arrested by the police accentuates a disquieting issue:
‘One can blame PM Sharif to a certain extent, but delegitimisation of the state machinery is now the unwitting PTI project. Disturbing’.
Imran Khan’s cheap bravado of releasing arrested workers may be hailed by his supporters, who condemn and decry Anjum Aqeel in the same breath, but since its declaration of civil disobedience, promotion of hundi, attempts to storm state buildings and forceful release of arrested workers, PTI and its workers have certainly pursued a path of delegitimising state apparatuses by way of blatantly defying the law.
With such a course of action, PTI has helped muddle up the distinction between the state and the government; attacking the former to shake the latter.
This is a dangerous phenomenon in a country struggling for stability and security; adding a political plane to the constant challenges to the writ of the state by a plethora of groups including the TTP.
In the domain of the government, the consequences of ignoring political protests, as PML-N initially did with Imran Khan’s, have been dramatically revealed. Governments, especially that of parties like N-league which conveniently adopt smug complacency when in power, can no longer afford to be dismissive of opponents’ demands or perform sluggishly.
Moving on, as with every national occurrence, the media’s role has been of vital significance amid the inqilabi and tabdeeli mayhem. With fear-mongering, misinformation and sensationalism, media houses flagrantly picked stances and sides. This functioning of Pakistan’s media as propaganda houses for political parties with little room for impartiality and responsibility has been unfortunate. Media coverage has also been concentrated on the capital, with hardly any slot for the plight of the IDPs and later, the flood victims. All of this has once again lent weight to the idea that Pakistan possesses a vibrant, free media but a fledgling one not free from biases, unethical practices and oblivious to responsible, meaningful journalism.
Public discourse has also been affected, albeit with the curse of intense polarisation. With each lot sticking to its viewpoint and party loyalties with charged political self-righteousness, little room has been left for debate and discussion, let alone poor old nuance. All who oppose PTI’s politics are now ‘jahil nooras’ and all those who criticise PML-N ‘youthias’. And with debate and discussion shut off like this, this only strengthens the intolerance that is already embedded in Pakistan’s society and national mindset.
It is astounding how women and men dancing at rallies can be an issue when there is a war being fought at home and a million Pakistanis are displaced from their homes, left for destitution
Another societal characteristic emerged amidst the dharnas, namely misogyny and hypocrisy. Appropriated into mainstream political discussion thanks to Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman invoking the infamous fahashi narrative inside the parliament, the dancing by women at Imran Khan’s dharna became a part of the political salvo against him.
A non-issue with no political weight or ramification, it is, as columnist and writer Abdul Majeed Abid, wrote:
‘One can disagree with the ‘dharnistas’ on dozens of accounts, without any mention of the term ‘vulgarity’….. this is important only in bigoted, misogynist societies such as Pakistan.’
It is astounding how women and men dancing at rallies can be an issue when there is a war being fought at home and a million Pakistanis are displaced from their homes, left for destitution.
This is a fine encapsulation of the clutter Pakistan is in today.
At the end, it is palpable that the political confrontation which began in mid-August sparked off a tense interaction between Pakistan’s politics, institutions, society and culture; the results of which are unsettling. A close to the current events may be uncertain but what is certain is that as a country aspiring for democracy, stability and prosperity, Pakistan has a long and difficult path to tread if it is ever to move forward.