Pakistan’s political instability

The PTI is exploiting a lunch to fundamentalism

The Pakistani Political system has always protected the interests of elites. Although political leadership has been the representative authority, they failed to raise hope for a democratic state that would provide socio-economic justice to all Pakistani citizens. The political leadership failed to create harmony on the national language, the role of Islam, provincial representation and the division of powers between the centre and the provinces, delayed the constitution and postponed general elections.

In October 1956, Pakistan came out from its infancy, a consensus was build and the first constitution of Pakistan came into force. The experience of democratic government was short but not sweet. In October 1958, Gen Muhammad Ayub Khan easily staged a military coup.  The political paradigm shifted during the 1960s and 1970s, where class (revolutionary) politics was replaced by authoritarianism as a result of the influx of capital and urbanization.  Industrial workers, student unions and middle-class socialist ideology emerged here.

Class politics, however, was short-lived when it was replaced by Antonio Gramsci’s commonsense politics in the 1980s. In which the lower classes of the society are also stakeholders. To counter the industrial class struggle of the 1960s, Zia furnished Pakistan with political-religious parties and a place in politics through the street mosque culture within the power structure.

For four decades after Zia, the Pakistani political scene was a hybrid of PML(N) and PPP patronage and intellectual politics. Once again, the landscape of Pakistan’s politics has changed when the poor and the educated are uneducated, devoid of critical thinking skills, and who are influenced by anti-American and anti-establishment rhetoric. Anti-establishment and anti-American sloganeering has breathed new life into Khan’s April 2022 lows towards the end of his nearly four-year rule.

More than the dismissal of the PTI, there is public resentment over the return of the previous government, which was accused of corruption and nepotism. This resentment towards the PDM has been well cashed in by the PTI leadership even though it has little knowledge of its linkages with the geopolitical, geostrategic and geo-economic realities of the contemporary international system. The PTI leadership dreams of a utopian world which is far from reality. This is a dream that has been shown to the people of Pakistan.

At present, PTI chief Imran Khan’s popularity chart is skyrocketing due to the PTI’s constant tussle with state institutions, including the establishment, but the leadership strategy poses huge challenges in the field of foreign policy and security.  People have hopes and are calling the Azadi March a turning point for Pakistan. Even the blind can see the political engineering to bring PTI to power in 2018 as it is the history of democratic regimes in Pakistan.

Pakistan can emerge as a strong state and nation only when the socio-cultural trends of intolerance, exclusivity, nepotism, extremist ideologies and violence that have warped the national fabric, are transformed as a nation. And the political nursery of inclusiveness, tolerance, enlightenment, and coexistence in state building should foster critical thinking skills, inclusiveness, and respect for opposing ideologies in future generations of Pakistan.

Always the game of political engineering had been organized by the establishment. Now Imran Khan was the beneficiary of this play and got the title ladla (pampered favourite). The PTI government has enjoyed unprecedented support from the establishment during its more than three and a half years in power. The PTI’s staunch supporters are also frustrated by the party’s poor performance, ambiguity and delays in government affairs. The PTI’s popularity chart fell due to an unsatisfactory government but the PDM came back to rescue it.

The Pakistani political structure is moving away from the politics of clientelism towards the politics of fundamentalism, and fundamentalism means instability. Here, inciting the youth and people against the institutions of the state, institutional heads and the centre of power of the country can have disastrous effects. This is Pakistan’s political history; the political leadership’s frequent attacks on state institutions, especially on the establishment, when they are away from the government. Opposition parties call them to rescue from the governmental brutal actions and illegal political cases.

When we look back and open the archives of history, the transition from democracy to dictatorship in Germany took place in the context of political instability and economic depression, where people saw in Adolf Hitler the charismatic figure of their messiah and saviour.

Here we are reminded of another important factor in state affairs, namely the mentality of the leadership. The mental change of the leaders is the main driving force of the party which determines the course of the state. Populism or populist leadership is a controversial concept with no clear definition. According to Robert R. Barr, some leaders take advantage of political instability through anti-establishment rhetoric. Margaret Canovan another scholar of politics argues that the central message of populism is that power rests with corrupt politicians and unrepresentative elites to the exclusion of the people.

Weberian analytical tools should be applied to study leadership and its style. In a Weberian context, a populist leader appeals to the public through his anti-establishment rhetoric, also known as “grievance politics,” where the spread of misinformation promotes quick solutions to problems, but exploits and resentments are obstacles in his way.

Max Weber focuses on charismatic leaders and their radical mentality, their narcissism, nepotism, demagoguery, and unpredictability. According to him, all these aspects of the leader strengthen the movement and however weaken its organizational effectiveness.

Populist leaders are charismatic, they make the most promises, use effective propaganda methods, and thus subvert the established political system, but most importantly, they deliver on their promises. Rarely do because their actions go against development, political and economic. Such leaders and movements not only weaken the political system of the state but also destroy other institutions of the state and the rule of law.

Bhutto’s inclination towards class politics along with his open opposition to Ayub Khan soon made him immensely popular with the masses. With an absolutist mentality he also desired absolute power; an absolutist mentality is a problem. Bhutto had become a dictator in the country with his power-hungry mind. The quest for absolute power led him to an uncompromising situation with a power-sharing crisis that directed to a war of independence in the Eastern Wing.

The PTI’s philosophy of absolute power has hurt Pakistan on the foreign policy front where our Arab allies were angered when Turkish President Recep Erdogan tried to hold an Islamic summit in Malaysia, while our close neighbor Iran was angered when Pakistan participated in a joint military exercise with Turkey in Azerbaijan. In addition, the PTI’s poor performance during his tenure, he has several excuses including the lack of a two-thirds majority. Now the PDM government which was considered most experienced has taken Pakistan at the point of devastation. Its experience, efficiency and administration have been exposed.

All the political parties are dictators in their political rooms now they have joined hands to protect themselves from the case of corruption. These political parties devoid of democracy always came to power for personal interests.

History is witness that totalitarian power not only leads to corruption but also to destruction, Adolf Hitler changed Germany from a democratic system to a dictatorship and then plunged Germany into a bloody war with disastrous results. Bhutto’s hunger for absolute power resulted in the disintegration of Pakistan. Now PTI’s turn to fundamentalist politics is based on direct confrontation with state institutions, including defamation campaigns against high officials and heads of institutions. The PTI young tigers being trained will trouble Pakistani society in the years to come. Our political leaders have a huge responsibility to build the political nursery of the state where they should nurture its political system on politics of reason instead of hatred, vandalism and fundamentalism. Radicalization of an already radicalized youth will permanently tear the fabric of our society.

Pakistan can emerge as a strong state and nation only when the socio-cultural trends of intolerance, exclusivity, nepotism, extremist ideologies and violence that have warped the national fabric, are transformed as a nation. And the political nursery of inclusiveness, tolerance, enlightenment, and coexistence in state building should foster critical thinking skills, inclusiveness, and respect for opposing ideologies in future generations of Pakistan.

Dr Muhammad Akram Zaheer
Dr Muhammad Akram Zaheer
The writer has a PhD in Political Science and can be reached at [email protected]

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