Raza Habib Raja
A few days ago I wrote an article titled as Why Some Liberals Are Supporting Imran. The basic thrust of the article was that with the passage of time and owing to a host of factors, the ideological differences between the political parties have blurred. This lack of clear cut distinction means that in reality (despite so called ideological differences) there is not much difference left between the most of the parties barring perhaps definitely religious parties such as Jamat-i-Islami.
One of the readers, Mr. Awais Aftab, twitted the article and also twitted another article which he had written on the same subject. Clicking on the link, I was taken to one of the best blogs, I have ever seen.
The article which he had written was short but in two paragraphs, he communicated so eloquently and precisely, what perhaps I could not do in two pages. Commenting about the political realities in terms of ideological bent, he wrote:
“The question of supporting this or that political party is a highly pragmatic decision given that in reality no political party is perfect, and no political party in Pakistan has a particularly liberal track-record, regardless of what they say in theory. Given this background, it is a mistake to think that the mere act of supporting PTI is a delusional betrayal of liberalism…..
Sane people understand that political realities exist in shades of grey, but when it comes to Imran Khan and PTI, suddenly everyone has the urge to see it as black and white. This applies not just to the liberal critics of Imran Khan, but even more to the hordes of PTI trolls who insist on proclaiming their kaptaan as the one and only messiah, and any criticism against him as an act of blasphemy.”
These words actually describe of whatever is wrong with our political discourse. In fact I would like to stretch it further and say that we see almost all politics as black and white, not just Imran though arguably the schism is much stronger in his case.
In recent times, Imran is arousing a lot of passion. His supporters are growing and so is the fanaticism of his support. The support is mostly an extension of personal hero worship of Imran and since Imran’s persona is financially clean so it is simply assumed that there is absolutely nothing wrong with his political beliefs. In his cricketing life, perhaps Imran seldom compromised but in political life one has to and he will. In fact signs are already there. However, for his supporters, it is simply not happening and when they hear some of “old” faces joining PTI ome how or the other it is assumed that those are “honest” lot out of the “rotten” lot!. What is being overlooked is that pragmatism at some point of time has to be factored in and it becomes increasingly difficult if your original stance had been so “principled”.
But let’s come to his critics.Here the shades of grey actually become more relevant because most of the criticism heaped on Imran is on his ideological orientation and is generally traced to his “Pro Taliban” orientation. Now a substantial segment of the liberal press shows “horror” on Imran’s beliefs and calls him Taliban Khan.
Personally I agree that Imran adopts an apologetic approach and believes that terrorism is just an outcome of Western imperialism and drones. I have severe disagreement with Imran on that account. However, this apologetic defense does not essentially mean that Imran endorses religious extremists like Taliban and in fact he has often tried to clarify his position in this regard. Moreover, a few days ago Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) actually issued a statement denouncing Imran.
However, that statement was completely ignored by the “liberal” press who perhaps just wants to stick to their black and white portrayal of Imran. On the other hand if TTP had issued a statement supporting Imran, then all the liberal press would have just leapt on to it.
Sometimes I actually feel that since Imran has also gotten the “fame” of being Taliban Khan some of the “liberal” writers have to criticize him just to appear safely liberal. They fear if they don’t criticize him, people will doubt their “liberal” credentials.
Imran, in my opinion, is the embodiment of upper middle class morality which is riddled with these greys and contradictions. It may be right to call him confused and reactionary but I think calling him Taliban Khan is at times stretching it too much.
We call Imran fixated by political Islam but then who in this country is not. Who made Islam the state religion in Pakistan? Who passed the second amendment and a host of other laws which aimed at Islamization of Pakistan? And PML N the other mainstream party has in fact even patronized extremist religious outfits in the past for petty political gains. What Mr. Khan is doing now has unfortunately been repeatedly done in the long tortuous history of this country.
Pakistan is a country where almost everyone has tried to play on the wicket of political Islam and Imran by no stretch of the imagination is the exception. It is this fact which needs to be admitted while we criticize him. It’s the entire approach, not any individual person or party, which needs to be criticized. And criticism has to include so called vanguards of liberalism. In fact, I hear so much about so called ‘secular”, “liberal’ and democratic parties and how they represent the last “hope’. But looking closely they are all riddled by the same contradictions and shades of grey though arguably with varying intensities.
And likewise, I have also heard that all those who support Imran are in essence Taliban supporters. This in my opinion is highly exaggerated as in recent times his appeal has broadened and many of the moderates are also supporting him. PTI is becoming somewhat mainstream, at least as far as the composition of its supporters are concerned.And this may actually be a good thing as it may force Mr. Khan to soften his rhetoric. In fact early signs are already there.
A lot is also said on his undemocratic credentials and there is substantial merit in that. It is clear that at least right now, he is being propped up by hidden forces but the problem is that in Pakistan’s long history almost all the parties at one point or the other have compromised and have been supported by the so called establishment and it includes PML N which apparently is right now the most anti establishment.
In fact even more than Imran,right now it is the “liberal” party in Karachi which has been giving openly pro army statements and in fact “requesting” the generals to cleanse up the system.
We need to be more inclusive and take every statement and fact into our analysis before coming up with our opinion. In other words, learn to recognize those shades of grey. Imran should be criticized and there are genuine basis for criticism but the criticism should not be based on just hearsay and at the cost of losing our credibility.