By Dr Misbah Azam
Pakistani society came from centuries old monarchies, oligarchies and the tribal systems. Almost half of its history Pakistan was governed by military and dictators belong to bureaucracy and feudal/family oligarchies. Consequently, masses still have propensity to look for messiahs who — in their beliefs — would drive them in the right direction where all of their problems would be fixed. Even after the globalization and free media access they show the proneness to idolize the politicians who boast about huge changes and talk what people want to hear. This behavior was clearly observed during last decade when the masses — especially the young generation — treated the electoral process as a war between the forces of malevolence and the benevolence.
Most of the political elites in Pakistan — one way or the other — are the protégés of military dictators who ruled the country for almost half of its history. When the Generals come in power, to legitimize their illegalities they round the civilian leadership. Their criterion of selection was never the honesty and decency, but they look for those politicians who can be bought easily, loyal, ready to accept any order from them and are ready to be rulers’ cheerleaders. They can be corrupt and unscrupulous but as long as they serve the Generals well they are in the game. To have these characters on board “carrot and stick” policy is used and all the records of “carrots” are kept for the “rainy days”. If any leader learns and began to assert, they are either hanged, banished or simply pressurized by the street agitations against them using their other “tools”. So, whenever the political governments come in power, the mishandling and plunder begins because since there are no guarantees that military would not topple the system and they would be ostracized any time, so why not to “save” something for the days of trough.
The “dharna” (sit-in) politics did not begin in Pakistan when PTI gave its call. It was there for long time. However, PTI’s was able to pull among the most effective sit-in in the history of Pakistan. After becoming the Prime Minister third time, Nawaz Sharif demonstrated as if he does not have any interest in the government. He hardly go to parliament and take long days outside Pakistan. Even on the Eid in 2014 just before the PTI/PAT sit-in, he was off to Saudi Arabia for almost 10 days. Large number of people who were worried about the deterioration situation started believing that Sharif may be bored with the job he wanted to have. Also, for years, it was preached by the main stream electronic/print media that the PTI is the only viable force, a catalyst for change and full of new ideas with enthusiasm and vigor to fix the country’s politics and its culture. Then – as the 2004 famous song by Mick Jagger which goes “Old Habits Die Hard” – the establishment. Some players in Pakistan security establishment with “old habits” found a window of opportunity there to try once again what they always wanted to do. They were blinded by their personal grudge for Sharif family and taking over the power. They completely ignored the ground reality that now, that US is now least interested in Afghanistan and busy in mending its relations with Iran to fight against the Daish, so their chances of getting support from the West were slim to none. They conspired with Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri to topple the government by force and promised these two overtly ambitious characters for the future Premiership, although it would be very unlikely that if they would be successful they would really hand over power to Khan and Qadri. Khan and Qadri would be sent to “Bani Gala sub-jail” and Canada respectively. Khan and Qadri agreed to insult the institutions, abhor the democracy by threatening police, releasing their people from police custody by force, attacking the state owned TV, destroying the parliament fences with cranes, converting the front lawn of the parliament to a “khema basti” (tent city), transforming the green belt in front of parliament to the world biggest lavatory, having the vigilantes from PAT and PTI to take law and order in their hands and parliamentarians, Judges, bureaucrats and even police officials were allowed to pass only after the body search by their hooligans. Fortunately, they all failed miserably because sanity prevailed and military, political parties, civil society and large number of people decided not to support such lunacy. Their success would derail the democracy for long time, and introduce a tradition to attack the capital city with a support of big crowed and topple the government.
Predominantly, Qadri’s supporters are the people from lower middle class who consider Qadri a spiritual leader and they are ready to offer their lives for their “imam”. However, the PTI supporters have three distinct categories. One large part consists of those who are simply tired by the incompetency of PPP and PML (N) and also the military dictators. These people hope to have someone honest and sincere. Though, they may not believe in Imran Khan and PTI leadership but they are willing to give the third party a chance with the hope they may do something better for Pakistan. The other large section of PTI supporters are the upper middle class people. Most of them spent their lives worshiping the celebrities. They see Imran Khan as a Captain America – a person who is incapable to do any mistake or misconduct — who can bring about “change” by exploiting his supernatural powers and “lady-killer” looks. They think that Imran Khan may be the first leader in Pakistan after Qaid-i-Azam and the politics in Pakistan only started after 24/7 TV channels and social media started. If some other celebrity – like Boom Boom Afridi for example – would launch a political party, large number of Khan’s supporters from this category may find another Super Man and stop supporting PTI. The third and rather small category of PTI supporters are those who have no love-hate relation with Imran Khan but they dislike Sharifs and Zardaris very much and want them to be out from the politics. They are also ambitious to play role in running governments. They always get benefits when Pakistan is ruled by military dictator. They see Imran Khan a gullible and ambitious person who enjoys the street power but can be convinced by any hogwash to create so much troubles on the streets that another Martial Law could come and then these people would have chance to get to the helm of affairs under the umbrella of a dictator.
It becomes a cliché now, that Imran Khan is clean person and all others are plunderers and swindlers, although there are allegations on Khan about paying scant taxes while living in the palace-like house. Another allegation is about selling the PTI Provincial Assembly seat PP-14 to Chaudhry Asghar in Rs. 30 million on which the PTI workers protested outside Bani Gala in April 2013. He may be Mr. Clean because so far he did not take over the power and never had a situation where he has to stand up to the powerful security establishment by refusing to take the line which he was told to take. However, only the financial honesty is not the criterion for the person to run the country. Jamat-i-Islami has the most financially honest leadership, but no one wants to hand them over the government. Even Taliban may be very honest financially as well, would anyone in Pakistan agree to put them on the helm of affairs? If a leader is honest but lacks the qualities such as wisdom, foresight and political acumen, financial honesty alone is not suffice to make him/her successful.
The high profile celebrities get the habit of being worshipped by the people around them. They are the sore losers, they always want to get admired and praised. Large part of his life Khan was a very high profile celebrity and unfortunately, he is proving himself to be one of such character. After the Judicial Commission report, Khan should have come out and clearly tell his people to move on instead of attacking the whole Judiciary. No one will be surprised if in the near future Khan will be seduced by another “umpire” and he will be having the press conference to tell the media that he found some other conspiracy against his “mandate” which was stolen by almost everyone in Pakistan, because we all know that “Old Habits Die Hard” .