Imran Khan’s Battle of Belonging
Give it any name; call it conspiracy or external interference in our internal affairs; the fact is that it doesn’t matter anymore. Former Prime Minister Imran Khan has already built a powerful strategic narrative that is not only hugely popular, but has also resulted in the unification of his strategic audience both at home and abroad. This strategic narrative has now taken on a national and international tone. What bothers people today is not whether the door to the letters is real or fake. I think as of today, it doesn’t matter anymore. What counts today for the people is to see which side of history they are on and what they stand for. If the measure of that is not what we saw at the gathering of the people in Peshawar, then I don’t know what else is? And that’s not the end — there’s Karachi on Saturday, then Lahore and so on. Let there be no doubt that Khan is riding a populist wave and that he was able to easily shatter people’s political predispositions and long held beliefs about the fairness and fairness of the Pakistani political system. He promises that he will change the current system and people believe in him.
The former Prime Minister fought his political fight with his adversaries towards the ultimate decision-making platform – not a legal, institutional and constitutional platform, but a people’s platform. And on this platform he wins the battle even with his hands tied behind his back. What Khan has initiated is a battle of belonging in Pakistan. A battle in which the people must decide what kind of Pakistan they want to associate with and belong to – a sovereign Pakistan in which the Prime Minister and Parliament are supreme; and not a Pakistan dictated by external powers; a Pakistan where other state institutions serve politics and not manipulate it, drive and direct it by creating comfort zones for political manipulation and opening courts on public holidays and at midnight to diffuse the power of the ruler real – the prime minister. People no longer want a Pakistan where everyone is fooled into accepting artificial realities based not only on misjudgments but also on political juggling and comedy. If Khan calls the current social contract that binds people with the state a fraud by the rich against the poor, then people are ready to listen. If he tells them that they were born free but the system keeps them in chains, they believe in him. With the resignation of around 125 deputies from parliament, the general will of the people has already shifted from parliament to the roads and streets. The bottom line is that the remaining elected representatives in parliament represent only the partial will of the people; and the majority today are represented on the roads and in the streets.
And need we remember that all of this Imran Khan is doing by bringing a new form of nationalism to the country – a revolutionary nationalism designed to challenge the very nature and character of our state. This revolutionary nationalism reminds people of the importance of overthrowing an underperforming and dysfunctional system. Just like what Lenin did to overthrow the Tsarist regime in the Russian Empire. The problem with nationalism and nationalist movements is that they unite and divide. Nationalisms in Pakistan have undergone many transformations. We got our country on the basis of religious nationalism, but we lost half of it because of linguistic nationalism which tore our national identity apart. But the current revolutionary nationalism spurred by Khan’s ouster from power is frightening. It’s scary because so far it’s peaceful, controlled and led by a leader who is being very reasonable. But imagine if this leader was punished in the foreign funding affair or if his legal and political standing to lead his party were given up or curtailed by defeating him or clipping his wings – what would be the reaction of the people?
All sovereign and powerful institutions must correctly read the mindset of the Pakistani people. Clipping his wings won’t matter now because he has awakened a nationalist spirit in the people. He told them that “you were born with wings, why would you rather crawl through life? and they believe it.
Undoubtedly, since Khan’s ouster from power, a spirit of intense patriotism has pervaded this country. It was Carlo Ginzburg, the Italian historian, who defined patriotism as “not for the nation you love but the nation you are ashamed of”. The present political circumstances of our country bring us to the point where people now clearly understand and approve of what constitutes national disgrace. Personally I think there is good news in this because people have to wake up to national imperfections because only then can they choose and vote for the right leaders to rule them and through these leaders hope to remedy all those governance and societal deficiencies, failures and imperfections that shape and generate their national shame.
People are increasingly wondering why our judicial system allows corruption cases to be dragged before our courts timelessly? Why is the only choice with the nation of those over 230 million people is to elect a prime minister who has been unable to prove his innocence on the corruption charges against him? Why can our courts open at midnight on a holiday to uphold constitutional provisions under which they not only delivered a “timed and spaced judgment” but also never had the proper judicial purpose to witness of a possible fraud initiated to collect the majority vote for no motion of confidence against the former Prime Minister Imran Khan?
People are frustrated and angry and are, at this critical time in our history, determined to show loyalty to the nation as something that will lessen our national shame from now on. People also question the loyalty of the current government to the nation which is determined by the actions of the current government. They ask how can a government be loyal to the nation if the logic of its governance is based on undermining, defeating and shutting down all that the previous government did well. The current government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, which still has no cabinet and is barely four days old, has already taken decisions and actions that speak not of its love and loyalty to the country, but of his hatred and his deliberate attempt to eclipse the ideals of the previous government.
Two of these actions are locking panahgahs i.e. homeless shelters and the cancellation of the Sehat Sahulata health services program that benefited millions of people.
The us versus them syndrome, the permanent division of politics into pro-Imran and anti-Imran political camps in this country is dangerous. We’ll be lucky if we can stop it here. The only way to achieve this is to hold early elections. Otherwise, things can take a bad turn.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 17and2022.
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