Pakistan is currently embroiled in an extraordinary humanitarian crisis. Social polarization is at an all-time high, the economy is tanking, rehabilitation of flood victims from last year is stalled, IMF is further creating hurdles to grant next bailout for Pakistan despite its record inflation and deteriorating fiscal situation, and the government seems busy in crushing its opposition. On the flipside of the coin, masses of the country-with barely 59% of the literacy rate-are busy in protests and vandalism to bring out so called revolution. A revolution which they do not even know the meaning of.
This article aims to discuss the enigma of populism and to unleash the real meaning of revolution. It is worth noting here that there are three major components of revolution. The very first component is to provide an ideology that is completely different from the status quo. The second component is a social group that is dissatisfied with the status quo. That is interested in developing a new system by dismantling the present system. The third step is to make a political proposal for a new system.
significant revolutions serve as justifications for this argument. The French Revolution, aimed at eradicating monarchical rule and ensuring equal rights for all citizens, and the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, which sought to empower the working class and establishing socialist system by overthrowing the capitalist bourgeoisie. It represented a stark departure from the existing status quo, with distinct ideological differences. Likewise, in the French Revolution, the social base comprised intellectuals, workers, and new merchants who opposed the prevailing order and played significant roles in the revolution. Similarly, in the Bolshevik Revolution, the working class emerged as the revolutionary subjects, supported by the middle class and intellectuals of the time. Lastly, during the French Revolution, the concept of democracy began to take shape as an alternative to monarchy, representing a transformation in the political system.
Now, let’s draw a comparison between these three components and the political stance of Imran Khan. Firstly, examining Imran Khan’s ideology, is there anything that he says which hasn’t been said before in Pakistan? Upon closer analysis of his narratives, it becomes clear that Imran Khan does not explicitly criticize the state or the existing status quo. Instead, he advocates for a centralized authority and persistently pushes the state to conform to his own narrative. His ideology revolves around strengthening the central power of the state through a Presidential system under his leadership. During his tenure, Imran Khan not only attempted to suppress political opposition but also targeted Baloch nationalists. Additionally, Islam has been a sensitive subject for Muslims in the subcontinent since the British rule, and Imran Khan tried to manipulate the Pakistani masses by using an Islamic approach, drawing comparisons to the idealized Islamic state of Riasat-e-Madina. He resorted to various means to exploit the narrative of Islam for his political ends. Recently, the case of Al-Qadir trust was also an Islamic touch.
In Pakistan, Imran Khan has propagated a belief among the people that the country’s woes are solely attributable to the military. However, what is interesting is that he has never advocated for holding the entire institution of the Army accountable. Instead, he consistently blames the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) for all the problems.
Secondly, in Pakistan, speaking out against corruption has never been considered a truly revolutionary act. Throughout Pakistan’s history, the country has witnessed three prolonged periods of martial law, lasting nearly three decades. On each occasion, the military establishment has employed the narrative of corruption and the absence of accountability, primarily targeting politicians as a means of enforcing accountability, no bureaucrat, judge or any other senior public servant has been held accountable. So, the process of accountability is a means of governance in Pakistan. According to Imran Khan’s narrative, the state’s commitment to accountability is not as strong as his own, implying that he holds a stronger stance on the issue than the government does. Secondly, within Imran Khan’s movement, the individuals who are considered revolutionary subjects do not represent the common masses of the state. It is notable that approximately 80% of seat tickets in Punjab have been given to elite individuals such as Pervez Elahi and Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who are already entrenched in the existing status quo. In essence, Imran Khan is accommodating individuals who have no vested interest in bringing about significant changes to the system.
Thirdly, in a revolutionary context, it is crucial to envision a different political system. In Pakistan, Imran Khan has propagated a belief among the people that the country’s woes are solely attributable to the military. However, what is interesting is that he has never advocated for holding the entire institution of the Army accountable. Instead, he consistently blames the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) for all the problems. This suggests that his narrative blaming the Army is entirely false. It appears that he is manipulating the public to garner support for elections and ultimately seeks the COAS’s interference in politics. If the COAS were to support him politically, suddenly the same COAS would be viewed favorably. This indicates that the issue lies not with the COAS or the Army itself, but rather this propaganda is being disseminated solely to attain power. Furthermore, when Imran Khan was removed from power, he constructed a narrative against the United States to rally public support. However, it is noteworthy that he is now appealing to members of the Congress to raise their voices in support of him. This shift in his approach suggests a certain level of inconsistency in his stance and raises questions about the sincerity of his narrative against the United States.
It clearly demonstrates that the PTI’s policies are devoid of political discourse, driven by emotive tales rather than rationality, and focused on fantasizing about a non-existent utopian political global environment. This might be a horrible experiment perpetrated on our country. This is the time for the followers of the Pied Piper to approach the current situation with rationality. It is important to avoid plunging the country into an abysmal abyss of devastation by resorting to acts of vandalism targeting public property and esteemed institutions. These destructive actions should not be undertaken merely for the sake of a person who has been known to manipulate the nation through frequent and notable policy reversals, often referred to as U-turns, throughout his political career.
Haroon Khan Uthwaal
The writer is a student in the School of Politics and International Relations at Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org