Fahad Hussain, a senior journalist, Executive Editor, Express Tribune, and Executive Director News, Express-News, recently wrote in the op-ed page of The Express Tribune.
“Journalism was butchered every day on the airwaves, buried unceremoniously in hurriedly-dug graves, dug up again the next day to be butchered and buried and dug up again only to be butchered the very next day.
Journalism had to die in order for Khan to resurrect.
But Khan won. Period. “
Pakistani society came from the centuries-old monarchies and the tribal systems. Its contemporary history is full of Martial Laws, bureaucratic and feudal/family oligarchies. As a consequence, masses have the propensity to look for messiahs who — in their beliefs — would drive them and provide an antidote for their ailments. Even after the globalization and free media access they show the proneness of adoring and hating their leaders and demanding the zero-sum game in favor of what they believe is right. This behavior was clearly observed during the last decade when the young generation began to participate in the national politics on the call of Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf. Unfortunately, instead of making the political discussions as an opportunity to participate in the intellectual and philosophical debates and contribute in the formation of the governments, they behaved as if the politics is a war between the forces of Christ and the anti-Christ.
Imran Khan began his political movement by exploiting this sentiment. He successfully convinced his voters that he is a messiah and the only one who can tackle the problem – which, in his simplistic understanding, is corruption — head-on and abolish it for good. Once, the corruption is reduced, Pakistan would progress like any other countries. If he – who in his words clean and honest – would come to power, everyone under him – no matter how corrupt – would become clean and all the problems of Pakistan would disappear.
Pakistan is among those countries where reading and research is not a tradition, where even the media personalities who are the opinion makers, don’t take any interest in investigating the news before broadcasting. The young people, who are highly opinionative due to the easy access of social media, are vulnerable and gullible, and can easily be manipulated because of their lack of deep study of the issues around them. If those who bought Khan’s rhetoric about corruption would do some independent investigation they would know that although, the corruption must be tackled and reduced, but it is neither the only problem which slows down the progress of the country, nor, the uncorrupted (as they believe about Khan) top leaders autonomously make everyone working for them virtuous and clean. Bangladesh – where the GDP growth rate is 7.3% and the annual exports close to $40 billion (compared to Pakistan’s GDP growth around 5% with annual exports of $21 billion) — is almost 23% more corrupt than Pakistan. Pakistan’s first Prime Minister, Nawabzada Liaqat Ali Khan was the most honest Prime Minister but his cabinet was among the most corrupt cabinet in the history. That fact contradicts the theory that if the top leader is clean, everyone under him/her will automatically be uncorrupted.
Not only that Khan had misguided the masses but also the security establishment – which has strong reservations with existing political parties and their leadership and tried their best to break these parties in early 2000 but not successful — also supported this view so that if and when Khan will be in power, he would be more conciliatory and placid crony, who would be obliged and do not “intervene” in what they want to drive.
Historically, in Pakistan, after every 10 years of weak civilian governments, the military asserts itself and creates a new generation of politicians, using threats, loan write off, removal of the corruption charges, installation of pliant Judges then pressurizing politicians through the judicial process and monetary offers to those who would be agreed to leave their political parties, join them and bring with them the “evidence” against their leadership’s personal and financial “misconducts”. Usually, the Martial law, in the name of cleaning up corruption, worked very well, however, after Musharraf’s Martial Law, the international community demonstrated very little tolerance towards direct military rule. After that, the tactics were modified. Allies were created in the media, who were willing to broadcast and propagate whatever they are asked to, without asking any questions. With their help, a campaign was launched to vilify the popular leadership and created a new messiah in the form of Imran Khan – the leader of the new King’s Party. Judiciary disqualified top leadership using weak and controversial verdicts (which are questioned by the top independent jurists). Any dissenters in the media who asked the question were blocked or threatened publically. During the general elections, on the “request” of Election Commission, 370,000 soldiers (compared to 70,000 soldiers in 2013 general elections when the security situation was highly volatile) were deployed outside and inside of the polling stations who were given the sweeping powers. On the day of elections, the polling agents were pushed back or got removed from the polling stations — an unlawful action — by the security agencies and had the military to count the votes. Unfortunately, even the King’s Party was not allowed to get enough seats so that they wouldn’t forget where the real power lies.
Senior journalist and political analysts, Najam Sethi predicted some 10 years ago that the security establishment was working to create a new political force and helping Imran Khan in organizing it to counter the existing political parties: Mission accomplished. Under the “democratic umbrella”, the military came back to power in Pakistan on July 25, 2018.
All the previous Kings’ parties – Conventional Muslim League, Junajo Muslim League, Pakistan Muslim League (Qaid-i-Azam) – have already been drained out into the gutters of history. Khan’s PTI was a legitimate party and could be a formidable political force, but unfortunately, just because of his obsession to be in power, Khan agreed to become another Kings’ Party, which goes up suddenly then goes down to the oblivion. It is yet to be seen if the Khan’s PTI would get the same fate.
These manipulations have heavily polarized the Pakistani society and drove the country on the disastrous path. All the political parties are now convinced that the Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) came in power because of the foul play by the nexus of Judiciary, the military, large sections of media and political cronies who – in Pakistan – are called “electable” and they either get instructions from the establishment or they are bought against huge favors.
Traditionally, the Prime Minister in Pakistan has very little input in the foreign and defense policies, which are run by the powerful Army to the large extent. However, the new Prime Minister Imran Khan has to tackle the question of his legitimacy, because all the opposition parties have already rejected the results and as Khan would try to implement his agenda, he has to have an uphill battle with the opposition. A large number of people are convinced that Khan’s PTI did not earn but rather given a mandate by the security establishment. The incidents in which the military personals removed the polling agents, closed the doors of polling stations and counted the votes are all over on the social media. So far, all the opposition parties are demanding the resignation of the Election Commissioner and asking for investigations of alleged “technical faults” in the Result Transfer System (RTS) – which, other than the allies in the media and in the political arena, no one is ready to buy. As time would progress, the opposition’s demands may further be intensified and Khan will have more trouble in running the government.
There are some significant parallels between the 2002 General Elections and 2018 General Elections. Then, a Kings’ Party was formed and the system was manipulated to get them enough seats so that they can easily form the government but would have to rely on the establishment for their survival as a government. In 2018, another Kings’ Party is formed, but of course by using somewhat different methodologies. The main difference is that the 2002’s Kings’ Party was pliant and to large extant submissive, while so far it seems that 2018’s Kings’ Party has all signs of becoming a big headache for the Kings because analysts believe that Khan is not easy to be dealt with. Now, it is yet to be seen how the rigid and stubborn – as the analysts believe — leader of the PTI would tackle the opposition and the establishment – will he be a Shaukat Aziz or he will try to become Tayyip Erdoğan. No matter what, elections are complete — fair or rigged – political parties have accepted the results at least until they make their case and convince masses about the alleged “theft of the mandate”, and then pressure the government to either to call for mid-term elections or give them something in return.
Until then, as my friend Fahad Hussain very rightly put, “But Khan won. Period.”