By Shahzada Ahsan Ashraf
We are inclined towards hate rather than love because hatred amplifies our own opinion of ourselves. When we hate, we subconsciously tell ourselves that we are better than who or what we hate.
Prime Minister Imran Khan not only embodies this self-righteous attitude but has also passed it on to his supporters who are unable to objectively analyse anything their leader says or does without losing composure. The cult of Imran Khan has divided, an already divided country.
What used to be considered meaningless political rhetoric is now used as a policy. When Imran Khan stood up on a container and threatened a police official with dire personal consequences, fit his electricity bills on fire and ordered his supporters to attack PTV offices as well as the parliament, observers were convinced that such aggressive politics could only be sustainable in opposition. Most people thought that if the PTI came to power, they would get their act together.
The PTI government has been unable to deliver on many of its promises. Imran Khan claimed that as soon as he took power, at least $100 billion would return to Pakistan because “overseas Pakistanis will flood our coffers with their support.” He also said looted wealth of previous rulers would be returned. Khan even pledged to commit suicide before going to the IMF for a bailout package.
If the strategy of inducing hatred, especially towards politicians, continues not a single one of Khan’s supporters will stand up for him when the time comes. Khan also acknowledged at the time that for every rupee we lose against the dollar, an immense financial loss is caused to the exchequer because repayments on our loans become more expensive.
After his election, not a single penny of the $100 billion ever came. Khan was forced to go to the IMF and the dollar increased by almost 30 percent ever since his government took over. A trough of badly negotiated and desperate loans also followed. The reality of power transformed Imran Khan from a symbol of hope to an economic Hitman on behalf of international financial institutions and also a political Hitman.
To hide his incompetence, Khan chooses to operate behind a veneer of hatred and self-righteousness. He wants the narrative to focus on mistakes of previous rulers so that no one talks about the mistakes of the current rulers. Hate is peddled not only against opposing politicians but also journalists who are seen as too critical. Two members of the PTI have physically assaulted respected journalists without consequence. Container politics is finally trickling down to the lower cadres.
The dream team Khan had promised to build has mostly been plagiarised from the PPP government, the government most PTI supporters proudly condemn. Even portfolios of ministers are the same. Add some remnants of Musharraf’s cabinet and turncoats who change their parties before every election and you have a government which symbolises patronage and political engineering at its finest.
Imran Khan’s rise has come at an unmanageable cost not only to the economy but also to the political atmosphere of the country. Dissent in any way is not tolerated by our handsome, Oxford educated prime minister. The banning of the word ‘selected’ from the National Assembly shows how insecure Khan is in his position. Even though he used vile words for his political opponents, he is not tolerant enough to withstand mild criticism.
Faisal Vawda, a member of Imran’s federal cabinet recently recommended public hanging of 5,000 people in order to solve the problems of our country. Encouraged by his leader’s callousness, he went on to say that before the people are hanged, they should be dragged in the streets while being tied to cars. A few months before this bold statement, he claimed that 10 million jobs would come in a few days. There is no point asking where the jobs are.
Hate as a policy to combat any form of opposition will inevitably come back to bite Imran Khan where it hurts. Another populist leader, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was selected to lead Pakistan even though he had fewer seats than his rival, Mujibur Rehman, the leader of the Awami League. There was reluctance in handing power to a Bengali leader since the people of East Pakistan were considered second class citizens with no real right to power.
Bhutto used the same rhetoric Imran is using today. He had some choice words for members who flew to Dhaka for the oath taking and also threatened to break their legs.
Unbeknownst to many, Bhutto served as Chief Martial Law Administrator from the period of 1971-1973, eliminating all doubt about who selected him to rule.
This time, a similar game is being played. Like the Bengalis were labelled as unworthy and unpatriotic, Naya Pakistan is also uncomfortable with sharing power with elected representatives whether it is the Pakhtuns represented by the likes of, ANP and JUI-F or the Baloch represented by BNP-Mengal and various sardars or the Punjabis represented by the PML-N or the Sindhis represented by the PPP.
If the strategy of inducing hatred, especially towards politicians, continues not a single one of Khan’s supporters will stand up for him when the time comes, just like Bhutto was left alone in the gallows by the people who were taught to hope and then to hate by him.
The writer is a former federal minister and Chairman PIA