National Clutter


*Originally published in The News.

It’s been over a month since the dharnas came to the capital.

And although Imran Khan warns of a civil war, the political temperature has come down considerably but not after exposing the bare and weak bones of Pakistan’s make.

To start off, with rumors and fears of a coup abound earlier; a most alarming reminder has been the persisting existence of the Third Umpire on the political front. Including a counsel of restraint on both sides, advocacy for facilitation of negotiations and advising the government not to use force, Dawn’s editorial published on 2ND September spoke on this string of the army’s statements and inaction towards the protesters that attacked the Parliament despite Article 245 as:

‘The carefully constructed veneer of neutrality that the army leadership had constructed through much of the national political crisis has been torn apart.’

The fact that army had to issue these statements and later another to assert its neutrality brings out a sneering irony.  

It is obvious that redressing the civil-military imbalance is urgent and yet perilous since the Third Umpire will not be leaving a field it has dominated and played on since decades anytime soon.

Secondly, while mudslinging and uncivil rhetoric has been and is an inherent component of Pakistan’s chaotic political culture, the current developments have assisted their swift mainstream resurgence; lest we forget Imran Khan’s volley of countless allegations and accusations against the sitting prime minister, ministers, parliamentarians, judiciary, police, journalists, bureaucrats and the media; and his free and open use of “oye”, “main choroon ga nahi” to “geeli shalwars”. The on-going rumpus has assisted and promoted the crude rhetoric of violence and slander in Pakistan’s political culture and discourse to once again rear its ugly head.

More importantly, a tweet by Mosharraf Zaidi on Imran Khan’s audacious release of his workers arrested by the police accentuates a disquieting issue:

‘One can blame PM Sharif to a certain extent, but delegitimization of the state machinery is now the unwitting PTI project. Disturbing.’

This act of Imran Khan’s may be hailed as bravado by his supporters, who condemn and decry Anjum Aqeel in the same breath, but since its declaration of civil disobedience, promotion of hundi; attempts to storm state buildings with PAT and this forceful release of arrested workers, PTI and its workers have certainly pursued a path of delegitimizing state apparatuses by way of blatantly defying the law.

With such a course of action, PTI has helped muddle up the distinction between the state and the government; attacking the former to shake the latter.

This is but a dangerous phenomenon in a country struggling for stability and security; adding a political plane to the constant challenges to the writ of the state by a plethora of groups including the TTP.

In the domain of the government, the consequences of ignoring political protests, as PML-N initially did with Imran Khan’s, have been dramatically revealed. Governments, especially that of parties like N which conveniently adopt smug complacency when in power, can no longer afford to be dismissive of opponents’ demands or perform sluggishly.

Moving on, as with every national occurrence, the media’s role has been of vital significance amid the inquilabi and tabdeeli mayhem. With fear-mongering, misinformation and sensationalism media houses flagrantly picked stances and sides. This glaring functioning of Pakistan’s media as propaganda houses for political parties with little room for impartiality and responsibility has been unfortunate. Media coverage has also been concentrated on the capital, with hardly any slot for the plight of the IDPs and later, the flood victims. All of this has once again lent weight to the idea that Pakistan possesses a vibrant, free media but a fledgling one not free from biases, unethical practices and oblivious to responsible, meaningful journalism.

Public discourse has also been affected, albeit with the curse of intense polarisation. With each lot sticking to its viewpoint and party loyalties with charged political self-righteousness, little room has been left for debate and discussion, let alone poor old nuance. All who oppose PTI’s politics are now ‘jahil nooras’ and all those who criticise PML-N ‘youthias’. And with debate and discussion shut off like this, this only strengthens the intolerance that is already embedded in Pakistan’s society and national mindset.

Another societal characteristic emerged amidst the dharnas, namely misogyny and hypocrisy. Appropriated into mainstream political discussion thanks to Maulana Fazul-ur-Rehman invoking the infamous fahashi narrative inside the Parliament, the dancing by women at Imran Khan’s dharna became a part of the political salvo against him.

A non-issue with no political weight or ramification, it is, as columnist and writer Abdul Majeed Abid, wrote:

‘One can disagree with the ‘dharnistas’ on dozens of accounts, without any mention of the term ‘vulgarity’….. this is important only in bigoted, misogynist societies such as Pakistan.’

It is astounding how women and men dancing at rallies can be an issue when there is a war being fought at home and a million Pakistanis are displaced from their homes, left for destitution.

This is a fine encapsulation of the clutter Pakistan is in today.

At the end, it is palpable that the political confrontation which began in mid-August sparked off a tense interaction between Pakistan’s politics, institutions, society and culture; the results of which are unsettling. A close to the current events may be uncertain but what is certain is that as a country aspiring for democracy, stability and prosperity, Pakistan has a long and difficult path to tread if it is ever to move forward.

~ Hafsa Khawaja

5 comments on “National Clutter

  1. Mohammad Ali says:

    You are paid if you don’t agree with inqilabians dah!

    • Ashar Pervez says:

      For any allegedly sane mind to support Sharifs and Bhuttos / Zardaris and expect them to change their mindsets for the greater good, an allegation of being on a payroll ought to be taken as a compliment.

  2. Waheed Mazhar says:

    There is CLUTTER, there is CONFUSION and there is IRONY so far PAT and PTI supporters and their leaders are concerned. On one hand they want to exercise unbridled and unfettered right to PROTEST…alleging its their DEMOCRATIC RIGHT…on the other hand they and their leaders are ridiculing, and delegitimizing all democratic norms, institutions and figures with impunity.

    They believe that anything said by their leaders is a FINAL EDICT…that can neither be discussed, argued or called in question. They just want to be the JUDGES in their own cause. Its a farce going on in the name of democratic protest.

  3. Sarwat AJ says:

    Not being a political insight-er, and being concerned only with topics of literature and history, I can say that, all what is happening on the political side, dharnas, twisting press releases, concerto jalsas, cross turn takings and so on, is a clear picture of the society and country in confusion. It reflects that we have came up, in the last 20/30 years with a generation with no sense of development or improvement, senseless, brutal, dishonest and gone totally inhuman. This is how the bulk is here. Very rare and very few, are those who feel, sense and urge to prosper. Historically such situations never brought any good. Painful

  4. rehanud1975 says:

    Ibn-e-Khaldun divided Nations into 3 phases of development :
    1. The first generation ; It has been part of the Independance and foundation of a Nation or Dynasty . It is most dedicated and loyal
    2. The second generation ; it has only 2nd hand information about the sacrifices . Corruption begins to set in and the Nation or Dynasty begins to crumble
    3. The third generation ; A generation completely out of touch with it’s origins and is completely complacent.

    The words are my own but the concept is essentially the same. A lot of us belong to second generation…It is up to us as to what sort of third generation we contribute to. It can be a complacent generation with no concern about Pakistan or it can be very Patriotic and turn around the tide. Let us stop lamenting the past. Let us learn from it and move on . There are lot of bright examples in Islamic History. The Secularist Brigade would try it’s best to obscure the bright examples of Islam ; let us not make their job easy !

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