Sunday June 16, 2024

‘Leader’ above state?

By Taha Ahmed Khan
May 25, 2023

The last few days and weeks in Pakistan were nothing less than an intense drama. No political thriller can beat what is currently happening in the country. Things that started with an arrest ended with a populist becoming the most powerful person in the country, without holding any executive power.

Following the arrest, a few took to the streets and some remained glued to their TV screens. Most provided – and consumed – content on social media platforms. The country remained without mobile internet services for at least three days, adversely affecting the income stream of millions of Pakistanis.

But all this drama has once again exposed the fault lines in our politics. The tug of war for power intensified by a populist has once again shown the horrors of experiments turning rogue, erosion of state authority, double standards in the execution of the law and blatant violation of the constitution. And amid all of this drama, the US dollar rose beyond Rs300 in the open market, and IMF negotiations remain in limbo.

Political workers in Karachi, Balochistan and the peripheries who have seen back-to-back interventions in their areas see the current scenes with shock and awe, and are rightly surprised over the restraint shown despite all provocations and over the courts’ verdicts to rescue ‘Dear Leader’.

With these developments, ‘Dear Leader’ became larger than the state. He could name those who cannot be named, and avoid giving our unequivocal condemnation of the vandalism perpetrated by his party workers all over Pakistan. He even asked what else people expected by putting him behind bars. Sometimes, it seems that he is the law.

But let’s just hold on for a moment and imagine that today he gets what he wants. He is back in power, and this time with a mandate that allows him to go above institutions: where will we be standing? We may have a lot of ills in our societal and state structure, but a blatant dictatorship is not one. In a society as polarized, volatile and diverse as ours, can we afford a leader at the top whose word is considered final by his cult – the same cult that has no remorse over torching state property?

It is important to highlight that MQM-P leaders and workers have faced frivolous charges for sitting at the Karachi Press Club during a speech. And even though we disassociated with the leader who made the speech, our allegiance with the state of Pakistan is questioned till today.

And here is a party which stormed the red zone and torched a corps commander’s house – showing that their allegiance to their party was far higher than any other loyalty. Can anyone dare question them like they do us?

The state cannot shy away from today’s reality. It has to ensure stability in the country, and it does not take a genius to understand that this will remain a far distant dream till the populist remains the mover and shaker of Pakistani politics.

This country cannot become the fiefdom of one man’s ego. For the stability of this country, it has become pertinent that the precedent set by the PTI and its chairperson should be viewed through the lens through which other parties are seen.

A man with fascist tendencies is on the rise in Pakistan at a time when our economy is nose-diving. He is smart enough to channelize the frustration of people – especially the urban middle class – for his political gains even if that comes at the cost of stability in the country.

He has a free pass – maybe because of his social standing and ethnic privilege. What started on social media is now culminating into violence for the sanctity of the special one. Yesterday it was political opponents; today it is the state itself – which in fact created that entity. The heart shudders to think what is left for tomorrow.

The writer is a senior member of Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P).