Monday January 30, 2023

Selling piety in politics

October 07, 2016

Piety does not exist in politics. It is political interest that drives politics. Despite this settled principle, one wonders why piety is being preached in politics when it does not exist. Probably because the pretence of piety can help achieve political interests.

This practice is common in underdeveloped countries where political leaders are followed blindly and often treated as saviours and messiahs. It is quite interesting to see that today the government and the opposition are both treading the same path. The PML-N government is trying to fend off the Panama inquiry threat whereas the opposition, mainly the PTI, is trying to dislodge Nawaz Sharif. Both are pretending piety but are in reality driven by political interests.

The Panama-struck government of the PML-N is in the eye of the storm. The government played innocent and saw the Panama leaks as an international conspiracy to dislodge its leaders. Be that as it may, the fact remains that this issue has raised some very serious questions for the PML-N government and the prime minister.

After six months of the Panama revelations, which were hardly new in nature in the first place, what does the government have to show to the opposition and public? What steps have been taken by the government to initiate an impartial inquiry of the Panama leaks? Nothing.

The letter written to the chief justice of Pakistan for an inquiry into the Panama leaks was too broad and ambiguous in nature. The CJ’s reply was rather embarrassing since it asked the government to give more focused terms of references for the inquiry. The attempt to bring in the names of all those who had their loans written off appeared to be a way to settle scores with the opposition parties and did not go down very well.

Somehow, the PML-N has obfuscated the issue of the Panama leaks. The PML-N smells a rat in the opposition’s campaign on investigations into the PM and his family. This is partly because of the treacherous political history of the country and partly because of the objective conditions at the moment. According to some, the ‘Get Nawaz’ campaign never got away and could still make a disastrous come back. The tensions with India and the impending appointment of the new army chief are also making things more complicated for the Nawaz-led government.

For Imran Khan, the Panama leaks is like a new lease of life in politics. Khan is desperately trying to portray that he has emerged as the saviour of the nation. He has managed to mobilise his political party on the issue of corruption by holding rallies on the issue, successfully culminating into a big march on to Raiwind in Lahore.

In reality, though, the so-called drive against corruption is plagued with political interests. The idea is to try and avail a short cut all over again. Khan’s claim of campaigning against corruption is put to shame if one asks some pestering questions about the reality of the KP Ehtasaab Commission, the PTI’s intra-party election fraud and the PTI’s foreign funding case pending before the Election Commission for over a year now. The ouster of Tasneem Noorani, former chief election commissioner of the PTI, also speaks volumes about Imran Khan’s idea of true democracy and transparency.

Needless to say, repeated failures have made the PTI and Imran Khan more desperate. For Khan’s PTI, justice is served when the decision is in the PTI’s favour. Khan’s self-styled politics makes him the complainant, the prosecutor and the judge all at the same time. In this context, Imran Khan is also pretending to sell piety and wants people to believe in him.

This time around, he has announced his party will lock down the federal capital if the prime minister doesn’t resign or open himself to the accountability process. Imran Khan plans to do this when the Supreme Court is likely to conduct a hearing on the Panama leaks petitions.

Looking at these uncomfortable facts about the PML-N government and Imran Khan, it will be interesting to see how far people are ready to believe in their sham piety.

The writer works for Geo News.