In the name of the youth
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) workers countered Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) activists with violence at Jinnah ground Azizabad during their political campaign ahead of the by-elections for NA-246. Is this a democratically fostered political culture? MQM had alleged PTI of disrespecting their martyrs’ memorial and destroying posters of Altaf Hussain, the MQM leader. This dispute led to a violent fight between the two. PTI has got registered an FIR against this incident equally contested with a similar case by the MQM.
Both these parties in their own rights claim the support of urban youth; with MQM having a distinction of actually growing out of their student wing as a full-fledged political party. Apart from the example of Baloch Students Organisation, it was All Pakistan Muhajir Students Organisation (APMSO), which created its mother party the MQM in the urban hub of Karachi.
MQM’s popularity among urban youth and the consequent allegations of urban violence attributed to it is a long-held story. Now we are witnessing similar intense trends in the form of PTI. It would be interesting to reflect on emerging drifts of urban youth recklessness in the politics of PTI.
PTI has conveniently worked through an FIR in the recent episode of Jinnah ground Azizabad, but what about attack on PTV, entering police station and freeing the supporters by Imran Khan during the dharna?
PTI as a political party is the largest claimant of urban youth mobilisation into the political realm. It has been focusing urban youth at massive level through social media, electronic media, internet and corner meetings. The party also introduced a young Tabdeeli Razakar (volunteers for change) programme. Among popular slogans of the party are eliminating corruption, bringing change in society and system, and building a new version of Pakistan through youth as catalysts of change. To ensure democratic culture the party went through internal elections. The main stakeholders of the party are urban youth and it takes the credit of mobilising them from elitist educational campuses. They are no longer apolitical. Due to their visibility in the media, there has been a contest among political parties to capture the youth voters and to further entice other categories of youth namely semi-urban, rural, labour and street youth. We are a country with youth bulge, which means youth vote bank is unavoidable. Political parties that successfully mobilised the youth (18 years and above) made a clear difference in election results of 2013.
The elections demonstrated that limiting youth mobilisation to elitist and urban centres is to ignore the large chunk away from our politics in numerical terms. Despite less visibility, the bigger fraction of youth resides in rural areas, coupled with out of school youth, making a bigger count.
The elections demonstrated that limiting youth mobilisation to elitist and urban centres is to ignore the large chunk away from our politics in numerical terms
It is difficult to ascertain whether the PTI has duly learnt its lessons on youth demography. But to continue taking urban youth on a path of adversarial politics is a dangerous trend that the party is still pursuing, even after forming of its government in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). There are a number of alarming facts to validate this unfortunate statement.
Obvious examples of breaking rule of law and committing violence have been seen as a core value in PTI’s actions before, during and after the months long dharnas. The list of such practices is not limited to open and public hate speech, abusive language, trespassing state property and sensitive buildings, picking up names and defaming them, opposing specific media houses and pursuing violent acts against them, character assassination of government officials and mainstream political leaders, disapproving parliament after taking oath from the same floor, not paying toll tax while travelling and announcing civil disobedience, etc. The country was put on a halt; economic growth, mobility, tourism, visits of foreign delegates and few high level bilateral exchanges were put on hold for months. What result did it bring to the country and its people? What has all this given to the youth? Where is the stance of anti-corruption and building new Pakistan to ensure prosperity, when a sitting government of the KP comes from PTI?
What is the substance they are trying to breed among youth and what political and democratic leadership norms have been bestowed upon the youth as was announced by the PTI? The missing procedural activism and absence of democratic attitude can easily create space for violence within the political framework. Youth is an un-ignorable entity; they have enormous energy and potential, which makes them vulnerable too. Youth can be channelised both ways; productive or destructive. It depends on the opportunities and guidance provided to them by the forces they trust.
The intellectual poverty of PTI’s leadership is also demonstrated by the fact that the party could not differentiate between the government and the state. This necessary lesson is absent from the actions of its privileged and urban followers. Toll tax does not belong to any political party but to the state. Its leader, who is theoretically a staunch believer of tax documentation for others, encouraged his followers in avoiding tax payment on roads during the dharna season.
There are other instances when PTI leaders went beyond standards of sanity. Consider for example PTI MNA Mujahid Ali from Mardan, who demanded relief for a terrorist, Mumtaz Qadri, punished for assassination of the late Governor of Punjab Salman Taseer. This was so reckless that his colleague, Dr Arif Alvi, had to intervene and to call it a personal statement and not party policy. The question arises if a parliamentarian is negating his party policy, what action is taken against him? On the other hand, another renowned politician, Javed Hashmi, was asked to take back his words publicly after his speech at the national assembly where he said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was still his leader. Members and supporters of PTI protested against him to an extent that he was held accountable for a statement which is neither harmful nor promotes hatred in the society. It was purely a personal feeling and statement of respect for an ex-colleague cum leader. The same party has taken no action against a member who is promoting hate speech, showing open support to Talibanisation and terrorism, which is fatal for social prosperity and peace building.
Just like we cannot judge a woman as an extremist if she is observing veil, we cannot declare a political leader as progressive and democratic by looking at his apparent lifestyle
One may infer that it is PTI’s unannounced policy to support right wing Talibanisation in Pakistan. It can be a meaningful message to the right wing religious political faction, which is already sympathetic towards Talibanisation.
This regressive mindset reminds one of an event linked with the top leadership of PTI when Imran Khan was a member of the national assembly (2002-2007). He voted for Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman for the office of prime minister. During his time at the assembly he also opposed progressive ideas against women empowerment by turning down the Women Empowerment Bill. At another time Islamic Ideology Council of Pakistan demanded DNA test against rape cases as secondary evidence as opposed to being the primary evidence which Khan supported.
Just like we cannot judge a woman as an extremist if she is observing veil, we cannot declare a political leader as progressive and democratic by looking at his apparent lifestyle. If Imran Khan adopts a modern life style in his personal life, it does not place him as a progressive and democratic political leader too. A political leader has to prove certain traits in practice to be called democratic. It is important to consider what values, ideology, rationale, approach and process a leader carries through his/her party’s manifesto, code of conduct, culture, practice and choice of nominated members.
In this situation where is the role of enlightened progressive women parliamentarians and members of PTI? Are they merely silent spectators who shall remain obedient under any circumstances? Where is the voice for change which is pulling the youth in the name of democracy?
PTI denouncing drone attacks is a welcoming sign but providing strategic support to those who kill innocent people, attack polio eradication teams, and burn schools cannot be appreciated. PTI, as a responsible political party, shall have to revisit its policy of recklessness and violence through protests and gatherings. This attitude carries a negative message for the youth, which is our asset not a soft prey to undemocratic practices.
PT censors most of my comments, that is why I have sent an email to the writer. Thank you for writing this article. But now get ready, you will be hounded by those who are acting like Nazi/Fascist.
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