We’re back to the old tricks are we?
The incidents of last two weeks, ranging from the ruling party’s veiled criticism of the military establishment, targeting minority communities when the war against extremism is in doldrums to threatening the courts, have made clear that political and institutional instability, once again, looms large in the country.
Its déjà vu all over again: during the 1980s and 1990s, Pakistan experienced such political volatility on numerous occasions. In Pakistan, the long-established norm of undermining institutions and using Islam for political interests has been a most trusted and cherished weapon in the hands of political and non-political elites. Regrettably, about three years ago, there was a hope after the APS attack that all political and non-political forces of the country were willing to move away from the politics of confrontation where violent tactics such as the distorted vision of Islam and wretched history of the country’s partition is used to appease voters, settle scores and to meet political interests.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to be the case anymore. We are back to the same old tactics where the maneuvering of faith, personal political rivalries, and dynastic and elite struggles has placed the country’s future at stake. The politics of hatred and violence where ethnic and religious groups are made a scapegoat for bigger political interests is back at the center of Pakistan’s political structures.
Put simply, this is what is happening in Pakistan now. The talk about the institutional and constitutional supremacy is dependent on the question of who is being facilitated by the structure and who is being rejected by the structure at a given time. If the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz sits on the throne, the need for institutional supremacy becomes supreme for the ruling party. On the other hand, the parties in opposition, such as the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, believe that the system is rigged and there is a need for a radical change to throw out the old and corrupt guard which has destroyed Pakistan’s past, present, and perhaps future. Now, in this context, names, titles or heads of political parties might change, but the objective remains same: as long as the constitutional and institutional structures of the country facilitate one party or the other, democracy and institutionalism appear to be moving forward. However, as soon as, the institutional mechanism become a hurdle in the way of political interests of one party or the other, constitutional and institutional mechanism’s malfunction.
In this malfunctioning, Islamists and other non-political forces in the country come in to fill the vacuum and further their own agendas. Throughout Pakistan’s history, there have been a number of episodes where political parties of the country have never agreed or formulated a united front when it comes to issues that are of national importance. And tragically, this has been among one of the major reasons that Islamists, as well as other non-elected interests, have used to deepen their roots and narratives in the country.
In this regard, the one of the biggest mistake that political elite made and continue to make, is the pandering and appeasement of Islamist elements in the country. From forming a country, which promised quality and freedom to communities regardless of their gender, belief system, and ideological associations, we have come to define our political agendas by thrashing minority religions that cannot even declare their faiths due let alone fight for their rights. It’s shameful that the ruling party, Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz and the main opposition party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, are both trying to win Islamists votes and support by going to lengths to touch new heights of bigotry and segregation against minorities such as Ahmadis.
If Jinnah wanted an apartheid state, which Pakistan appears to have become, then he should have only laid down formula or parameters of acceptable and unacceptable Islam and Muslims in the country. Jinnah’s first cabinet had a fair share of able people from minority communities; in fact, Pakistan’s first and one of the most competent Foreign Ministers, belonged to the Ahmadi community. Jinnah’s agenda of an inclusive Pakistan where peace and tolerance should be the guiding principle appears to have been lost. It’s ironic that the people who have stolen the agenda of Jinnah’s Pakistan are those who never supported Pakistan’s independence movement be it the political class or the religious elite.
While the non-civilian institutions in Pakistan in this regard have had the fair share of the blame, it’s ironic that the fight among political parties has again brought the military at the center of all debates. When the ruling party uses the floor of the house, which should be used for legislation and to discuss and debate issues of strategic importance, to thrash religious minorities, one only wonders whether the country needs an external enemy or billions of dollars in military aid to defend itself. Pakistan’s biggest loss now is that the state doesn’t control the narrative when it comes to structuring the country’s future which might be liberal, inclusive, and progressive and respects institutionalism and rule of law. The narrative appears to be in the hands of the forces that want to see Pakistan an isolated and closed society where segregation, violence, and bigotry are the law of the hand.
The enemies are within the borders and they rule the country.