On a dissipated, collective conscience

  • It is time we create a need for greater goals

With general elections scheduled to be held two months from now, political campaigns are in full swing. If these elections are carried out smoothly this will be the second time in country’s history that a continuous democratic transition would take place.

But that’s not all, with debate surrounding tax reforms proposed under the fiscal budget, a series of Supreme Court verdicts, and political parties arranging their extravagant power shows, we have yet another problem to deal with; the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM). With each political party mobilising support, we have to draw parallels with how each is fostering a support for different narratives. Each tells us how far we’ve come in developing a collective conscience within this democratic system.

Popular narratives

During the last month a number of prominent political rallies took place. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf took to Minar-e-Pakistan in Lahore on 29th April 2018 where Imran Khan presented his famous 11-point agenda. While in their exuberance; education, health, tax reform, ending corruption, improving economic conditions, increasing employment, tourism and agriculture, federation and provincial reforms, justice system and empowerment of women all tick the right boxes for what the country, especially its youth has been longing for, the grandness of these statements is too overwhelming.


For the upcoming 2018 elections, the PTM is a litmus test of how far we’ve come as a nation without a concrete collective conscience

For far too long we’ve heard and been spectators to the ‘glorious power shows’ that the party has been able to arrange. With women standing aside their male counterparts, PTI’s political rallies have redefined the scope of political engagement in the country. The insightful new wave of political freedoms and social cohesion promised by party, specifically bringing in youth, has left many in an awe. However, what stems from the very province where this political party won the majority of  seats during 2013 elections, the ‘engineered protest’ is an outcry of a people who’ve been successively deprived of the same basic rights the party has been promising.

Building consensus

The Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement has unfolded various facets of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, the short-sightedness of populous political parties’ mandates, and the brutal negligence exhibited by a large number of Pakistanis in understanding the legitimate concerns of these Pashtuns. While it can be argued that the timing for the emergence of this movement hints at suspicion, it helps us understand how far we are from incorporating a collective conscience into our democratic processes.

This can primarily be attributed to the fact that anything that emerges as a popular narrative is, and needs to be, backed by a strong political force which isn’t without various biases. Each political force aims at influencing a certain people; a certain people that can get these parties at grips with power. While this can be rightly said about the PTM as well, we have to separate our biases of these political motives from the deficiencies of our politicisation and the inefficiencies of our democratic processes. The PTM’s legitimate demands are for a certain few; but these are the people who have been deprived of their basic rights and kept away from the main democratic processes.

Far from the popular

On the same day as Imran’s power show in Lahore, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari (with Bhutto being the political bias) stepped into Karachi’s Liaquatabad area and promised to rid the people of Karachi off of atrocities they’ve faced in at the hands of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (another politically biased narrative). While Bilawal talked about how the people of Karachi were suffering at the hands of MQM, and how the ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif was wrongly using the notion of ‘sanctity of vote’ to justify himself, the heir to the Bhutto throne failed to encapsulate a plan, a strategy, a collective conscience that could bring respite to a majority of people in Pakistan especially the Pashtuns. Lending support to the movement on one instance, but not representing their concerns in the greater political agenda is an indication for the party’s short-sightedness.

His speech presented a loaded political agenda, a short-term plan for mobilising a certain people for the soon to be held elections. Much like his statements, the political party’s plans are ambiguous and present no real respite. Khan, on the other hand, wins at bringing the charisma and dedication along with his brand of reforms which help furthering his mass politicisation, however, he too failed to address one of the greatest grievances faced by the Pashtun in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Few days prior to this, the PTM had gathered for a rally in the same Lahore where Khan’s jalsa was scheduled a week later. With no real political support and various hurdles created by the government, the PTM was able to get their message across; they’re fighting for their representation in the system and the inclusion of their narrative in the collective conscience of the country – and that they won’t settle for anything short of this.

What Khan and Bilawal have blithely written off from their mandates is the inclusion of one of the most awe-inspiring movements, and the recognition of a marginalised people who aren’t only suffering in the KP region, but in metropolis of Lahore and Karachi as well. This tells us that while the populous political parties are defying odds with mass mobilisation in cities they haven’t won the majority vote, their political mandates are at odds with the deeper realities of the country. For the upcoming 2018 elections, the PTM is a litmus test of how far we’ve come as a nation without a concrete collective conscience, and how much further can we go without developing one.

It is also about time that we create a need for greater goals; for a more cohesive collective conscience that brings in those narratives which have been growing in utter silence. Relying on short-term goals can only bring short-term relief, moving towards a single ideology will at least point towards the direction we should be headed for. We need one ideology for Pakistan, beyond political mandates, beyond polling stations.