The dialectics of the baton charge

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Candid Corner

 

  • False, fabricated and delusional narratives riding the waves

 

“Possibly the most debilitating deception of all is to create a god of my own making, fool myself into believing that this limp god of mine is the true God, and then construct the entirety of my life on this flamboyantly fictional character. Possibly the most devastating realisation of all is when the real God shows up, and in the showing up, all of this come crashing down.”

– Craig D Lounsbrough

 

In the general environs around us, there lives a mullah going by the name of Fazlur Rehman. He inherited a political party from his father, Mufti Mahmood– the one notorious for launching a movement in the name of religion to oust the then Prime Minister, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, and, subsequently, pushing him to the gallows.

As a member of the Indian National Congress before partition, Mufti Mahmood vehemently opposed the creation of Pakistan and dubbed the leader of the movement, Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, a Kafir (non-believer). Left with few options after partition, he became one of the founding members of the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), vigorously promoting the religion card from its very inception.

Through the dubious efforts of the Mufti clan, religion has since been reduced to becoming saleable merchandise with no one learning the tricks of business better than his errant son– Fazlur Rehman. There is not a place where he would not contrive a role in the name of this commodity that he has belittled incessantly since he took over the reins of the party after the demise of his father in 1980, suffixing it with ‘F’, thus declaring it as his personal property.

On account of his consuming obsession as a leading merchant of religion, he was able to orchestrate a place for himself in every concoction pieced together by a dictator, or a so-called ‘democratic’ ruler. During possibly the longest uninterrupted stint of remaining in the echelons of power, stretching to over a decade, he served the interests of all who came to rule with unmatched devotion and servility– General Musharraf, Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif. My bet is that he would have ardently agreed to serve Imran Khan also if the latter had left even a small crevice for him to crawl through. The problem arose when Khan insisted on implementing his election manifesto, accountability being a principal component of that. This did not suit this mullah or any of his cohorts.

When elections were held in 2018 and he failed to win a seat in the National Assembly, he forthwith rejected the results and called upon other political parties to do similarly. He urged their leaders not to take oath as members of the assemblies and, instead, launch a movement to oust the government.

Let the mullah try it out with his baton charges. Let’s be done with this morbid and fantasising mindset. The fate of the country cannot be held hostage in the hands of this vile merchant of religion. In fact, religion should be freed from his stranglehold, and others like him, so that people could heave a sigh of relief – and the state could accelerate its upward trek

At that juncture, the parties did not agree to it saying that they would speak from the floor of Parliament. However, his efforts to forge an alliance of the opposition parties continued unabated. In the process, he refrained from taking any steps to challenge the electoral results by the stipulations outlined in the Constitution. Instead, he persisted in the agitation mould.

Simultaneously, Prime Minister Khan went ahead with launching the accountability process with full force leading to the conviction of Nawaz Sharif and members of his family, while investigation is ongoing against Shahbaz Sharif, his son Hamza Shahbaz, and some others who have now been declared absconders.

Cases are also being investigated against Asif Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur who are in custody. Some other stalwarts of the PPP, including former leader of the opposition Khurshid Ali Shah and the incumbent Sindh Assembly Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani are also incarcerated. There are others from both parties who are under the scanner and some of them may even be arrested.

It is also true that corruption having been so palpably exposed, there has been diminishing support for these political leaders in the past few months as is amply evidenced both when they were being tried in the courts of law and, later, when they were convicted. Only a handful were seen coming out in their support. The recent defeat of the PPP in the Larkana by-election provides further proof of this changed dynamic.

These leaders were thus afraid that if exhorting their supporters to come out to protest did not bring any sizeable number to the streets, it would further deplete their political relevance. The prospect created a problem of another kind– that of division within their party ranks. While Shahbaz Sharif has come out openly against politics of confrontation saying that it has damaged the party in the past, there are also a large number of people within the PPP who have pleaded pragmatism as opposed to agitation.

On the other hand, not commanding a mainstream political party, the mullah had little to lose. Thus, he continued to flog the mantra of agitation as his only recourse to force his way through. Hard-pressed on the accountability front with prison terms looming, the leaders of the mainstream political parties, the PML-N and the PPP, decided to use the mullah’s shield to vent their own frustrations, but with a caveat: in case of the PPP, it is only support in principle and, for the PML-N, it still remains to be seen whether the call would actually go out for their supporters to come out and join the mullah’s charges in the planned sit-in.

Joined together in their espousal of corruption, some trading in money and others in religion and money both, they have now decided to incite the dogma- and radicalisation-impregnated minds from the seminaries for an assault on Islamabad. Having rejected the results of the elections without providing any proof thereof, and without going through the steps outlined for approaching election bodies for remedy, the mullah decided that he would enact his own laws on the streets of the capital aka judge, jury and the executioner cupped in one.

There is little support that the call has been able to generate among the grassroots. There is no manifestation of it except in the grisly salute of honour presented to the mullah by a ragtag illegal private militia that his party goons have raised.

The real noise is confined to the television screens where some agenda-driven anchors are seen going hoarse over the delusional millions that the mullah will lead to topple the government. Every spoken word from these self-anointed pontiffs is laced with large doses of hate and venom. It is like revolutions were made in the studios and news rooms, not in the hearts and minds of people.

And what is all this noise about? Stopping the accountability process and letting these criminals of the state walk out of their cells to make merry with their loot and plunder? What travesty! What absolute shame!

Let the mullah try it out with his baton charges. Let’s be done with this morbid and fantasising mindset. The fate of the country cannot be held hostage in the hands of this vile merchant of religion. In fact, religion should be freed from his stranglehold, and others like him, so that people could heave a sigh of relief – and the state could accelerate its upward trek.

 

The writer is a political and security strategist, and heads the Regional Peace Institute – an Islamabad-based think tank. Email: [email protected]. Twitter: @RaoofHasan