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“The Price of Populism in Pakistan”

By Babar Ala ud din

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we know that a populist will attract people with lofty slogans and unrealistic goals. A populist offers simple answers to hard questions and many people would rather believe that these are valid solutions to major issues than to face the truth. Populists are basically confidence scammers, they leverage the fear of change, fear of impending problems, and nostalgia to gain political power.

A Populist may rise to power with a strong promise of change but mostly end up nowhere near to what he/she had promised. In recent years / present era, examples of Donald Trump, Narendra Modi, and Imran Khan can be taken as test cases of how a Populist can harm the system, social values and end up in total disappointment for the masses.

They are only interested in keeping tensions high to keep their followers in line. They at times prefer to do some things differently to attract people but many of these may be superficial. They would manufacture a threat out of some demographic that is powerless and downtrodden and claim that they are out to replace the majority. Use of foul/harsh language, offensive posturing, sledding, and political gimmickry are the basic traits of a Populist.

Imran was presented as a Massiha (Savior) who would rid us of the muck and build a Naya Pakistan. Those who opposed him were labeled as perpetrators of the status quo and even traitors. His slogans and long sermons were boggy from day one because he never had a doable plan. He tried to cash on the popular slogan of CHANGE.

A Populist may rise to power with a strong promise of change but mostly end up nowhere near to what he/she had promised. In recent years / present era, examples of Donald Trump, Narendra Modi, and Imran Khan can be taken as test cases of how a Populist can harm the system, social values and end up in total disappointment for the masses. However, in the face of defeat instead of going down with grace, a Populist would try to pose defiant no matter what cost the country, society and his/ her own self has to pay. As chaos suits a Populist therefore his/ her priorities would revolve around that.

"The Price of Populism"

In the 2018 elections, a perception was created around a notion that corrupt dynasties of Sharifs and Bhuttos had ruined Pakistan and the only ray of hope to take us out of this quagmire is Imran Khan. The prime target of this narrative was Mian Nawaz Sharif and his family being a major hurdle in his way. Imran was presented as a Massiha (Savior) who would rid us of the muck and build a Naya Pakistan. Those who opposed him were labeled as perpetrators of the status quo and even traitors. His slogans and long sermons were boggy from day one because he never had a doable plan. He tried to cash on the popular slogan of CHANGE.

The word CHORE (thief) was given to him for extensively using against his opponents.

His opponents especially PML-N and its leadership were surrounded by all types of allegations, character assassination, and many of them were even debarred from taking part in the election hence a free run was given to Imran Khan where everything was controlled and managed to his advantage. The word CHORE (thief) was given to him for extensively using against his opponents. He was built and promoted as larger than life, a superstar of sorts. His political acumen and assessment have always been off the mark rather were less than cosmic.

Imran’s supporters were fed a venomous diet of hate, animosity, and vilification. While Modi’s hate has been against Muslims, and Trump’s was motivated towards racism Imran’s has been against his political rivals and parliamentary democracy. Like much of his tall promises the pledge to run his party in a democratic way has also proved to be a distant dream.

For his supports cum fan club none of these matter as he was being perceived to be the only hope that Pakistan had. His only aim was to rise to the highest executive office of the country and once that happened the enthusiasm and fervor to bring that much waited CHANGE started diminishing. He continued his offensive political posture while being head of the government too. Even the constitutional requirement of consulting the opposition on important matters has been overlooked while he refuses to accept the democratic right of the opposition.

The legislation therefore mainly has been resorted to issuance of a record number of ordinances by the President undermining the supremacy of the Parliament. His supporters being used to this type of defiance and aggression love that too. In some instances, the session of the National Assembly was prorogued before releasing Presidential Ordinances. The Parliament was run through a mockery of Parliament and Presidential Ordinances ruled the system.

Imran and his party have never adhered to the basic democratic norms may it be upholding the sanctity of the Parliament or promoting democracy. His style of politics has always been authoritative and that has basically debarred him from doing what a democrat should strive for. His appeal as a cult figure continues to grow and much like Trump and Modi, his supporters were fed a venomous diet of hate, animosity, and vilification while Modi’s hate has been against Muslims, and Trump’s was motivated towards racism. Imran’s hate has been against his political rivals and parliamentary democracy. Like much of his tall promises the pledge to run his party in a democratic way, has also proved to be a distant dream.

Today after being head of this regime for more than 43 months Imran finds himself in a position where no democrat would ever wish to be. His boggy empire of misconceived hope and false promises has almost collapsed while he still pretends to be a savior who is up against a corrupt mafia.

On the other hand, even foreign courts have given verdicts that cases crafted against opponents were baseless having no proper documentation and that is a reason that even by using unethical tricks, the government has failed to get decisions against political opponents. The national media is the victim of economic, social, and professional strangulation but amazingly survived till now and the government failed to silence but created a parallel social media and launched paratroopers at television screens as vloggers. However, the results were not as per the expectation of the prime minister and his friends who curse media whenever they have a chance.

Instead of facing the opposition’s challenge of a No-Confidence Motion in a democratic way he is all set to create chaos in the country in utter violation of the Constitution and rules of business. The speaker’s office is being used to further his undemocratic agenda in total disregard to the Constitution and law. As a last-ditch effort, he is using the religious card and posing himself to be a victim of his so-called anti-US / west stance just to gain public sentiments in his favor however, the inflation-stricken public is in no mood to let him get away with it this time. This is the high price people of Pakistan have paid for this misadventure of Imran’s populism and undemocratic style of politics.

Note: The writer is retired from Defence, Security, and strategic organization.

Disclaimer:

The views and opinions expressed in this article/Opinion/Comment are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the DND Thought Center and Dispatch News Desk (DND). Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of the DND Thought Center and Dispatch News Desk News Agency.

 

Central Desk
Central Desk
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