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Why some liberals are supporting Imran Khan

November 11, 2011

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Most dangerous are those charismatic politicians who are financially honest, dedicated but ideologically right-wing reactionaries.

Most careless are those supporters (of the above category of politicians) who are just looking at the first set of attributes while completely overlooking the second.

Most sinister are those forces that are propping up such politicians.

Most short sighted are those political parties who claim to be ideologically against such politicians but are secretly delighted at the turn of events and may even be supporting the sinister forces.

Most hypocritical are those political parties who were once abusing the politician but now are “congratulating” him and calling his show a “fresh” breath of change.

Well, for a guy who hates conspiracy theories, I have fallen to the temptation and chalked out one above. If all of you are intelligent (even if you belong to the careless category), you may have fathomed, what I wanted to say. They say that realpolitik is the real politics but then somewhere you have to draw a line.

The rise of Imran Khan is the hot topic of today. No doubt the rally was huge, and as far as I know it was attended by almost all walks of life. But even more importantly, it was attended by people who belong to a wide spectrum of ideological orientation. And sorry, the youth did not attend it because of Strings and Shezad Roy but were there out of their own conviction.

The detractors are claiming that only Mumtaz Qadri supporters were there but the reality is that even liberals (yes the real liberals) were present at the rally of a man whom the liberal media often calls “Taliban Khan”.  Not only that they were present but in fact many of them have become converts, or are at least have started to consider him as their potential leader.

I know someone who is a sworn hater of Taliban, has written a lot against the ‘Mumtaz Qadri’ mentality but was present at the rally and cried while waving the PTI flag. And he, by no stretch of imagination is the only one. There were many. How did these people convert? Has their ideological leaning changed? I don’t think so. Has Mr. Khan’s rhetoric changed? No, it has stayed the same. He was a reactionary and I think will remain a reactionary till death. Then what explains this warming up of some liberals towards Imran?

Well, when mainstream parties misgovern, the people will make a shift to reactionary but financially credible politicians (Individuals). No matter what spin I try to give, the fact is that mainstream parties, namely PPP and PML-N have misgoverned. When crisis of governance becomes very acute, the ideological orientation does not hold the same sway.

But the problem is much deeper than this. Political opponents are ideologically judged in a relative sense. And the way our society, as well as political parties have evolved, the ideological differences, at least in practice, have blurred between conservatives and liberals. To a great extent, our right wing media's narrative is responsible for that. Now every party has to adhere to certain positions in order to appear politically viable in urban areas.

Today if you look really closely you will find that even PPP, driven by so called “pragmatic” concerns is speaking a language which is only a shade different from the rest. The supporters of PPP may call this a shameless allegation but this is a reality.

Didn’t PPP retract the blasphemy bill? Isn’t the author of that bill, Sherry Rehman, completely out of favour and spotlight? Didn’t our interior minister on Salman Taseer’s murder start his statement by claiming that he will personally murder anyone guilty of blasphemy? The political alliance with parties like PML-Q is a further testimony to the fact of how much PPP has compromised its ideological leaning for the purpose of realpolitik.

Didn’t the other “liberal” party hold large rallies in the major port city against drone attacks and the imprisonment of Aafia?

Didn’t these parties refuse to show mettle when they did not take any action against the so called “establishment” after the OBL fiasco? In fact the only party which was asking the right questions was the conservative Nawaz league and that party is now paying a heavy price for that.

And add to it their shameless fighting in Sindh for paltry interests. How many times have we seen them fight and then reconcile for third class interests? And yet they expect reasonably educated people to believe in their version of “liberalism”? By the way, all that fighting also resulted in loss of human life. Now try giving a spin there. And I am putting this question to those intellectuals who have been justifying  violence in Karachi as some sort of “natural” behaviour of Karachi politics: Is murder justified?

The funniest part is that while the propaganda arm of PPP tries calling Imran Khan an ISI construct, their leadership is in alliance with the establishment in the “get PML-N” mission. In fact, right now they are enjoying the sight of the once political minnow like PTI giving a tough time to Sharifs. Just look at the facts closely and you will agree.

When all of this is happening then who can blame those who are liberals to start looking towards Imran Khan? For most of them, their political support for Imran is the extension of their respect for his services to Pakistan. While I severely disagree with Imran on political grounds, I would be dishonest if I deny that he has rendered outstanding services to Pakistan.

During the floods, it was reactionary Imran who was trying to collect money (And he was successful also). Yes, he is a reactionary but people don’t care about these definitions in desperate times.

Yes, you will be correct to argue that ideologically there is a difference between PTI and liberal parties. But in practice, everyone is behaving the same. And when that happens, you will find liberals crying at Minar-e-Pakistan while waving a PTI flag.

I don’t agree with their decision but I don’t blame them for taking it. I don’t agree with reactionaries who take over mainstream politics but I understand why they do it. Now that some of them have joined PTI, I can only hope that Imran starts softening his rhetoric on some critical issues. These are strange times.

 

The author is an economist, a freelance journalist and one of the co-editors of Pak Tea House, a prominent liberal blogzine.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.