By Remshay Ahmed
08 August 2018
The Old and the New
Elections all around the world get people hooked. It comes down to not natural selection, but the people’s vote; who’s to win or lose, or in the case of Pakistan, stay. While the fervour of past few months has come to a climatic end, the road from here is going to be long and slow.
While there are many challenges ahead for the winning Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) that it would have to deal with post-Independence Day celebrations, the most important is of determining where Islam will be placed in the Naya/Purana Islamic Republic of Pakistan. For me, this idea stems from the fact that although, politics has had to find its place around religion in Pakistan, the decades’ long persecution of minorities validated under the banner of religion and the relevance given to the continuous breaching of law for upholding the religious values has perpetrated an era of militant ideology, propagated by too many outfits. Too many to be united under the same flag.
Religious-ethnic violence has dominated the Pakistani landscape for several decades. Every now and then, when an identity crisis of national significance surfaces extra measures by otherwise liberal leaders, sweep in to woo support from the masses. While this clause bodes well with the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the state-backed persecution or the silence thereof for the said crimes isn’t warranted. Failure of the judicial machinery in addressing these issues in a constructive manner has allowed the fictitious Islamist forces take form and create their own spheres of influence.
These spheres of influence can be checked by the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP)’s emergence as the fifth largest party in the country in the General Elections of 2018. While most mainstream political parties struggle to get their message across, the TLP has been able to foster much street support. This is a sign enough that religious sentiments resonate with a greater number of people across the country. And it would be foolish to think otherwise. Pakistan is a country that was created on the basis of a religious ideology. The same tool that was used to organise all the many sects for a struggle towards a united country, is now being used to harness differences.
The mainstreaming of the Islamist-political parties in these elections has replaced the old versions with new narratives. But this is a cause for concern. Organisations like the TLP gained momentum in their politicisation after labelling the hanging of Mumtaz Qadri as unlawful and being the electoral front of Tehreek Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLY), the organisation that fought for the release of Qadri. While a recent report on the quick success of the party published in Dawn.com shows the party leader, Khadim Rizvi’s insistence on letting the courts do their investigation into matters relating to renouncement, he later expresses reservation on Shariah Courts being subservient to other courts.
This alone is enough to get thousands of more Pakistanis aboard the bandwagon. In his interview it is apparent that the TLP promises the ‘same old’ with a new twist – offering the perfect balance between Deen (belief) and Duniya (world), through mass mobilisation, and political engineering for the creation of a more just society.
It is thus natural to assume that the greatest support for such a faction would be from the more isolated classes of society who now have an opportunity to make good out of their religious beliefs, in both the world and hereafter. The same had been previously promised by other religiously motivated political parties as well, however the void that couldn’t be filled, has now shifted the people towards what’s new and all the rage. This is probably why the PTI has won a majority from cities like Karachi where the previous PPP and MQM voter felt isolated in their representation in the political landscape.
With so many promises made, Imran Khan’s victory speech heavily emboldened a religious theme. While Plato rightfully said that without religious clergy on board, political support can’t be sought; Imran’s speech that has resonated with millions of Pakistanis would need to do more for the society that now breeds on these differences. A society based on the ethos of an Islamist-welfare society is an overwhelming phenomenon primarily because where it gets one optimistic, it also gives an eerier sense of what hostilities will be faced within the country.
Cases of alleged renouncement have been amounting, and even Parliamentarians haven’t been spared. With religious-sectarian politics taking a hold of the country, it is only a matter of time that a new debate would have to start. The two pleasures; religion and politics, can’t be mixed together; the new government would have to find a balance between the two most-difficult ingredients. For how long can the Parliament hide beneath, while trying to rise above it? Redemption needs to be sought for all those who’ve been wrongfully committed and will be if this prolongs.
This isn’t just a matter of judiciary but a new ideological direction that the country would have to take.
Remshay Ahmed is a political realist by profession and a pessimist by choice.