Pakistani Populism Is Taking Over And It Isn't Looking Good

Pakistani Populism Is Taking Over And It Isn't Looking Good
Since Imran Khan started his Long March to Islamabad, Pakistan's muddied political waters are suffering huge political storms engulfing the state and society concurrently. As a result, political instability has increased, dividing the society along the political fault lines. The outcome of this instability has impacted the credibility of State institutions including the Establishment, policing services and parliament.

The attacks on the Establishment are unprecedented. Previously, people used to criticise the Establishment for its unwanted political role and meddling in the personal lives of people. Today, it is being criticised for its decision to stay away from politics. It seems the institution has created a monster for itself via its hybrid political project who are attacking it unfairly.

Interestingly, the main reason behind attacking the Establishment is that it does not want to help Imran Khan to come to power again as it has seen the results of unconstitutional interventions. But those who have been addicted to relentless power will not easily let go and ensure the entity sticks to its constitutional role. That is the reason behind dragging the Establishment as it is seen as the institution from which power flows to the civilian domain.

The story of attacking the Establishment had risen to its peak amid the long March. Khan has not just attacked it but also named high officials of agencies for holding a presser to counter the fake news spread in the political arena. Take for example, the murder of Arshad Sharif or the allegedly deep-fake video of Azam Swati – the PTI social media warriors are pointing their fingers in the direction of the establishment.

It is not only that Khan has locked his horns with the Establishment and the political leadership of Pakistan but also he has offended his ally, the Chief Minister Of Punjab Chaudhary Pervaiz Elahi. Despite the fact that Khan has not received medico-legal certificate from any public hospital, he wants to register an FIR against the official of state institutions on mere political charges. Until Khan receives it, the legal case of murder on the life of Khan cannot be processed.

Politics earlier was an institution through which political players used to solve their problems via give and take. But since the egression of Khan into politics, it has become an instrument through which Khan is trying to politicise state institutions and political players. In so doing, Khan has filled state and society with hateful rhetoric where young minds are impacted to trigger emotional responses. Owing to such triggering environment, not only has the Establishment lost the ability to play mediatory role but also it has been unable to stop the rising political instability in the country.

Due to a distraught political climate in the country, the police services of Punjab has failed to maintain the law and order situation. The attack on Imran Khan is the perfect example of the rising anarchy in the country. Given this lawlessness, it was expected from Khan to tone down political rhetoric; instead, he is hell-bent on pressurising the  police, abusing it for not taking action against state officials.

Having brought State and Society at the point of no return, Khan is now trying to pit institutions against each other to gain a political mileage. He is doing it all without any care to his own government at the helm Punjab. This has caused institution upon institution to become scandalized to produce preferred political results.

It is timely for Khan to promote consensual politics instead of raising the political temperature that is creating more foes and compromising his own government in Punjab. Exacerbating political crisis is not going to win Khan any favour, not from his own government, let alone from the establishment. Anymore dragging of the establishment and other state institutions would ultimately damage the parliamentary democracy of Pakistan. Resultantly, Khan and people will be the losers, creating path for undemocratic forces to ingress into political arena.

Thus, the best way forward for Khan is to go to Parliament - which is currently dysfunctional - as political battles are being fought on the roads amid throwing accusations on state institutions. Until Parliament is revived, State Institutions such as the Judiciary, police and the Establishment suffer politicisation. This is not a good omen for both state and society as this benefits dictatorial powers.

Moreover, Khan needs to understand that he cannot bend state institutions to his favour as they have not conceded to his demands of early elections and the appointment of next Chief of Army.

It has been more than 6 months, Khan is on the road to cut a deal with the Establishment that is reluctant to give in to political pressure for illegal demands. Seemingly, the Establishment is protecting parliamentary democracy as it confronts Khan’s fascistic tendencies. It is very ironic to witness.

Conclusively, the order of Khan to reignite the Long March from where it was left due to an attack on his life shows that President Arif Alvi failed to secure deal for Khan once again. Out of frustration, Khan has decided to march on Islamabad to disrupt the appointment of the next chief. Amid this tussle between the establishment and Khan, all Institutions of state seems compromised. Pakistan is simply doomed with populism overtaking everything.

The writer is a freelance columnist. He tweets at @Shahzai02364040. He can be reached at