Will Our Politicians Learn From History?

Will Our Politicians Learn From History?
The history of Pakistan is not very long, but the provinces that joined the country possess histories that span thousands of years. These regions have faced many invasions from foreign invaders, yet managed to sustain the people that inhabit them. Despite having won our independence from the British, unfortunately we are still not free from foreign interference in our politics, our economy, and social order. We live in the shackles of slavery, in one way or the other. One major reason behind this incomplete freedom is the policies of the ruling elite. We built the foundations of the Constitution on the internally contradictory Government of India Act 1935 until the First Constitution was promulgated on 23rd March 1956. Later, General Ayub Khan introduced another Constitution for the sake of protecting his own interests.

History has witnessed what happened to the Awami League and its leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman - how his mandate was snatched by the then-powerful authorities, and unfortunately, the military junta was supported by a civilian party while the debacle played out. Rather than being apologetic to the Bengali leadership, our generation was injected with hatred against the Bengalis by TV dramas and soaps, in which Sheikh Mujib and his supporters were portrayed as the main culprits behind that dark chapter of our history.
Despite their abject and humiliating failures, the establishment has not once considered the possibility of retreating from their unconstitutional and illegal actions against democratically elected civilian governments.

Though history has been distorted since the first day of the inception of this country, it further deteriorated when the political and social fabric of the country was adulterated by implementing arbitrary laws during the Zia regime. It was the result of forcefully changing the direction of history and the nation’s social and political fabric that the country is in the grip of religious extremism today. After the end of the Zia regime, civilian forces, like the PPP and PML-N were continuously being used against each other by the military establishment, until both parties signed the Charter of Democracy in 2006. In addition to this, the Eighteenth Constitutional Amendment passed in 2010 further strengthened civilian control over governance. But despite that, these two major political forces continued haunting each other by imposing Governor Rule in Punjab and ‘electing’ the Senate Chairman etc.

As the crackdown against PTI escalated after May 9, one can recall a similar history of how the 1954 elections were contested by the United Front in former East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), which was won by progressive forces with a huge majority. After this, the Communist Party was completely banned under the Rawalpindi Conspiracy case. Similarly, after Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s martyrdom, the PPP became a headache for the Zia regime. In retaliation, the PPP’s leadership and thousands of workers were arrested and detained. General Zia also tried to eliminate PPP by creating a forward block within the PPP.

The Nawaz League was subjected to similar tactics; it was broken up by General Musharraf, and a dummy party like Muslim League (Q) was formed overnight. But the interesting thing is that despite such manipulations by the military establishment and the state’s intelligence agencies, they failed to smash the existence of these two parties.

Despite their abject and humiliating failures, the establishment has not once considered the possibility of retreating from their unconstitutional and illegal actions against democratically elected civilian governments. In the recent past, Imran Khan and Tahir-ul-Qadri were brought as spoilers against the Nawaz League in 2014. Because of such tactics and the support of civilian forces like Imran Khan and Qadri, Sharif was first jailed and then disqualified. At the same time, almost the entire opposition was put behind bars with the help of the NAB during the PTI government. But the sands of time have changed direction once again, and now the same parties who were the victims of state repression are themselves involved in a crackdown against Imran Khan and his party. Fortunes change quickly in Pakistan; those who were resisting repressive moves against them by the PTI government are the ones dishing out the same treatment today.

It is somewhat tragic that whatever is being done to Imran Khan and his party, contrary to civilian supremacy as it may be, has not been opposed by the progressive and liberal circles of the country. Khan and his party are themselves responsible for this silence, because they imposed draconian censorship on the media, and fought vociferously against progressive and liberal circles, jailing human rights defenders and media personnel like there was no end. To the extent that women leaders of PTI have also been arrested, even feminist circles are not ready to raise their voices against this. Again, the policies of the former PTI government are responsible for the silence. No one is willing to speak up for or ready to rescue the PTI today because of the PTI government’s actions. The party’s troll brigade was responsible for innumerable absurd trends on social media against women journalists, the women leaders of the Aurat Azadi March, and every woman who spoke of equality for themselves.

Despite this situation, Khan is asking these liberals and feminists to raise their voices against the crackdown. On the other hand, there are political parties in the coalition government, which are supporting the “top powers” in the crackdown against Tehreek-i-Insaf, just as the PTI supported the same powerful circles against the opposition while they were in power. However, the parties of the coalition government are afraid of Khan’s popularity, especially among the country’s disaffected youth. They are perhaps tacitly supporting the undemocratic forces against Imran Khan, because they have no homegrown answer to Khan's burgeoning popularity.
The PTI was engineered by the powerful authorities themselves to counter the PPP and PML-N, and therefore, its fortunes have largely depended on the mercy of its masters.

It was obvious that since the top leadership of the PTI after Khan was brought in through horse trading and they were not true believers or ideological soldiers, they would not sustain any pressure. This has become clear as day in the shape of the party leadership’s resignations. Simultaneously, Jahangir Khan Tareen announced the launch of a new political party, Istehkam-e-Pakistan Party, which again reminds us how MQM was divided by creating a faction called the MQM Haqiqi, the PPP was divided by launching a forward bloc in the shape of Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarian-Patriots (PPPPP), and PML-N was divided by creating PML-Q. Now it’s PTI’s turn. The question arises whether the PTI’s existence will be completely destroyed.

This can only be a fantasy. Although the PTI is not a revolutionary party, since it is the most popular party among the largest segment of society - the youth - therefore, it can be suppressed for some time, but it is very difficult to eliminate the PTI completely. Yet, there is a possibility that the PTI may not make a comeback until and unless it is acceptable to the powers that be once again. Because the PPP was a mass party, and likewise the PML-N had created a huge base of support in Punjab, therefore, it was near impossible to eliminate these parties completely. The same can't be said for the PTI just yet.

On the contrary, the PTI was engineered by the powerful authorities themselves to counter the PPP and PML-N, and therefore, its fortunes have largely depended on the mercy of its masters. Hence, Imran Khan’s most urgent task should be to learn from Pakistan’s chequered political history. In the same way, the parties who are part of the government today should also look at the past and at the same time should not rule out the possibility of a possible backlash against them in the near future. Until and unless civilian forces learn from history, unfortunately, politics in the land of the pure will continue to be farcical every day, and the people of the country will have to bear the biggest loss.

The author holds a Ph.D. in World History from Shanghai University in China. He serves as an Assistant Professor of History at the Aror University of Art, Architecture, Design and Heritage, Sukkur, and can be reached at: qasim_shu2016@yahoo.com.