Is it fair to compare Prime Minister Imran Khan’s agenda with that of General Zia-ul-Haq? – The Friday Times

Many critics of Prime Minister Imran Khan have accused him of following General Zia-ul-Haq’s policies. They say the extreme self-censorship, stifling of dissent, human rights abuses, violence against minorities and the witch hunt against political opponents are reminiscent of Zia’s time. Yet some even believe that Khan’s style of rule is more deadly than that of a brutal dictator whose dark era corrupted politics, sowed the seeds of religious hatred, stoked ethnic tensions and tore the social fabric of Pakistani society. Is this a sober analysis or an excessive pretension?

Khan’s opponents believe he may be the first Pakistani politician who went from political sagacity to political immaturity. For example, if one skims through his interviews from the Musharraf era, one notices that most of these interviews reflected the political savvy and harsh realities of Pakistani politics. Almost in all of these interviews, Khan lambasted the country’s undemocratic forces, accusing them of manipulating elections, promoting corrupt politicians, funding sectarian forces, patronizing ethnic elements and engaging in wars and conflicts that had nothing to do with the national interest. from the country.

Ironically, when the same undemocratic forces cobbled together an alliance of corrupt politicians, forcing them into the ranks of the PTI, Khan not only welcomed them with open arms, but he also praised these defectors, in addition to declare them men of conscience who risked their political careers by ending their association with what he called corrupt political dynasties. Such moralizing posture was missing even in the behavior of Zia who knew very well that they were unscrupulous chosen ones who could go to any lengths to protect their interests. But our Mr. Proper of modern day Pakistani politics has allowed these conscienceless feudals, tribal lords and money makers to fill his right and left flanks.

It was because of such an attitude that even some of his middle and lower class supporters began to take everything Khan claimed with a pinch of salt, wondering how Khan would improve public schools while he was himself. -even accompanied by private owners. schools and whose business can only prosper if the educational standards of public schools are dismal. They also questioned the rationality of integrating people from pharmaceutical companies while claiming loud and clear to provide free, quality medical care. Khan did not disappoint his critics with his cronies allowing drug companies to exponentially increase drug prices.

Khan also proposed policies that appeased traditional influential classes in Pakistani society like textiles, stock exchanges, car imports and other lobbies. He poured out favors on these classes, removing the subsidies that had been given to the poor in the past. The Kaptaan handed out a package on scholarships shortly after coming to power in addition to announcing Rs 1.2 trillion relief for the wealthy during the pandemic, allocating a measly Rs. social stratification, who were most affected by the contagion.

General Zia had also adopted such a hypocritical attitude, but what was most harmful in a myriad of his policies was his exploitation of religion for political gain. The dictator invoked religious injunctions, symbols and overtones to perpetuate his illegal rule, in addition to granting carte blanche to obscurantist forces in society and the clergy – which seriously damaged the social fabric of the country. Consequently, the malign tentacles of sectarian forces have taken hold of Pakistani society, plunging the country into an abyss of religious sectarianism.

Khan appears to be following the legacy of his ideological predecessor Zia, soothing the soul of his political mentor, General Hamid Gul, whose concept of strategic depth and myopic worldview not only spawned jihadist and militant organizations, but has also contributed in some way to the murder. tens of thousands of Pakistanis during the Taliban insurgency, in addition to causing the Pakistani economy to lose over $100 billion due to the devastation wrought by extremist forces who idolized the late Gul.

Arguably, the most alarming aspect of Khan’s style of governance is the appeasement of the religious right. The Kaptaan not only enthroned a notorious sectarian figure who would publicly despise a particular sect, as a special assistant, but he also encouraged religious fascists by choosing Orthodox clerics to lead the country’s ministry of religious affairs. Such appointments have emboldened fiercely anti-Shia groups to mount their murderous offensive against the community, prompting some of the provincial assembly legislators to introduce laws that would further harm the social fabric of the country. Such a policy also encouraged the Barelvi groups to assert their authority, which were funded by undemocratic forces to be opponents of the N-league. A senior PTI Punjab leader has spoken openly about the possibility of working with these rising fascist forces. Such a decision would integrate those hatemongers who seek to promote mob lynching and challenge state decisions.

Like his dictatorial predecessor, Khan promotes medieval thought by making sweeping changes to the curriculum and throwing millions of rupees behind conservative elements like the clerics of Jamia Haqqania in Akora Khattak. Khan, like Zia, seems to loathe Western education, drastically cutting the budget of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) while pumping millions – if not billions – of rupees into establishing various religious authorities and research centers who wouldn’t. try to create or invent something, but invest all their energy in deciphering the inner message of certain folklore figures. Governor Khan in Punjab is also trying to change the education system at college and university levels in a way that would lead to stuffing higher education institutions with conservative elements. Instead of modernizing seminaries, he seems to be converting public schools into religious institutions, which would further promote the very narrow interpretation of religion that has done so much damage to the social fabric of the country in the past.

What the Kaptan has added to General Zia’s legacy is the element of superstition. The late dictator was Machiavellian, but he was not superstitious. He would try to manage state affairs in a shrewd manner, which reflected a modicum of rationality. But Khan seems to have dragged superstitions into affairs of state, forcing powerful elements in the Islamic Republic to remind him that governments are not run that way. His actions could inspire gullible masses to regard superstitions as a source of blessing, which could plunge the country into greater intellectual backwardness.

The use of religion for political purposes has always had a boomerang effect on those who have come up with the idea of ​​such exploitation. Gandhi used religious symbols and ideas in his political meetings, campaigns and rallies, which ultimately not only encouraged extremist Hindus to turn India into a theocracy, but also led them to weed out those who s opposed to Hindutva, including Gandhi himself. Indonesia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Afghanistan have also suffered from the exploitation of religion for political ends. After Zia’s death, it was expected that Pakistani politicians would not resort to exploiting religion for political gain. Some did it after 1988, but later regretted it, focusing on governance issues, trying to solve ordinary people’s problems. But Khan has revitalized this use of religion, which could be very catastrophic for the country.

It is therefore perhaps reasonable to argue that his legacy could prove deadlier than that of General Zia, as the champion of change not only adopts the dictator’s right-wing agenda, but also adds the element of superstition. It is, indeed, a destructive combination.

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