Blackening faces and hurling shoes at elected representatives will not win the war of narratives

March 12, 2018 Opinion , OPINION/NEWS , Pakistan , POLITICS

Reuters photo



Imad Zafar



Hurling shoes at Nawaz Sharif and throwing ink on the Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif proved that politicians are soft targets in Pakistan and anyone can attack them without fear. The culprits were from the political party Tehreek-e-Labaik, led by fanatic Mullah Khadim Hussain Rizvi. Both Sharif and Asif were targeted for trying to bring change to the blasphemy law, according to the statements of the people who threw shoes and ink on them. There is a discussion going on as to whether or not the attacks on Sharif and Khawaja Asif were planned. It seems that the invisible forces, after conceding to Sharif in the war of narratives, have again played the ugliest of cards. This religious card was played a few months back and brought the State to surrender at the hands of a fanatic and his few thousand followers.


The move to curtail Sharif from addressing the public rallies did not work, his dismissal from office not yielding the results for the establishment and his composure to keep his party and vote bank intact, actually pushing the establishment and their pawns to the back foot. So it can be termed a signal, blackening Khawaja Asif’s face with ink and hurling shoes at Sharif, a reminder they are prone to many threats and if they do not stop or cross the redline they will face the music. The establishment, who silently supported the Faizabad sit-in, gave birth to the new fanatic group the Barelvi sect, having successfully managed to convince millions of people prone to their propaganda that it is Sharif and his political party that is a threat to religion and security. We have seen this old script from the establishment since the creation of our country. This script of turning statesmen into a threat to religion and security overnight caused us the loss of East Pakistan, it created an insurgency in the province of Baluchistan yet the powerful military establishment is not yet ready to learn from past mistakes.


This game of brining religion into politics has laid the foundation of a new type of extremism. Previously, terrorist outfits like the Taliban and Laskhar-e-Taiba were used to meet the threats from inside and outside, since the world left us alone and demanded stern action against the banned terrorists outfits. As a result they were ditched, but not the ideology of extremism. The ideology to exploit the masses in the name of religion and security remains the same, only the players having changed. It is the Barelvi sect now and the opportunistic politicians like Imran Khan and Asif Ali Zardari who are providing support to the establishment in eliminating the most popular political party of Punjab. But are they eliminating a political party or are they actually eliminating the remains of Jinnah Pakistan, remains the question. The invisible forces should have known better that this society is already filled with hatred and extremism and fuelling it with more religious fanaticism and patriotism can result in more violence and will eventually destroy the very basic foundation of society and the country.


What we are seeing now is the rise of a new breed of fanatics who are incapable of critical thinking and believe blindly in the propaganda of religious hatred and patriotic bigotry. This breed assumes that difference of opinion is a threat to their belief and they believe in violence to win the argument. But to think that Sharif or his party cannot be allowed to run their election campaign because of this religious card is not a correct assumption. Unlike the Awami National Party, which was almost barred from running their election campaign on the basis of religious card, Sharif’s PML-N enjoys a massive support among the progressive religious segments of society and if Sharif somehow decides to play the same card, then no one can stop the anarchy and riots as a result.


The world putting us on the FATF grey list and Washington with its allies pressing us to do more has still not taught any lessons to the powerful establishment in Pakistan. It is still breeding extremism and thinks that this time the same old theory of exploiting the masses in the name of religion and patriotism will work fine. It seems the invisible forces are not ready to learn the simple fact that you can blacken the face of any politician you want, you can throw shoes at them, but you cannot whiten your own face or the black pages of history. We have a dark history of martial law, suspension of the Constitution and the hanging and killing of political leaders.


Osama bin Laden was not hiding in any politician’s house, but he was arrested and killed by US troops at a military base in Abottabad. The Siachen defeat and the Kargil misadventure were not the results of politicians’ acts, but those of the military establishment. The Dhaka debacle was the result of not accepting the mandate of the elected and popular leader by the then military dictator Yahya Khan. The dollar sponsored Afghan proxy war was brought on us by the military dictator Zia–ul-Haq, not by any politician. It was a military dictator who surrendered to the one phone call of George Bush and again forced a dollar sponsored war backed by the international military complex and pharmaceutical companies in the name of fighting terrorism. It has always been the establishment who never let democracy flourish in the country and who, with the backing of Mullahs and opportunistic breeds of politicians, have been conquering our own land and democracy.


Eugene Victor Debs in his Canton Ohio speech said that “In every age it has been the tyrant, the oppressor and the exploiter who has wrapped himself in the cloak of Patriotism or religion, or both to deceive and overawe the people.” It seems that we still are living in that age since the last 70 years and that we will have to live under this oppression for decades to come. If maligning politicians damaging democracy and democratic institutions was capable of yielding the desired results for the invisible forces we would not have been living in a state of isolation and could never have been termed a state that is a threat to other nations. Throwing ink and shoes on politicians cannot change the realities or facts, nor can it win the war of narratives. It is easy to create proxies and get temporary and short term benefits from them but in the long run the proxies cannot win you the decisive battles. It really seems a joke, that the forces who are actually running the country and have hegemony over foreign and security issues are never criticized nor do the majority of the analysts and masses have the courage to raise a finger on their role, hiding behind the shields of patriotism and contempt of religion.


The voters and elected representatives are considered third rate citizens incapable of thinking better for the country, hence they are humiliated time and again. One wonders what the achievements are of the establishment and Mullahs for the betterment of this country? The trend of attacking politicians and humiliating them will only weaken the political system and will further undermine democracy. It can happen to any political leader, it may be Mr Khan or Asif Zardari who is next and will eventually benefit the nexus of invisible forces and mullahs.


The ink on the ballot paper has more power and say than any of the ink thrown on the elected representatives. It is the ballot that will decide who will rule the country, not the ink, shoes or might of the guns. Instead of maligning and humiliating elected politicians through proxies it is better to let the masses decide the fate of the country by the ballot. Only the respect of the vote and a pluralistic society are a guarantee of the existence of the state and the way forward for progress and peace.





Imad Zafar

Imad Zafar

Imad Zafar is a journalist based in Lahore. He is a regular Columnist/Commentator in newspapers. He is associated with TV channels, radio, newspapers, news agencies, political, policies and media related think tanks.

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