Greeters of Aamir Liaquat and champions of VIP culture, and PTI still claims to be an “anti-status quo” party

Published: October 25, 2017
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It is nothing but politics as usual – geared at getting votes at any cost without any regard for principles.

One thing which has often amused me is the way Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf’s (PTI) fans use the word “anti-status quo” to describe their favourite party. As per their belief, PTI represents change whereas literally every other party represents status quo; campaigners of nepotism, corruption and of course the so-called “VIP culture”.

On social media websites such as Twitter, the behaviour of the PTI followers is worth witnessing, where they literally exalt their party and leader Imran Khan to a deity-like status and condemn other parties and politicians using abusive language.

Does PTI really represent change and is anti-status quo? To answer this question, we have to assess three political aspects – ideology, style of politics and governance.

Ideologically, PTI can be safely called a centre-right party. It represents the economic and ideological concerns of the white collar urban classes. These classes are educated and have also been successfully tutored in state-cultivated nationalism. This particular brand of nationalism fuses religious identity with patriotism and also inculcates deep mistrust of the outside world. The conspiracy theory mind-set is an unfortunate outcome of this brand of nationalism. PTI is, in some ways, the first party to articulate this brand of nationalism effectively. In fact, Imran’s political rise owes a lot to his “tireless” campaigning against drone attacks and his constant vilification of the US during the peak years of the Afghan war.

In this way, it is different from Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N), but whether it is ideologically an anti-status quo party is a different question altogether. In fact, PTI has ended up strengthening the status quo by promoting this brand of nationalism much better than the other two mainstream parties.

Rather than promoting a liberal and more inclusive brand of nationalism, PTI leaders like Ali Muhammad Khan have publicly stated that Pakistan should be a theocratic state, and those espousing any liberal or secular Pakistan, should leave the country. Imran, on the other hand, has gone to the extent of calling liberals the scum of this country.

Besides nationalism, ideologically, PTI’s position on other issues like gender equality or women rights is thoroughly reactionary. PTI opposed the Protection of Women Against Violence Bill in Punjab despite the fact that it claims that it has brought women into the political atmosphere. Yes, I give full credit to the fact that PTI has encouraged women to participate in political rallies but women emancipation is much more than that. If you vote against bills which are supportive of women rights, then to be honest, you are not an anti-status quo party.

Second major aspect is the style of politics. Frankly, PTI is a throwback to the 90s style of politics. During that time period, both mainstream parties, PPP and PML-N, tried to undercut each other and constantly indulged in politics of needless agitation. Over the years, both parties have matured, and despite their obvious differences, have become aware of the dangers of such politics. They have understood that shortcuts don’t work and in the long run, their best bet is to stick with democracy and electoral route.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about PTI. Their 2014 agitation was nothing but a desperate attempt to persuade the “umpire” to raise the finger. Following that, PTI has constantly taken a non-democratic route, and instead of appealing for votes, it has tried to look towards other methods to dislodge its opponents. By doing that, PTI is doing nothing for the democratic progression. It is merely repeating what PML-N and PPP previously used to do in the 90s. While both of these parties have matured and moved away from that style of politics, PTI is embracing it now and with even greater zeal.

Likewise, PTI’s leadership position is full of traditional politicians and so-called “electable” candidates, which contradict the party’s claims to introduce so-called “fresh” faces. As PPP has waned in Punjab, its feudal leaders and traditional politicians have simply joined PTI and Imran has not shown any hesitancy in accepting them.

But the most astonishing development is of controversial anchor Aamir Liaquat Hussain, who has recently joined PTI. He is famous for hosting tasteless, offensive and rather obnoxious talk shows. He is an uncouth attention grabber and has been quite rude to even his own guests many a times. He is a charlatan and someone who takes pride in fooling people. But his worst attribute is his bigotry. This is an individual who has openly incited violence against minorities and has hurled blasphemy allegations on individuals without even giving a thought about the possible grave consequences.

But somehow, PTI and hordes of its impressionable members are okay with that. They have little to no concern about the fact that it reflects poorly on their party if bigoted individuals like Hussain join it. All that matters to them is that he may be able to snatch some muhajir votes from Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P). It is nothing but politics as usual – geared at getting votes at any cost without any regard for principles – and yet, according to PTI fans, their party is somehow against the status quo.

Third aspect is their style of governance. Here, I would like to start with PTI’s so-called crusade against VIP culture. On social media, their followers have been constantly accusing others of espousing VIP culture and the party has constantly made tall promises to curb it. However, the reality, as usual, has played out differently. I still remember the sight of PTI’s Faisal Vawda using an army of police protocol while riding his heavy bike on Zamzama, Karachi, while the general public had to suffer and wait for Vawda to cross – if anything, this is openly mocking the party’s tall claims of shunning VIP culture. The decision to construct a swimming pool in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Chief Minister Pervez Khattak’s house, despite the fact that it costs around Rs18 million to the provincial exchequer, is another testimony to the hollowness of PTI’s tall claims. Though the construction was subsequently cancelled, however, it was done only after a lot of public hue and cry.

Most recently, I came across another statement by K-P’s provincial minister, Inayatullah Khan, which completely dumbfounded me. According to him, elected representatives should be allowed to use sirens and hooters on their vehicles. His rationale was that if police could use them, the elected representatives should also be allowed to do so. This was an absurd statement as hooters and sirens are globally used by emergency vehicles and law authorities to ensure that traffic does not obstruct their response to various emergencies. Trying to say that elected representatives belonging to PTI or some other political party should be accorded the same rights and privileges is plain absurd. Furthermore, it also negates the party’s claims of reducing official protocol.

For the past few years, I have been hearing from various citizens and on talk shows about how the K-P government was focused on development and important issues such as education, police and health, rather than indulging in “gimmicks” like metro bus project. In his opinion, those projects were nothing but shallow attempts to win votes just before the elections. After years of ridiculing such projects, it is ironical that PTI is also initiating a similar project in Peshawar, just when elections are a few months away! Somehow, when PTI invests in such projects, they are not gimmicks or status quo politics.

To be fair to PTI, they have improved services in K-P and introduced good reforms in health and education. However, their claims that they are completely an anti-status quo party in governance, have to be taken with a pinch of salt.

My sincere advice to the PTI fan club is to stop using the term “anti-status quo” to describe their favourite party, because that really isn’t the case in reality.

raza.habib

Raza Habib Raja

The author is a recent Cornell graduate and currently pursuing his PhD in political science at Maxwell School, Syracuse University. He has also worked for a leading development finance institution in Pakistan. He is a freelance journalist whose works have been published at Huffington Post, Dawn (Pakistan), Express Tribune (Pakistan) and Pak Tea House. He tweets @razaraja (twitter.com/razaraja?lang=en)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Fahad Yousuf

    Great article as usual. After reading the first 1-2 lines i got the idea that this is written by my favourite author (you). As far as Aamir Liaquat is concerned, he is already hosting a show on PTI (Axact) channel. Already a fake degree holder, already his comments about government is very disgusting, already he is wearing shirts with abusive worlds printed like WTF and afterall he is already a political “lotta” twice. So what is the news here? He already has all attributes required to join PTI.Recommend

  • Lakhkar Khan

    Dear Mr. Imran Niazi, changing last name to ‘Khan’, wearing Pukhtun dress does not make you Pukhtun. You are as phony as your last name.Recommend

  • Hassan Mirza

    An opportunist who can do any thing for money and power can not be leader yes they can be in lime light but not able to achieved real power because they have the mind set of free things and business on other people expense . No need to write an article on PTI or Amir liaqat Hussain as Allah says jisay tum hoo waisay tum per hukmaran musalat kiya jian gaa.Recommend

  • Rex Minor

    By having a name ‘khan’ the guy is simply giving the impression that unlike most others in his party, his forefathers were Afghan soldiers who accompanied the moghuls to conquer India and had not the native hindu ancestory. To be honest he has been successful in his strategy in Pashtun territory with his phony dress. too bad that he was not successful in having a native Pashtun wife for long.

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • Parvez

    Will agree with a lot of what you say especially about the Aamir Liaquat news but I feel your writing style is cleverly crafted to draw a picture that is blurred……patching together small bits of information to convey a ‘ big ‘ result is as I said …clever.Recommend

  • Israr Khan

    hiiii yeah nafrat jeenay nahi deyti :)
    anyway aamir liyaqat or asif zardari if they join pti and agrees to what ik says against status quo just like JKT has agreed to appear in supreme court then yes that is fine with me :) get urself accounted for ur alleged wrongs so what’s wrong with that? to me raja u r clearly a biased and pmln supporting journalist and inshaAllah when pti comes in power we would love to understand ur healthy criticism oooo but u do not know what a healthy criticism is?Recommend

  • Keyboard Soldier

    It would be very very unfortunate if KPK pathans vote for this guy once again.Recommend

  • Amir Sultan

    As I’ve said before, this author’s sole mission in life is to bash PTI. But I have to say I find this article relatively more accurate (I mean kick Amir Liaqat out for cryin out loud). I guess to me a greater evil than failing at bringing change (PTI) is being unapologetically inept (PPP, PMLN). In PTI VIP protocol is the exception to the rule whereas in the other parties it’s routine.Recommend

  • Nana

    Only pseudointelectuals like Amir liaquat can find a place in PTI.Recommend

  • RHR

    Considering the fact that I have written around 70 articles on literally every subject including gender, civil military relationship, India, Extremism, prosecution of Shiites, secularism, I find this hilarious that my “sole” obsession is bashing PTI
    Yes, when it comes to local politics, I disagree with PTI and since unfortunately it is a major political force therefore I criticize it more than the other parties.Recommend

  • Zahid

    Are you kidding me? PTI has changed landscape of KPK and you are calling it unfortunate if we vote for him again? Mark my words, PTI will win by a landslide in coming elections because of the work they have done…Recommend

  • Rex Minor

    You sir might have a point but the authors main mssion is to obtain Phd and return to the country. He is therefore prepared to bash anyone on the poilitical scene not coming up to his standards and then get his critique published.

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • Phantom

    The writer it appears…has an agenda.
    His writings are usually critical of the PTI, which is not bad per se, but he has a habit of glossing over other parties, in particular the PPP, for which he seems to have a soft spot.
    As such, it often appears, that his writings lack perspective.
    The status quo, in Pakistan, is a duopoly between 2 families. The Bhutto/Zardari and the Sharif family. This cartel is protected by legislation wherever needed. A look at the the 18th amendment and the recent law passed to ensure Nawaz stays in control of his party.
    With regards to their sins, the recent admissions by Uzair Baloch provide a glimpse into the dirt the PPP leadership and its party by extension, is involved in. The murder of the official investigating the Ayan Ali case is also a shameless threat to anyone who dares interfere in their corruption.
    Over in Punjab, the PMLN isn’t much better. The model town incident, the convenient eradication of the Metro Bus documents in a fire that killed many, and various other incidents are a stark reminder of just how corrupt the Sharif family is.

    While the writer’s criticism of the PTI is valid and something all PTI supporters and party members must consider and push to improve upon, comparing them with the PPP or PMLN is simply ridiculous. These two parties have 3 decades on blood and misery of Pakistanis on their hands and refusal to keep these in his comparisons is either an extreme lack of perspective by the writer…or a deliberate attempt to divert attention from the core problem that Pakistan faces.
    I sincerely hope the latter is not the case.Recommend

  • RHR

    Dear “smart” phantom. I write about many subjects and not just PTI. Yes, since I disagree with regressive and reactionary politics, I criticize PTI more.
    But I have written on gender, extremism, gun control, secularism, Turkey, Shiite genocide, civil military relations and all
    Now I understand for PTI supporters your party is God’s gift to Pakistan and you can not tolerate criticism, but I dont have any agenda except a tolerant and preferably secular PakistanRecommend

  • Mr.Ok

    false, your most articles are against PTI.Recommend

  • Sana Khan

    PTI on the wayRecommend

  • Rex Minor

    Then PTI must be the main culprit of all.

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • Amir Sultan

    They deserve the criticism, just not more than the rest.Recommend

  • Phantom

    PTI has a lot of problems and its fair game to criticize it.
    Its also great that you have written on a diverse range of topics.
    I just felt, after reading your articles, that when it comes to politics, the primary focus of your ire seems to be PTI and rarely do you call out other parties (esp the PPP) for their contribution to pakistan’s problems (which you have to admit, is greater ,by any logical standard).Recommend