Beyond the Smog: Deception Vs Realities

  • Aamer Ahmed Khan
  • Dec 29, 2023

At times, they feel almost surreal, our attempts to rationally analyse a situation that divorced all reason years ago. From our well-guarded words on the brutally exposed plight of our Baloch country-fellows (somehow, the word countrymen doesn’t say it all) to our attempts at finding legal legs for all the wobbly politics dogging Imran Khan’s PTI, our thought process seems to have become permanently shrouded in a smog quite similar to the one that envelops Lahore every December.

In the good old days of General Zia, our elders used to tell us that his Pakistan was a text book example of obscurantism. One wonders if the term can adequately describe today’s Pakistan.

In order to escape this smog, let us move away from perspectives and make certain assumptions. Let us forget that a few years ago, our well-intentioned military leaders hounded an elected prime minister out of office to bring in a man they thought was a better fit for the job. Let us also forget that in less than four years, they panicked at their choice and hastened to send him home, least expecting their erstwhile favourite to hit back. Let us also forget that in both these endeavours, they found willing allies in our political class. And having forgotten all this, let us assume that all the reservations that our state institutions have developed against their ladla from 2018, are indeed true as truth itself.

What does this mean? It means that Imran Khan is nothing more than a bull in a china shop, destined to destroy but utterly devoid of the capability to rebuild. It means that he is totally dissatisfied with the way Pakistan is organised socially, politically, economically and intellectually, but has no clue on how to address these deficiencies. It means that when he talks of a new Pakistan, he merely means a country headed by himself with no thoughts on its future in an increasingly competitive world – a selfish pedlar of dreams with no regard for ground realities.

Away from the smog, let us agree that should he return to power, Pakistan will go bankrupt, hate and intolerance will become the new social contract between the state and its people, Pakistan’s internal security will become hostage to impulse and whim and the country will stand isolated internationally. Let us treat this picture of Imran Khan as an irrefutable reality rather than a matter of perspective.

A question here: what if Pakistan still wants him? What if a majority of the country’s 125 million voters choose to vote him back to power? One can find myriad variations of this one basic question.

What if young Pakistanis do not care if Pakistan defaults? Many of them may not even realise what that actually means but are willing to decide on the basis of anything but what we have at the moment. What if young Pakistanis cannot even tell a hate-based narrative from a constructive one? We know we have never made a conscious effort to train them to be mindful of the havoc that hate can wreak. What if they are addicted to the adrenaline of the now rather than the sobriety of long term planning? After all, we will be hard pressed to take pride in our planning prowess, given our tendency to borrow, party and hope we can keep postponing the inevitable hangover to another morning.

What if our youngsters don’t even realise that the real threat to our national security comes not from an explosives-laden Taliban suicide bomber but from the administrator who orders his policemen to break up a political protest staged by desperate women looking for their lost loved ones? How can we deny that we have given our younger generation a country where “disappeared persons” is an actual term in common use in the local media. There is little point in even trying to get into the concept of international isolation and its implications for a society.

Is it not the fear that our younger generation may end up making all these choices that is forcing us to treat PTI the way we are treating it? It isn’t really about Imran Khan, is it? He may just be nothing more than a political opportunist who has spotted these fault lines in our worldview and is hell bent on exploiting them for himself, whatever the cost. The real issue is these fault lines, created over 76 years of lying to our children, encouraging them to believe in a cultural narcissism whose sole objective is to blind them from the reality we have created for them. It has nothing to do with our current military leadership, Imran Khan or the Election Commission of Pakistan.

That is perhaps why we don’t mind the smog so much, for whatever illusions it may generate for us, at least they are cosy, in the here and now.

Aamer Ahmad Khan

Aamer Ahmed Khan

The author is senior Pakistani journalist who posts on 'X' as @Aak0

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