Imran Khan vs The System: The Generation Gap of Pakistani Politics

Imran Khan vs The System: The Generation Gap of Pakistani Politics

At the end of August 2014 Pakistan stands much more polarized, confused and divided. And perhaps after the 2013 elections for the first time even families stand divided on which side to support. Usual trajectory of the action of support lie however around mostly the scale of age. If you are above 50, you are more likely to oppose what Imran Khan is doing then those below that psychological line. But why?

Before going ahead let’s see what exactly their grievances are. In no particular order they revolve around: (a) Imran Khan and PTI has led in street/mob politics. (b) Imran Khan has no respect for the institutions of the country. (c) Imran Khan has introduced bad language in to the politics. (d) Imran Khan is full of ego. (e) Imran Khan cannot bring in any change and is only fooling the people because he is getting old to become a Prime Minister.

Instead of straight away addressing all these points let’s try to first understand the Generation actually opposing him and the people in streets for him. We are talking about a Generation which never actually saw democracy. They have lived through Ayub Khan’s dictatorship, then through a bitter political spectacle of division of Pakistan where two politicians’ ego clashed and resulted in literal massacre of innocent Bangalis and Pakistanis, then through another round of dictatorship under Zia-ul-Haq followed by short-lived democratic experiments between two large political dynasties with sprinkles of more military adventures and dictatorship of Musharaf. Truth is that our previous generation didn’t just lose International Reputation, Business and Economy but also the very much civics of the society and the principles of democracy. These are the people who willingly let go of student politics which was a Montessori of future politicians who actually could understand and relate to the people they are about to represent. This is the Generation which themselves enjoyed watching films at Cinema but put us in such a miserable cycle of radicalization and cultural decay that it has been only in this last decades that multiplexes have revived the dead industry and general freethinking art – escaping the other social evils they showered on us will however take at least another generation. When their female colleagues in Colleges and Universities rode bicycle to University, it has been only last decade or so that parents have started to take keener interest in educating their girls.

So yes, this is what the fight is all about – it is not about what Imran Khan a 60+ year old man is saying. It is the problem of those 20-30 year olds standing in front of him and giving him support which are a cause of concern for the Generation in power. Let’s not be fooled that they don’t know how to control the situation – they will eventually, but they are scared when confronted with this new idea which does not involve their promised Bhuttos, Mians, Butts, Sardars and Makhdooms.

Now briefly to the points they keep on raising. Street and mob politics has always being there. Many of us have seen firebombing of newspaper offices, murder of political opponents, ransacking of political offices and even attack on the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 90s. Those who were not there or too young now remember the recent politics at Minar-e-Pakistan on every weekend. Street/Mob politics is not a recent discovery of Imran Khan and his supporters.

What is a country without its people? What are institutions if they cannot even protect the people who put them there and keep them there with their blood and money? No ordinary citizen of Pakistan can even easily access the Constitutional Avenue for last decade now. Those growing up in Islamabad in 90s remember spending night time at the seats in front of Parliament house – no one could do that until these protesters stormed in. What sort of respect do we need to have for institutions which get sold or at least rented to the highest payer?

Language, ego and dream of becoming PM are the next problems with Imran Khan according to the Generation in question. But does anyone remember the speeches in Parliament house, what sort of language they have used? Does anyone remember threat of people in power in Punjab to a sitting President that they will grab him from collar, drag him in street and worse hang him publicly? Does anyone remember the famous Punjabi mudslinging on political opponents? What has so drastically changed now? What is different this time is just that it is a different person saying all the things in the same tone you were used to hearing from your favorite administrator.

Yes I am willing to concede one thing and I will try to discuss it in detail in next article; Imran Khan will probably not become Prime Minister – and if he does become Prime Minister he will probably be not able to deliver what he promised. But that will only be partially Imran Khan’s faults and mostly on the system the Generation now criticizing it all gave us. It is your system which is killing people on streets as we speak, and it is your system which will try to survive desperately for a very long time to come. Thank you for giving us a dysfunctional Pakistan, you have done enormous amount of labor to let all that happen.

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