As the brunt of May 11’s momentous elections still lingers on and many Pashtuns everywhere, especially within Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, cheer and celebrate PTI’s rather staggering win in the region, there are other Pashtuns, however, who aren’t too happy or thrilled about this news.
I am one of them.
In fact, I can’t help but feel a great sense of disillusionment as the realization of the election results and what impacts it will have on Pakistan – especially in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and FATA – dawns on me. The reality that Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party won majority of the seats (34 out of a possible 99) in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, whereas the Awami National Party (ANP) – which governed Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa for the last five years – was almost wiped out at the polls, deeming it almost insulting, is truly foreboding.
There is no doubt that ANP’s lack of support was due to the party’s corruption tactics and their struggle to set things right in order to bring peace to the region; yet, at the same time, it is the only party that was and is willing to fight against religious extremism, terrorism, and Taliban insurgents. It would be unfair to say that they didn’t try at all to bring peace to the region, because we must also bear in mind Taliban’s continuous attacks on secular parties (like ANP), which has thus restricted their ability to successfully carry out their campaigns. Yet, it was Imran Khan’s sweet-talking and aspirations of a “naya” (new) Pakistan that urged, if not forced, ordinary and perhaps even desperate, Pashtuns to throw all logical caution to the wind and cast their votes for him. This, as a result, not only instills a sense of gloom and hopelessness, but it also made me realize something: we, Pashtuns have failed to set our priorities straight, which will in turn tremendously fall short in favour of our having a better, safer and more progressive Pakhtunkhwa.
I realize that my writing this piece will most probably fuel great animosity among those who idolize this man and perhaps even consider him a “hero.” I may even be back-lashed for criticizing him and his policies so brazenly, for, in the eyes of many Pashtuns (and Pakistanis, in general), he is supposedly a wonderful philanthropist and a “great” leader, who aims to bring “positive changes” to Pakistan. However, I am prepared for all of that, and frankly, I don’t care. The truth has been denied long enough, and it is time we understood why his gaining power/control in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the FATA region will have indubitably dire consequences.
To put it very bluntly, I am not a fan of Imran Khan. As a matter of fact, I was never a fan of him. He was indeed a great cricket player once and he has done wonderful humanitarian work that I will no doubt commend him for but, as a politician, he is a rogue. A senseless, illogical, rogue. My reader needs to keep in mind that my personal opinion of him has not influenced my lack of support for him, for it is not he (as a human being) that I have an issue with, but with his never-ending trail of lies and hypocrisy. Thus, I’ve had a problem with his views ever since he decided to step into politics back in 1996. Though, I was too young (barely a teen) – when he initially became a politician – to comprehend his agenda; it was his highly biased, misinformed and poorly argued article titled, Why the West Craves Materialism and why the East sticks to Religion, which he wrote back in 2002, that was enough to put me off from him for good.
It seems to me that Imran Khan gained popularity amongst Pashtuns mostly due to his anti-US propaganda, especially now that relations between Pakistan (Islamabad) and the United States were quickly deteriorating. However, this is not to imply that Pashtuns are anti-US per se. No, not at all, actually. Yet, at the same time, there appears to be some sort of a “blame-game” going on, where Khan is trying to confuse the masses by putting the blame entirely on the United States for the current situation in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, especially with regards to drones. What he fails to realize, however, is that Pakistan has not been a victim of Taliban attacks only after 2001, but prior to that as well. Thus, drones are a result of Pakistan’s failure to curb militancy and cross border attacks. So, for Imran Khan to label the Taliban as “freedom fighters”/”nationalists,” suggesting that they are carrying out some sort of jihad against the foreigners, is highly misleading.
It is no different than when back in 2002, a year after 9/11 and shortly after the US invasion of Afghanistan that the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) came to power. Their victory, too, was solely for the same reason that they were promoting anti-American rhetoric, which thus made it easier for them to rig the elections, gain the majority of Pashtuns’ support, and take control of the region. However, after four years of being in power they proved to be a failure, for their ruling demonstrated far-reaching consequences, which ended up threatening the peace of the province, as well as any hopes of stability in Afghanistan.
Nevertheless, we, Pashtuns, do not learn from our past mistakes and I would not be surprised at all if history, once again, repeats itself now that Imran Khan has gained impetus in the region. We have a tendency to fall prey to our emotional whims, not realizing that in doing so, we fail to look at the big picture and in turn end up burning ourselves in the process. While I understand why the majority of Pashtuns would vote for someone like Imran Khan – whether it is out of sheer desperation in hopes for a better/improved Pakhtunkhwa or common hostile sentiments towards the West, or both – one thing is clear: we have been caught up in the semblance of blind hope. We fail to realize that he now has a massive amount of responsibility resting on his shoulders – one that I doubt he will be able to fulfill successfully (if, at all), considering his naïve policies, anti-Western rhetoric, and unrealistic goals of trying to “negotiate” with the Tehreek-E-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
If that isn’t bad enough, he has made no secret of his bigoted views towards Ahmadis (and other religious sects that happen to be a minority in Pakistan). He should realize that if someone happens to adhere to a certain religious sect, others have no right to judge or label him/her, based on their own understanding of the religion. Besides, it is not the government’s job to decide or implement who is a person of faith and who is not. It is a very personal matter and should be treated as such. Further, his inane views about women are also questionable, despite what the PTI manifesto dictates, i.e.: women’s empowerment, awareness around cruel customs such as swara in KPK, girls’ education, women’s greater access to healthcare, etc.
However, the PTI manifesto is just that – a manifesto. On paper, it looks all fine and dandy, but whether or not Imran Khan plans to implement them now that he has attained power is highly debatable. Why? Well, it appears that back in 2006, he voted against the amendment to the women’s bill in favour of victims of rape. Rather, he seemed to have stated his agreement with the Jamaat-e-Islaami (JI) stance on rape instead, and how a woman must present four male witnesses (that she has never seen or met before) in order to prove that she was indeed raped. If not, she will be thrown into jail, abused and humiliated for “lying.” This then makes me wonder: considering that JI has come second in place in the elections, after PTI, in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, does this mean that a coalition will be inevitable, thus leading to rules supporting misogyny and the full subjugation and disempowerment of women in the region? As much as I do not want to be pessimistic, I can’t help but wonder how PTI intends to pass any sort of pro-women legislation in a region where the second highest majority is a party that considers women lower than insects. Hence, while Imran Khan aims to get rid of corruption, what most Pakistanis – and Pashtuns – do not realize is that corruption is not our biggest enemy, it is extremism!
Furthermore, let’s not forget PTI’s strong support for the TTP, in addition to their support of JI’s opposition towards women’s rights and empowerment, as well as their promotion of religious intolerance. There is a reason why he is dubbed with apposite names such as “Taliban Khan” or being a “Taliban apologist.”
In a great article written by Jan Assakzai titled, Pashtuns beware of Imran Khan, he states the following realities, which I wholeheartedly agree with:
Unfortunately, Imran’s proposition regarding militancy in Pashtun areas if implemented in letter and spirit, may lead to these possible outcomes: first, the militants will likely to take over the whole of FATA. Second, FATA will become a defacto Taliban Emirate extending from Bajaur in the north to South Waziristan in the south (they have already established courts, police and kind of administrative shooras) further consolidating stranglehold around Pashtuns as any possible Imran-led governments in centre and province will simply turn a blind eye towards them…Supposedly, the infamous “Taliban” Khan forms a government in Khyber Pashtunkwha, it will have wider consequences for the province as well: since he believes that the Taliban are the Pashtun “resistance”, his possible government will simply acquiesce to their moving in to the settled districts of Khyber Pashtunkhwa adjacent to FATA.
Hence, it is no secret that the Taliban are not only anti-women’s rights, but they are also anti-education, anti-music, anti-Pashtunwali, even, to allow Imran Khan to practice “insaafi” (justice/equality) that he has so vehemently declared as the whole essence of his party, for the past few years. So, either Imran Khan becomes their puppet (which he is or has become, it seems), or he let go of all these blatant lies and hypocrisy and step up to the plate by standing true to his PTI manifesto – his “true” vision.
We, Pashtuns, certainly got our tsunami all right. A tsunami that will sweep our region clean of all liberal/secular ideologies – especially if Imran Khan loses sight of PTI’s vision – making way for a new world order; a world order that we will soon push us even further and further into the dark ages.