Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan. Photo: AFP/ PTI
An aide to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has been accused of hiding a family business empire overseas. Photo: AFP / PTI

It was evident from Day 1 that the experiment of bringing Imran Khan to power – a man without any political acumen – as prime minister of Pakistan would prove disastrous for both the country and the deep state. There remains hardly a single segment of society that has not been negatively affected by the economic and political policies of the current regime. From small and medium-sized businesses and traders to journalists, everyone is bearing the brunt of the failure of the current government.

Khan is clueless about governance and the economy and his focus remains on somehow retaining the ceremonial post of prime minister, as the real power lies with the military establishment. The experiment of bringing Khan to power with the help of the immature and hyper-nationalist population of the country and through the effective use of mainstream media has failed miserably, and this has anguished many even in the establishment.

This raises the question of whether it is time for the powers that be to do some soul-searching. Do they need to protect their business and institutional interests or are they willing to protect the interests of the state?

As long as the establishment keeps inventing doctrines to rule from behind and instead of focusing on defending the geographical territory of the country takes the role of the defender of the religious, political and ideological frontiers, then Pakistan is destined to witness chaos and economic uncertainty.

Khan was never capable of governing the country, but just to teach former prime minister Nawaz Sharif a lesson and for the satisfaction of its own ego, the establishment brought him to power. Sharif is an experienced politician, and when the establishment staged a protest led by Imran Khan in 2014 against his newly elected government, Sharif realized that he would not be given the chance of coming to power again by the establishment. So he decided to deliver good governance and mega-projects to the masses.

The subsidies given by Sharif to the masses in the health, transportation and education sectors were unprecedented, and he made sure that when he was ousted the performance of the establishment and its puppet would be compared with the accomplishments of his government. Meanwhile, Sharif’s finance minister Ishaq Dar was smartly managing the economy while also launching power and other projects such as Metrobus services in the main cities and building road networks, but in the background, the deep state was busy making Khan  a political brand.

Khan, however, had no idea about politics and the establishment’s energies were focused on pushing Sharif on to the back foot and creating a new messiah for the masses, who actually were unaware of the dynamics of politics and events in Pakistan.

Sharif with the help of the experienced Ishaq Dar not only managed to stabilize the economy but cleverly outsmarted his political and invisible opponents by focusing on the issues important to the common masses. The Metrobus service was an initiative that helped millions of people to commute with dignity and at a very low price. Likewise, the initiatives of making sure that medicines were available in the government hospitals and ending the crisis of power outages had long-lasting impacts on the minds of the masses, whereas Sharif’s character assassination through the media and judiciary had short-term effects.

Sharif was playing the game with a vision, keeping in view the next five years, whereas the deep state and Imran Khan both played a shortsighted game with the only objective of ousting Sharif. This is the difference between a perception created through propaganda and a perception created through good governance

Anyone with a little understanding of politics and propaganda could have guessed that Sharif was playing the game with a vision, keeping in view the next five years, whereas the deep state and Imran Khan both played a shortsighted game with the only objective of ousting Sharif. This is the difference between a perception created through propaganda and a perception created through good governance.

Since Khan’s rise was a product of around-the-clock propaganda, it was bound to meet failure at some stage. The problem with manufactured doctrines and perceptions is that they are built on lies and as soon as they are faced with reality and facts they simply are busted. So Khan in this game has only played the role of puppet, and he alone cannot be blamed, as his backers are the ones who are directly responsible for the economic turmoil and diplomatic isolation of Pakistan.

In this war between Sharif and the establishment, the media houses, journalists and intellectuals aligned with the establishment, as they thought that as in the past, it would be the establishment that would prevail eventually. So since 2014 what we have witnessed is the rise of yellow and one-sided journalism, where Sharif and leaders of other opposition parties were portrayed as the villains who were responsible for all of Pakistan’s woes while the deep state and its puppet Khan were hailed the saviors of the nation.

However, the dissident voices, no matter how weak in numbers, kept raising questions on the dirty games played by the establishment in the power corridors, and as a result most of them were ousted from their jobs. Thanks to social media and international publications where these voices were heard, however, the true picture of the state of affairs in Pakistan was presented.

Dissidents like us were never liked by the establishment and as a result, we are paying the price. Some are facing visible curbs and others are under invisible curbs. Every time one writes or speaks against political engineering, one takes a huge risk of going missing someday or being charged with treason or blasphemy. This is how unsafe journalism remains in Pakistan.

In fact, refusing to taking dictation can prove fatal for politicians and journalists. Despite this reality, political leaders like Sharif are showing resistance, putting everything at stake, while dissident journalists are also risking their lives, and some have sacrificed their careers for not becoming part of the propaganda machine of the establishment.

However, the question remains over how long the establishment can rule with the help of fear and oppressing dissident voices and politicians. A weak press where mediocre pseudo-intellectuals and journalists are imposed by the powers that be cannot save the day for Khan or his backers, nor is it taken seriously abroad when it attempts to make a case for Pakistan’s national interests. Likewise, a controlled democracy and a  puppet government can never serve the interests of the country and can never be taken seriously by the global community, as the treason and blasphemy shields do not work outside Pakistan. We recently saw this when the global community did not listen to Pakistan’s stance on the Kashmir issue.

It is time for the real power players in Pakistan to change their mindset and instead of curbing dissident voices in journalism and putting democratic leaders behind bars to return to the barracks. A country without a free press and a strong democratic government has no chance of progressing in the modern age. The only way forward remains the retreat of the establishment from the political chessboard and to hold free and impartial elections with a free press and full freedom of expression.

Right now Pakistan has become like the Animal Farm of famous English novelist George Orwell, where the farm ended up in a state as bad as it was before the so-called change based on the hallucination of revolution. It is the time to end this puppet show staged by the establishment and give control back to genuinely elected representatives of the country through an impartial and free ballot.

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