Smokers’ Corner: Revolutionary nuisance - Nadeem F. Paracha - Sunday 1st May 2011

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In all probability he doesn’t know. I am talking about the great Imran Khan. I hope he doesn’t know that he’s being used. I say this because that’s the way he is. Naïve and vulnerable – especially to the instant wonders of some of the most worn-out right-wing clichés this side of Westophobia.
But then, of course, as the large number of politicians and media personnel suspected to have been ‘propped up’ by the shadowy ones (or what Kamran Shafi calls the ‘Deep State’) would tell you, nobody’s an innocent prey in this respect. One just cannot be used by the shadowy ones without showing eagerness and the will to proceed with what one is being propped up for.
Considering the mighty Khan’s case, his main constituency, can one suggest that the ideals and moorings of the current generation of urban young middle-class Pakistanis are now actually being navigated by certain sections of the security agencies? After all, the constant process of intellectual and ideological bankruptcy and redundancy that this country has been suffering from for the last many decades was bound to take its greatest toll on its youth.
For example, 20 to 30 years ago, being a youthful rebel usually meant being democratic and against anything that symbolised military intervention in politics or the use of faith to meet demagogic ends. Fast forward to today and the scene has been turned on its head. Today, mainly thanks to the brilliant ways the ‘Deep State’ has used to manoeuvre and mobilise the electronic media and certain ‘youth icons,’ young urban middle-class Pakistani ‘rebels’ are closest in their thoughts to the aspirations of the security establishment than ever before.
No wonder, in the past young rebels were chased, hounded and hunted down by the agencies for being anti-Pakistan, anti-state and anti-Islam, no such thing happens to today’s urban rebels. The unemployed Baloch youth are the only exception, but when has that unfortunate lot ever counted in the scheme of Pakistan’s governance?
The urban youth elsewhere have platforms on mainstream media and generous opportunities to hold, well, their ‘revolutionary’ rallies. But this generation, has been given a ready-made narrative.
A narrative spun by right-wing media men and intellectuals backed by the civil-military establishment. It reflects the ‘strategic’ concerns of those sections of the establishment that has kept a ubiquitous presence in the country’s opinion-making institutions.
As I have mentioned before in many of my previous pieces on these pages, this narrative sees Pakistan as always being surrounded by malicious enemies that are to be dealt with through an always full and well-fed army and its ideological allies in the shape of the political clergy, right-wing ideologues and preferably media personnel and politicians. Even till about 25 years ago, this narrative was scorned and challenged, both intellectually and through political action, by numerous young, middle-class rebels.
Not anymore. Ironically, what was once decried as being establishmentarian mantra and modus-operandi to exercise illegitimate and undemocratic social and political control has now become a rallying cry of those waving their fists for a revolution.
Such a scenario can make for a daunting black comedy; it was on full display at the magnificent Khan’s anti-drone sit-in in Peshawar.
To begin with, the explosive issue of drone attacks has been cleverly mutated into the kind of a bargaining chip that certain sections of the security apparatus use to haggle with its more sinister counterparts in the CIA. Journalist Najam Sethi maintains that these agencies use certain civilian politicians and media personnel to whip up anti-Americanism among the public to pressure US policy.
This pressure, according to Sethi, is excreted to get a better deal from the CIA whenever it refuses to play, what it says, is Pakistan’s ‘double game’ regarding the war against Islamist militants. Whatever the case, the truth is, it is a cynical move that a part of the establishment should be given (or asked to be given) an emotional and populist twist by certain politicians and media men.
Secondly, Imran Khan is mouthing a rather bizarre post-Cold War ‘revolutionary’ rhetoric in Pakistan in which leftist sloganeering is weaved together with gung-ho right-wing gibberish! No wonder, the scene at the sit-in seemed rather surreal. Tehreek-i-Insaaf fan boys rubbed shoulders with Jammat-i-Islami activists and even with supporters of a few banned sectarian organisations, as some so-called leftist youth nodded their heads while the glorious Khan spoke to a crowd at a madressah. Also present on the stage were known TV anchors. So much for objective reporting.
A scene from a Dali painting, one might ask? Fire ants and elephants with wings watching TV made from huge megaphones shooting flowers as well as bullets!
Such peculiar juxtaposing of establishment-sponsored odd balls and ideological renegades masquerading as vanguards of the faithful is what the concept of revolution has boiled down to in our country.

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