This government is using religion to distract the masses from the problems emerging from the negligence of its government. Poor governance has resulted in hyperinflation, an unstable economy and an increased poverty rate. Today, four in ten Pakistanis live below the poverty line, and anti-government sentiments are increasing exponentially among the public. The demagogue prime minister may have many shortcomings that led to the bad state of affairs, but he is shrewd and wise enough to know when and how to use religion – a beneficial tool for achieving political goals and maintaining social order. . For this, a clergy-leader bond works best. But does it still work? Absolutely not.
In Pakistan, information flows from top to bottom and anything associated with religious values is warmly welcomed by the masses. The clergy play a large role in shaping public opinion and the ruling elite generally benefit from this. Imran Khan is not the first to use religion in politics in the country. The most important name is that of the former dictator general Zia-ul-Haq. He helped the United States defeat the Soviets using the Mujahedin in the 1980s. The movement changed the culture of Pakistani society from relatively moderate to conservative. Others, including charismatic leader Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and triple Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, have also used it frequently. Now Imran Khan is doing their political imitation.
The cricket star turned politician has introduced himself as a Muslim leader who is supposed to revive Riyasat-e-Madina, a concept of great importance in Islam. It refers to the state that was set up by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) himself and which had all the characteristics that Pakistani religious society romanticizes. Masses can easily be manipulated by sugar coated words. Instead of acting as the Prime Minister of Electoral Democracy, he is keen to build his image as a spiritual person using his party’s strong social media cell. Imran repeatedly recalls the lost legacy of Muslims and builds his perception of being the one with a magic wand to renew Pakistan’s social culture. However, despite the gadgets, religious men (eg Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan) are still often found standing against the government which claims to champion the cause of Islam. It is a fact of history that no amount of religiosity, or for example any ideology, is sufficient to satisfy the few who always want more.
In Pakistan, information flows from top to bottom and anything associated with religious values is warmly welcomed by the masses.
Pakistan’s foreign policy, like all other countries, is based on self-interest and not on moral values. Realism always takes the wheel, leaving morality behind.
Hatred of the West is ingrained in the masses, especially in religious circles. However, it is easy to note that the Tablighi Jamaat and other organizations aimed at spreading the message of Islam find it much easier to operate in the same Western countries deemed Islamophobic.
Recently, the government established a Rehmatul-Lil-Aalameen Authority to conduct research on how to disseminate the life lessons of the Prophet (pbuh) to the masses. The prime minister said that the western world does not understand that Islam is a religion of peace, so the newly established authority will spread the message of Islam to the world.
When our leaders and even religious organizations show double standards, the goal of fighting Islamophobia is weakened on the international stage. At home, not only is the use of religion to score political goals dangerous, it backfires too often. He was also unable to save the previous rulers. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was hanged by Islamist dictator Zia-ul-Haq. Zia himself is remembered as the one who damaged the country more than anyone. Political support for Nawaz Sharif’s party has been undermined by the rise of another religious party, Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) whose religion itself is the only one. Imran Khan must be careful that religion can also rebound against itself. After all, his personality is not considered very Islamic by many.
The writer is a political scientist and writes on international relations and socio-political issues.