Pakistan has always been a deeply polarized society that enjoys almost every shade from the spectrum of ideologies. We have had Socialists, Marxists, Islamists, Progressives, Liberals and the recently emerging color of feminism too. However, most of these groups can be mainly categorized into leftists and rightist. The rightists being the conservative Mullahs who stick to a fundamental definition of Islam and its implementation in the society while the leftists being those who want Pakistan to pursue liberal ideals. The debate of who among these is the panacea for the problems that Pakistan faces is a moot point. Both major groups have enjoyed support in the echelons of power at some point in our short history and it’s safe to assume that both have had a good share of ignominy.
We are however going through one of the rarest moments in our history when the divide among leftists and rightists looks vague. They say that nothing is final in politics, but does it also apply to ideological boundaries? When Maulana Fazl ur Rehman announced his Azadi March against Imran Khan’s government, he found support in the most unlikely quarters. The people with whom he has been at dagger’s drawn all his life have came to his aid in his fight for a piece of the pie of Pakistani power politics. The leftists not only are supporting his march, they are also promoting it and rooting for its success like a person who has bet his money on a pony. However, this support does come at a cost; their own ideology.
Starting with how Maulana Fazl Ur Rehman has been building a case against his arch-rival Imran Khan since the last elections, the most common of them is calling him a “yahoodi agent” or an agent of the Jews. While calling someone that might woo the radical sections of a Muslim society, this slogan reeks of anti-Semitism. Without going into the debate of whether one is justified enough to blame Jews for everything that has gone wrong in the world, it is pertinent to inquire whether leftists have ever registered to such an idea? The answer to that is an obvious one but does supporting Maulana Fazl Ur Rehman means they have compromised on one of their core principles? Pakistan has seen the rise of the misuse of blasphemy law in the last few years.
While incidents like the murder of Salman Taseer at the hands of Mumtaz Qadri gives a stark reminder of how sensitive the issue is, false blasphemy accusations have had severe repercussions for the accused. Aasia bibi was acquitted by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in blasphemy case that sent far right wing into a frenzy of protests and vandalism. While Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP)’s violent protests were dealt with, there was another voice from our political corridors that was demanding the hanging of Aasia bibi despite acquittal; it was Maulana Fazl Ur Rehman. This is not something to be surprised about but the only irony is that those who were campaigning for Aasia Bibi’s release are now aligning with the same person who wanted her hanged.
Pakistan’s politics has seen few years of transformation as far as the involvement of youth and females is considered. It has been a breath of fresh air that gender inclusivity in Pakistan’s politics is being slowly assimilated especially when we don’t enjoy a good history in this regard. The rule of minimum 10% women votes was made to ensure women’s participation in Pakistan’s politics. Massive inclusion in jalsas or political gatherings is positive sign, but it has not been reciprocated by rightist political groups in Pakistan. Maulana Fazl Ur Rehman’s dharna has attracted a good number of male audience but the complete absence of women is a worrying sign and an evidence of his misogyny and patriarchy. Female journalists have been discouraged from coverage and even face harassment if they try. Maulana Fazl Ur Rehman attracting support from avenues which have been most vocal about women empowerment must have raised eyebrows among neutral proponents of women rights. Consequently, those leftists and feminists who do not subscribe to the idea of appeasing the rightists for mere political gains are getting alienated.
At one point in time, the leftists called Imran Khan “Taliban Khan” for pushing for peace talks with Taliban. Although their consistency in being against Imran Khan is appreciable, they chose the route that goes through the rightwing itself. If Imran Khan was Taliban Khan for a mere suggestion of talks with Taliban, one can only wonder what name they would choose for themselves when they are seen in the shadow of a bearded man wearing a turban. They are calling it ‘Azadi’ march or freedom march, but we have to see if it is freedom from Imran Khan or freedom of their own ideals for temporary benefits. The lines have been blurred but the motives palpable.