NationalVolume 13 Issue # 23

Plus ça change, plus c’est le meme chose

There is no right or wrong, good or bad, morality or immorality in Pakistan’s politics. Everything seems permissible to acquire political power, protect interests, preserve political dynasty, deceive the people, rule and plunder the country. In short, Machiavellianism, which means “the employment of cunning and duplicity in statecraft or in general conduct”, is fully employed in Pakistan. Unscrupulously, our Machiavellian politicians are exploiting nationalism, religion, regionalism, feudalism and sectarianism. Even, they are emotionally blackmailing the people without any restrain and remorse.

In the coming elections, the PTI leader, Imran Khan, who pretends to be an honest and democratic man, is shrewdly using religion to attract the Sunni votes. Former prime minister and the PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif, who has been ousted from the prime minister office in the Panama case verdict, is emotionally blackmailing the people by using his wife’s ailment in London. He is trying his level best to conceal his mega corruption and save himself and his family, including daughter Maryam Nawaz and two sons, Hassan Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz, from prison in the NAB refence corruption cases. While, the PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari, a downright corrupt man, has used his wife’s (Benazir Bhutto) assassination to earn sympathy and votes of the people.

The PTI chief Imran Khan — accompanied by his wife — has visited to the shrine of Baba Farid Ganjshakar in Pakpattan. A video of the visit has gone viral on electronic and social media, in which Imran Khan and his spouse knelt down and kissed the doorsill of the saint’s tomb, one of the most revered Chishti dargahs in the subcontinent. It sparked a debate among the people. Many clerics and TV anchors have passed their judgement. Some of them have condemned the move as a violation of religious edicts. While, many liberal thinkers are of the views that the former cricketer is superstitious and, thus, unfit for leadership, apart from being led by the nose by a “peerni” his dubiously acquired wife.

Many analysts are of the view that religious issues are solely between man and God. Thus, these religious issues and views should not be dragged into politics. But, it is a fact that politicians’ religion, their personal beliefs and practices, their personal and family lives have always been discussed and played a key role in the power politics in the Subcontinent.

It is a fact that visits to dargahs and shrines of saints are a part of this region’s (South Asia) culture. Many kings, including Akbar the Great, have visited Sufi saints, pirs and holy men for seeking their blessings. In Pakistan, apart from the common man, prime ministers like Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif, Yousif Raza Gillani and presidents like Asif Ali Zardari used to visit pirs, shrines and holy men as part of their religious conviction.

These leaders have visited Sufi saints and shrines not only for seeking blessings but also for getting support of the people for achieving certain political motives.

Dr. Ishtiaq Ahmed, a famous writer, professor Emeritus of Political Science, Stockholm University; and, Honorary Senior Fellow, Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore, writes in the Daily Times: “Personally, I find Imran Khan conforming perfectly to the way all charismatic leaders of the Pakistan movement projected their image as pious and God-fearing Muslims who were Men of Destiny, chosen by Providence to lead Muslims to God’s Kingdom on Earth. The trendsetter was the founder of Pakistan Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah. He metamorphosed in 1937 at the Lucknow session of the All-India Muslim League into an upper-class Muslim of north-western India, wearing the achkan and karakuli topi which became famous as the Jinnah Cap and shalwar. Thereafter he could be seen taking part in the Eid Prayers and Eid Milad-al-Nabi celebrations and his speeches are replete with Islamist phraseology and terminology as he launched a relentless campaign to convince Muslims to support the Pakistan demand. Contrary to revisionist historians of both Left and Right, the 1945 election campaign for Pakistan was spearheaded by Barelvi pirs and mashaikh and was won in the name of Islam. It is ludicrous to say that the Muslim League itself did not include a commitment to an Islamic state in its manifesto. The election was conducted in the streets and mohallas and I have yet to meet any Pakistani who has ever read the manifesto of all parties before he or she cast their vote. People even don’t read the manifesto of their own political party from beginning to end. They are swayed by outer exhibition and tall promises. Those were in abundant supply in 1945 and 1946. I have demonstrated this in my recent works. Riding the tiger, Jinnah, whether by choice or inadvertently, had tied his hands: Pakistan had to be an ideal Islamic state. What it actually meant to Jinnah one can always discuss but it most certainly never meant a secular state. Jinnah tried on August 11, 1947, to make a feeble attempt to jump off the tiger, but once you ride the Pakistani tiger you better keep yourself on its back otherwise the tiger will devour you. Jinnah Sahib realized that immediately and in his later pronouncements declared that Pakistan will be a great state of Muslims where Sharia will be the main source of law and much more. His early death left a legacy of conflicting interpretations of what he wanted, but one thing is crystal clear: the Pakistani tiger could only be free in a mental and physical space defined and demarcated by an Islamic boundary. The second charismatic leader who rode the tiger was Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Starting as an Islamic socialist and gaining great popularity because of it, he went on the defensive when the Islamists launched a vicious campaign against him.  He first watered it down to Islami Musawat (Islamic social justice), then in the hope of snatching from the Ulema the initiative on the Khatam-e-Nabuwat (finality of the Prophethood of Prophet Muhammmad PBUH) issue he first inserted in the 1973 constitution clauses, that not only the president but also the prime minister must be a Muslim who believed in the finality of the Prophethood of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). In 1974, the Ahmadis were declared non-Muslims, but that still failed to make him a hero of the Ulema. They hounded him even more fiercely. He responded by declaring Friday as the day of rest, banned alcohol, gambling and horse-racing and in his 1977 election manifesto of the PPP it was mentioned that the Holy Quran will be taught in schools until the 10th class. The Ulema wanted an Islamic state with complete control over all affairs and they found their man in General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq.

Mian Nawaz Sharif was never a charismatic leader, but his political instincts were never second to anyone. In 1999 he was about to declare Sharia as the supreme law of the land when the Musharraf coup prevented that from happening. The Sharifs were the sponsors of Allama Tahirul Qadri and only recently, Mian Shahbaz Sharif donated Punjab University land to some madrassa to demonstrate his loyalty to the tiger. Benazir Bhutto was superstitious, and she and Zardari Sahib had their fair share of pirs, as well as astrologers and other charlatans. So, what is the big deal if Imran Khan is now making it a point to appeal to the vast Barelvi constituency of Pakistan by visiting Sufi shrines?… Anyone who wants to succeed in politics in Pakistan must ride the tiger. But equally important to remember is that getting off the tiger is not possible with impunity. The Pakistani tiger is my metaphor for the ideal Islamic polity Jinnah promised, Bhutto tried to elaborate and now Imran Khan is again presenting it as the panacea for all our ills”.

There is nothing strange and new about a politician visiting a shrine. Like other politicians, Imran Khan’s sole purpose is just to preserve his political interests along with the Sufi’s blessings. In reality, if Imran Khan follows the real teachings of Baba Farid, he will never wish to become a political leader and ruler. Baba Farid has preached his teachings through poetry. In his poetry, Baba Farid condemns falsehood, cruelty, pride, prejudice, hatred, greed, dishonesty, deceit,  lust for power and worldly things. All these things are part and parcel of politics.

Some verses of Baba Farid are given below:

1: Ah Farid! Those winsome eyes

Captivating worlds.

In their hey-day they could not bear

The weight of Kajal-lines.

I have seen in them have brooded

In broad day-light, birds.


2: Ah Farid! It’s all in vain:

Taints, advice and reprimands.

For the heart that Satan sealed

Will not yield to your demands.


3: And if Farid you seek the Lord

Be the humblest grass,

Cut and peeled and drenched and trampled,

Softened into mass and woven into prayer mats.

Only then it gains admission

In the house of the Lord.


4: Underrate not dust, Farid!

Like of it is none.

While you live, it licks your feet

And when you die it covers your head.

Imran Khan’s way of life and character are diametrically different from the teachings of Baba Farid.

He, by nature, is a proud, supercilious, licentious, attention-loving, angry and undemocratic person, who does not like equality, humbleness and simplicity. Without any shame, he has broken his promise for bringing about change through honest and young leaders. He is now defending “corrupt electables” with full force. He is leading a very comfortable life, replete with luxuries. But, he talks about the poor people, honesty and simplicity. In reality, he is using all the Machiavellian tactics to become the prime minister of Pakistan.

Imran Khan’s visit to Baba Farid’s shrine should be seen in this perspective.