The “Cricket-isation” of Democracy

In January 2013, Dr. Tahir-ul Qadri, author of renowned fatwa against terrorism, held Pakistan’s capital hostage for several days while making a categorical litany of demands that had to be met within fifteen minutes by the government “or else.” It was four days of high drama but the crowd of 25,000-60,000 remained remarkably peaceful.

A similar carnival is coming to town again.

This time not only does it feature Tahir-ul Qadri and his followers, but PTI, Shiekh Rasheed, and Jamaat-e-Islaami’s alliance as well. It’s a peculiar bunch but that is often what makes the carnival more appealing – one exuberant theatrical performance after another. Dr. Qadri will now compete with Imran Khan’s egocentric diatribes and JI’s eulogies for terrorists. Who will outdo the others? Will the various leaders be packed into one air conditioned container as their followers blister in the heat? Will each require their own bomb proof, bullet proof, make up bunker? In either case we are in for lights, camera, and lots of action.

Most importantly we are awaiting the outcome. Will democracy stand at the brink of derailment? In a dramatic end will part of the crowd save face at the last minute and will there be hugs all around? Last year we held our breathe when Tahir-ul Qadri demanded his followers raise their hands and pledge an oath to not leave the confines of the dharna until he permits.

We saw women and children camping outdoors through cold temperatures, rain, and hunger. But thankfully within hours of negotiations, Dr. Qadri had developed a renewed fondness for all of Pakistan’s political parties including those whom he had dismissed as “thieves.” He had thanked and signed the Islamabad Long March Declaration with the same person he called Pakistan’s “ex” Prime Minister, whose arrest he and his followers had demanded just hours ago.

This time unwavering Imran Khan has announced a battle against Firoun himself. We already see slogans of “we will fight” along with Dr. Tahir-ul Qadri’s calls on twitter for martyrdom, and the likes of a dramatic revolution that may trigger the “permanent end to the powers of the rulers.”

Imran Khan believes the legal system has failed him. He claims the former Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudary whom he once praised for his bold decision making should be tried under Article 6 for being a “traitor.” Riding on the wave of the current displeasure against Pakistan’s biggest news agency for it’s allegations against ISI, he claims that they along with the returning officers, and Nawaz Sharif’s PMLN party, which apparently sweeped elections gaining an overwhelming majority, maliciously planned a massive conspiracy to steal the elections from PTI.

But he doesn’t stop there.

In a speech to his party workers Imran Khan goes on to blame the West, celebrities, the mafia, and all those in the nation who don’t agree with him whether secular or religious. It seems only inevitable that he may next indict fate itself not just for the rigging but his inopportune fall as well. In a recent interview he called for the revival of Jihad against all such above mentioned forces. Isn’t that what the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan is for? Had he been successful in opening their offices in Islamabad perhaps he could better consult with them on how to collaborate to fight a jihad against the media, liberals, parliament, and judiciary of Pakistan.

Though no one is quite sure what will ultimately satisfy Khan, his justification for the dharna against Pakistan’s “false” democracy is that he found Parliament depressing and deemed it unfruitful to go to the courts after not getting his way. In both parliament and court there is no hooplah, fanfare of screaming girls, or banners soaring with the wind. The thrill of the Cricket match in which there is an ecstatic crowd cheering him on is missing. Perhaps he also misses the last few days which he was confined to his hospital bed and could not campaign.

The “cricketisation” of democracy would entail quick justice, a clear winner, and plenty of public displays of indignation. Such is required for the sensibilities of a former cricket star living in the fast lane, not a refined politician who must bear the ugly and often boring route of democracy.

In clear defiance of the Taliban’s threats, the people of Pakistan came out in large numbers on May 11, 2013. For the first time in their history Pakistanis have seen the peaceful transfer of power from one government to another a remarkable landmark achievement for which Pakistan earned universal praise.

Yes it was not perfect but the question is does it mark an important milestone towards a better future or a “black day” in it’s history?

For Imran Khan that black day marks a day of rigging and massive conspiracy against his party. For Tahirul Qadri it is his second attempt to overthrow the system itself. For JI perhaps it marks a confused day in which “martyr” and civilian were at odds. For Shiekh Rasheed it’s a reason to overthrow the present government and call for midterm elections.

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Clearly it is a democratic right to rally, foster support from their base, and even play the game of politics to gain relevance especially at a time where there is much infighting within parties such as PTI. In the meantime it seems PMLN has caught onto the cricket match and has launched May 11th as “PMLN Day” to celebrate their one year rule.

But it is of concern that civil debate is being stifled in Pakistan. In a disturbing trend PTI followers and grassroots leadership continue to display disturbing photos on social media which praise Osama Bin Laden as a martyr, Malala Yousafzai as a drama, Hamid Mir as a traitor, and some call for the permanent banning of Geo. But how much can social media memes, rallies that resemble rock concerts, and twitter trolls can help you if you are simply lacking substance to your arguments?

Furthermore when leaders such as Khan accuse the former Chief Justice of Pakistan of being a traitor, at a time when another institution calls for the banning of an entire news channel on the same grounds, it sends the signal to simply excommunicate those who don’t agree with us with little evidence (similar to the media trial he rightly decries) and aims to silence the rest.

It’s about time Imran Khan begin listening to the saner elements within PTI. Democracy takes hard work and time to flourish. Yes, there is a lot to fix but it should be done through legislation and rule of law. Let’s hope we see Imran Khan prove his worth as a legislator to his constituency instead of crying over one year old spilled milk.


About Meriam Sabih

Meriam Sabih is a Pakistani American social activist, freelance journalist, and blogger for the Express Tribune, which is affiliated with the International New York Times, and the Huffington Post. She is also a writer/expert for Media Diversified. Her work has been featured on Al Jazeera America, Daily Times, Friday Times, Pakteahouse, and more. She tweets @meriamsabih
This entry was posted in 11May, Malala Yousafzai, Pakistan, PTI, Tahir-ul-Qadri. Bookmark the permalink.

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