In What Ways Has Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman Gained From The Azadi March?
The Azadi March has entered a complex stage. Some political analysts are claiming that Maulana’s stance and strength is loosening up but some others consider it as a part of his larger strategy.
Being an astute politician, Maulana might have calculated for all these stalemates in which he is embroiled now. The only thing that can be stated with certainty regarding Maulana’s personality is that he is expert in managing political strings. Therefore, he keeps his cards a close secret, to be utilized at appropriate times.
Having a flair for a politics of compromise and diplomacy, Maulana’s diehard stance regarding Mr. Khan’s government and his resignation has a history. This is linked with the culture of political engineering. In Pakistani politics, the already established political parties, having a commitment to democracy, are undermined by newly engineered political parties. To substantiate this fact, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) was undermined by PML-N and Mutahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) at the central and provincial levels respectively. In similar accounts, PML-N was countered by PTI at central and provincial levels.
In this vicious game of political manipulation, Maulana and his political party were adversely affected since the rise of Imran Khan in Pakistani politics. Consequently, in winning electoral seats, Maulana’s party was shrunk from centre to province and then to some districts.
In such a state of affairs when his political capital was shrinking, he was left with two options. One was to remain silent and bear the brunt. The second was to challenge the perpetrators. Maulana opted for the second option.
Before staging a sit-in in Islamabad, Maulana ardently mobilized his people by organizing large numbers of his supporters. Along with this, he also worked to convince leaders of other opposition parties. Such efforts notwithstanding, two of the major political parties i.e. PPP and PML-N have distanced themselves from the ongoing staged sit-in in Islamabad.
Coming back to the current situation of JUI-F’s Azadi March, the ongoing sit-in is being entitled as a trap and climax of stagnation for Maulana. Convincing his people to stay for more time in Islamabad will reward the Maulana with more gains. In actual fact, the Maulana might face a fiasco in the process of obtaining Prime Minister Imran Khan’s resignation.
But still he has gained much more – even if the gains are not immediately apparent to the observer.
One important gain is that while moving ahead with a political guise that is religious as such, Maulana still attracted a wide variety of sympathizers and supporters – be they religious, secular, liberal and nationalist political leaders. Even the alienation of the two major political parties i.e. PPP and PML-N from the ongoing sit-in is not because of the flaws of the Maulana but their own political compulsions. They still “morally” support the Maulana.
Secondly, he popularized himself by launching an anti-establishment movement. Ostensibly, the Maulana claims that he is not interested in a tussle with “institutions”. At the same time he is equally crushing the already established narrative by propagating that such institutions should work strictly within their own jurisdiction.
Thirdly, the opposition leader is officially PML-N’s Shehbaz Sharif but in the public consciousness right now, it is Maulana who is giving a tough time to the incumbent Prime Minister. The underestimated Maulana now acts as a genuine opposition leader. Apart from inculcating political awareness in common masses, this political activism will surely benefit him in the form of political gains in future.
Fourth, the Maulana popularized the narrative of civil supremacy. This principle of upholding democratic norms in true spirit is equally beneficial for all democrats including Maulana. Under this pattern, Maulana disclosed his intrinsic intentions by emphasizing ‘respect for ballot’ and ‘conduction of fresh elections without the involvement of Army’. Prime Minister’s resignation is ostensible demand of Maulana’s Azadi March but in actuality he aspired to point out the deeply rooted flaws prevailed in the system. He became successful in directing those flaws.
Fifth, the Maulana’s narrative of a “new social contract” has generated another discourse. The statement indirectly means that constitutions are framed to assign specific working relationship between individuals themselves, individuals with the state institutions and also institutions with institutions. In a broader view, all these documents are signed to facilitate the citizens of a polity. Therefore, the already prevailing social contact, if it is failing to facilitate individuals by fulfilling their needs, needs to be renewed.
Sixth, given the rise of PTI in KP and BAP in Balochistan, giving a tough time to PM Imran Khan will automatically go in favour of the Maulana and his political party in the coming elections, especially when it comes to reclaiming some of the space taken from them.
Seventh, the time factor is hugely important in politics and political management. The selection of the present time manifests the Maulana’s political clear-sightedness. He launched Azadi March when Imran Khan’s political promises have been transformed into U-turns. People are suffocating because of inflation, unemployment and heavy burden of taxes. And the managerial talent of the government is still confused when it comes to directing economic policy.
Eighth, apart from his party workers, the Maulana works to gain the sympathy of other citizens. To win the support of apolitical segments, the Maulana cites the poor performance of the government in running the state and manging its economy. To win over the political class, the Maulana is struggling to prove that the PM is a stooge.
In a nutshell, the discourse of the Maulana, overall, will be to the long-term benefit of his own party and all those who believe in democratic norms and popular support. If the Maulana ends the Azadi March without accomplishing his stated goal of obtaining the resignation of Prime Minister Imran Khan, he is still not at loss. Under the guise of this demand, Maulana has revealed a powerful demand for the institutionalization of democracy and civil supremacy.
When one has nothing to lose, then one cannot be defeated. Such is the case with the Maulana.