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Is Maulana Seeking To Win Over Establishment Through His Credential Pitch?

Jan Achakzai
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Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s speeches were aimed at sending home a message that he has never been anti-establishment and that he should be embraced as someone who can serve the agenda of the state better than any other politician, argues Jan Achakzai.

In almost every speech delivered during his ‘Azadi March’, Maulana Fazlur Rehman seems to be pitching himself by highlighting his political credentials to a power centre located not in Islamabad but in Rawalpindi: (yes, you rightly guessed it) to the Establishment.

Flagging his past’s possible role in support of the state, he equally pleads his political case against Prime Minister Imran Khan to justify his demand for toppling the government. The themes he highlighted during his speeches more or less covered his post-9/11 politics and also touched upon the wave of terrorism the country was gripped in, to pencil his contribution in mitigating side effects of violence.

To add credence, he said, for example, how he gave a narrative of peace, democracy and constitutionalism to counter the militants’ justification of religion for their violence and resorting to arms against the state of Pakistan. He also referred to how he used links to reduce the impact of the TTP narrative and helped the state to isolate them.

He was also assuring that he was a patriot and always opposed centrifugal forces and the latest instance was his opposition to anti-state elements like the PTM in Ex-FATA. But the irony is lost on him when his container serves as a platform for all ethnic political dynasties from KP and Balochistan who have always blackmailed the establishment and let themselves used as leverage against, being loyal to any other country but Pakistan since partition.

These speeches were aimed at sending home a message that he has never been anti-establishment and that he should be embraced as someone who can serve the agenda of the state better than any other politician.

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Another contradictory theme (assumed the shape of political “truism” as keep repeating the same thing it becomes truism) is his criticism of the establishment for alleged interference in politics and like Nawaz Sharif he is asking for a break on the establishment’s alleged role in politics— though he struggled to offer concrete proof of such interference in 2018 elections which, he thinks, were rigged 100 percent—and hence a lid on the ensuing political instability. However, as always, the reality has a tendency to struggle catching up when grant narratives sold as truism by politicians capturing the imagination of the vast majority of masses.

In other way, he is reminding the establishment for its compulsions of the past, stemming from the realpolitik and geo-politics constraints, to continue to support a rotten system and corrupt politics for the sake of stability, of which he has been a major beneficiary.

His speeches lay emphasis on strict separation of “politics, security and economy”, a narrative advanced by the PML-N under the ruse of civilian supremacy and “vote ko izzat do” campaign and the mantra, i.e, every institution should confine itself to its rule”. However, he has failed to acknowledge that the Parliament has become a sideshow. He has also shied away from responding to critique of the political elite which has always failed when it comes to walking the country through various crises.

Maulana was part of the top political echelon of the state who adopted the strategy to keep vested interests and political base happy, resulting in myopic economic decisions, in particular of previous PML-N government putting Pakistan almost on the failing trajectory of former Soviet Union—twin CAD and budget deficits were a recipe for country’s sleepwalking into bankruptcy.

No amount of spin-doctoring could hide the fact that businesses, banks and companies were faced with a daunting task to fight back against foreign-sponsored currency speculators, attempts to cause “run on banks” and cyber attacks—sharing a job previously thought to fall within the domain of men/women in uniform—an emerging complex phenomenon compromising the national security of the country.

His speeches reflect old school of dynastic politicians who fail to appreciate new ground realities; e.g, the duality of geo-economics and geo-politics has disappeared creating a new dynamic for countries—convergence of security, economy and politics. But for Pakistan, even more important is that security, economy and politics must be put on the same side of the ledger.

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This is why the narrative of Maulana and his other counterparts (i.e, separation of politics, security and economics) is simply the antithesis of the modern imperatives of statecraft.

The other most recurring theme in Maulana’s speeches is the fact that he refers to religion every often to appease his constituency—madaras students—and also cast aspersions on PM Imran Khan by terming him an “agent of the Jews and  Qadianis”. These references make him less of a national leader but more of a sectarian cleric. No amount of his grand vision will likely reverse the slow motion train wreck of Pakistan’s flawed political system.

But at the end of the day, the speeches of Maulana for all practical purposes encapsulates the noises of other mainstream politicians for a dynastic Kleptocracy, dressed up as a procedural democracy keeping at bay the establishment not to spoil their ever-going but rewarding box-office political bonanza.

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