The Frankenstein monster that is PTI-era ‘patriotism’ and Imran’s failed Kashmir activism

I really need to get this out there. My thoughts on certain upsetting trends put into place at the worst possible time in history by the Imran Khan-led PTI government and how its being entrenched in a very damaging way into our national psyche. This is not a policy commentary, but more one on rhetoric, discourse and PR management.

A kind of resurgence of Pakistani national vigour and spirit seemed on the cards with Imran Khan’s PTI party winning general elections last year. Several signs pointed toward it, in fact, but with careful observance at the state of his leadership today one can spot an unfortunate movement in the opposite direction.

What makes this worrisome is that this trajectory is thus far being managed by a party that has been long considered the ‘patriot’s choice’.

In fact, when Imran Khan was newly elected in 2018 there was a steady stream of rather asinine pieces in Western media trying to smear him in much the same way it smears strong and assertive leaders in the third world or Muslim states. Pakistan’s liberal elites picked up on it with great gusto in their typically pathetic fashion, sure enough.

That now forgotten period in the brief history of Khan’s government provided him with more legitimate ‘street cred’ as a leader than he has gone on to accumulate since then. It certainly gave the PTI patriots something to brag about, i.e the animus of the world’s hegemonic bullies toward this bright new leader of theirs.

With his now-clear failures owing to exactly the sort of weak leadership the limited smear attempts were designed to induce in him. And Imran Khan maintains much of his popularity and the notion that he is a patriotic leader who starkly contrasts with the previous non-leadership of rivals governments nearly all of whom exhibited a weak and servile stance in front of the West.

What are these failures, what causes them and why is the fact that they come from the ‘patriotic’ option and are denied as even being failures by many patriots a cause for concern?

Khan tweeted on 18 August 2019:

‘The Hindu Supremacist Modi Govt poses a threat to Pakistan as well as to the minorities in India & in fact to the very fabric of Nehru & Gandhi’s India. To understand the link between Nazi ideology & the ethnic cleansing & genocide ideology of RSS-BJP Founding Fathers just Google’

PTI’s official Twitter praised Nehru’s ‘dream’ for India yet again on 22 September 2019.

The tweets presented Nehru and Gandhi’s India as a ‘good’ thing whose ‘fabric’ had been ruined by the ‘Modi supremacist government’. The implication that Nehru and Gandhi’s India was something worth respecting, or worth a positive mention by a Pakistani statesman in time of military tensions with India, was not something any Pakistani leader conscious of his country’s identity and history would stumble anywhere near to.

That a Pakistani leader de facto declared the India of Nehru and Gandhi– a good thing merely because it was not the same shade of Hindu supremacism the RSS-BJP represents is shocking. Nehru’s connivance with Mountbatten, the Dogra Hindu regime in Kashmir and even his government’s willing complicity in communal massacres of Muslims there far before the Pakistani Pakhtun ‘tribal invasion’ on 22 October 1947 represented the beginning of Indian tyranny and occupation in Kashmir.

Praising Nehru showed one of either two equally serious – and even offensive – deficiencies on Khan’s part. First, that Khan was so timid in his stance toward Pakistan’s traditional enemy that he could only manage a criticism of India’s ruling party as opposed to India in general terms and with India’s domestic political context as the yardstick as opposed to Kashmir’s 70 plus years of occupation by both Congress and BJP.

The sidetracking of Kashmir itself at a potentially defining phase in its history by a Pakistani leader in favour of staying within the Indian domestic Congress versus BJP context – all of which maintains Kashmir’s occupation – was offensive to any advocate of Kashmiri freedom and the right to self determination.

The second deficiency, with equal chances of either being intertwined with the first or being its equally pitiful alternative explanation for Khan’s gaffe, was Khan’s lack of knowledge on Kashmir’s history. That he could not devote the time for a sitting with any number of specialists on the matter in appreciation of current circumstances and hone his Kashmir rhetoric to at least a bare minimum of proficiency that would avoid indirectly promoting Indian propaganda (i.e the hoax that ‘secular and tolerant India’) showed a lack of interest.

When wondering the root cause of these deficiencies, one must pay attention to PTI’s support base. Specifically, its considerable overseas popularity as a more presentable, less-corrupt and new political entity in Pakistan compared to its rivals has lent these support bases a great deal of significance.

Unfortunately, much of this diaspora envisages a severely outdated global socio-political order toward which it believes Pakistan needs to pander to to have any hope of being heard out. The emphasis on ‘soft image’ which via the constant gaffes of Imran Khan and his government effectively means downright submissiveness and self degradation is borne out of a firm conviction that Pakistan can only cure its post-9/11 bad image by emphasizing how ‘peaceful’ and friendly it is.

The component of modern day Pakistani self-loathing and mental colonization constituted perhaps the larger part of the genesis of this crippling delusion, with the genuine belief that this ‘soft image’ will win Pakistan the PR war coming in second place. The theme of dancing to the West’s tune is strong here, and exaggerated adherence to Western patterns of thinking aggressively encouraged.

One such thought pattern is the idolization of the concept of secularity. The BJP, a brazen religious extremist organization, has not been able to claim brownie points for being ‘secular’ the way its rival Congress has.

And for Muslims the need to indulge in all this unrewarded self-degradation is doubly-emphasized. Pakistan’s patriots have selected for it a handicapped position from the get go.

Clearly, Khan thought highlighting the ‘secular’ Congress and Nehru as something good that the BJP was taking India away from would yield positive publicity. He also clearly thought this would somehow be worth the simultaneous spitting in the face of the Kashmiri freedom struggle and trivializing of the wisdoms of Jinnah, who was driven by Congress’ Hindu communalism to create Pakistan.

It, doubtless, likely also seemed a conciliatory – and thus ‘peaceful’ – way of condemning India’s clampdown in Kashmir, by putting in a good word for Nehru and leaving the door open for Congress the way Khan’s tweet did.

What was being sacrificed in exchange for Western-pandering platitudes was an exposure of India’s tyranny in Kashmir to a level of impact and profoundness that the current circumstances mandate from Pakistan.

The pigeonholing of the issue of the Indian occupation of Kashmir into the ‘Modi’s crimes’ or ‘BJP crimes’ category encourages the notion peddled by many fraudulent Indian liberals that it is only the BJP that is the issue and that Congress treated Kashmir just fine.

The Kashmiris would detest such a self-restrictive and weak form of activism. The ‘ModiKillingKashmiris’ and BJP-centric hashtags are insidious in their inception by Indian liberals and Congress partisans. They aim to rehabilitate the Congress and resurrect it.

Sadly, Pakistani patriots still seem to be rejoicing at HR-centric articles coming out occasionally in the Western mainstream media on India’s revocation of Article 370 in early August and accredit it to the PTI’s constant tirades of ‘Modi Hitler’ and ‘Munich Appeasement’. The narrative is tailored to get a rise out of Western audiences who dwell on Hitler much more than is rational.

Pakistan cannot win the liberals’ West appeasement game; India has a far bigger Congress infrastructure ready to do just that. Yet, the PTI has adopted a completely liberal aura for itself and has doubled down on it as of the last 2 months.

What is worse is this rehabilitation of Kashmir’s original ‘liberal and secular’ occupiers and oppressors – helped along by Pakistan’s shallow, naïve and foolish leadership in awe of Congress’ shined up PR game because of their mutually shared legacy of West-pandering – would likely take place among the very international activist circles and media that Pakistan finally has a golden opportunity to expose India in its entirety in front of.

And then would be Pakistan’s space to put the record straight on India’s historical lies on Kashmir? The myth of the Islamist insurgent-induced ‘Pandit exodus’, the fact that Pakistan was not the one to begin hostilities in Kashmir in 1947, the true extent of Hindu supremacism’s role in both Congress and BJP policies, all would be sidelined in new era Kashmir discourse.

In more recent news, Imran Khan while describing the need for Pakistanis to avoid infiltrating into Indian-occupied Kashmir to fight the occupation stated something advocates of this struggle would understand. However, when Khan needlessly added immediately afterward that such fighters would be ‘inflicting cruelty’ on the Kashmiris, it was the same weak rhetoric at play, justified by Khan’s hordes of ‘patriotic’ supporters as giving Pakistan ‘soft image’ credentials.

Khan also channelled the ‘guilty Muslim’ essence earlier this month by declaring India’s oppression was pushing Kashmiris into ‘extremism’. Yet again, Kashmiri resistance was emphasized as an unfortunate form of blowback as opposed to emphasized as an absolute right and slapped with the worst, most negatively-loaded and politically-charged adjective possible.

‘Extremist’ is what India has always falsely claimed the Kashmiri resistance to be.

It was the same timid pandering to Western-created concepts, specifically the notion that any and all Muslims with guns are terrorists and that the only good Muslim is a liberal human rights activist. The bonus afforded to India by this self-restricted Pakistani rhetoric was of course the icing on the cake for it.

One can remember a time patriots in Pakistan upheld the righteousness of Islamic-based resistance to Indian occupation. Now, however, it seems the neo-patriotism the PTI is shaping not only makes no effort to clarify Indian propaganda about the nature of the historical Kashmiri armed insurgency but finds little issue in Khan framing the fighters against Indian occupation alongside India as part of the problem.

Moreover, it was clumsy and foolish, given that it shifted the onus of guilt from India to Pakistan and offloaded an unacceptable extent of guilt for the occupation of Kashmir from India’s shoulders.

The right to resist occupation needs no explanation. But perhaps Khan and his ‘patriots’ know nothing about it, just as it may well know nothing about the history of the Kashmir dispute, India’s main talking points and how to counter them and the dangers of continuing in this ‘soft image’ style PR and rhetoric methodology.


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