Let’s not leave our politics to the politicians
Politics in Pakistan has never been an easy task. It is a fight for the throne between multiple actors, who are engaged in defining the political culture of the country. Every actor remains focused on tilting the system in their favour by any means possible. Two instruments that are often used to manipulate the system include false hopes and slogans, and being a part of the king’s party to remain in power.
Politicians use false hope to generate votes. Their favourite instrument has always been the creation of fascinating electoral slogans. Political leaders sell dreams, which go no further than being dreams most of the time. Once the election is won, the political class makes sure that the same dreams they had been peddling are out of reach for common citizens.
Moreover, the trend of changing political parties is very common. Political manoeuvring is so easy that nobody takes it seriously and it has turned into a tool oft used to turn the tide in one’s favour.
The rise of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) generated a ray of hope. The 2013 elections strengthened the belief that change was around the corner. It was being debated that the process of refining the political system had been initiated. New technologies rein forced faith in change. The emergence of new players and technologies introduced new dynamics, which was evident from the reshuffling of the political landscape during 2013 elections.
After the elections, a continuous struggle by the PTI to investigate rigging in polls accelerated the process of change. It made common citizens more aware about the political process and their rights as voters. It was assumed that it has become extremely difficult to apply old tactics to secure the votes and run away from citizens. Besides, social media made it enormously hard for politicians to hide and back out from their promises. One of the most recent examples is when Imran Khan had to expel a new entry after a strong campaign on social media.
Despite the clear indication of change, political parties are not ready to learn and are going back to their old habits. In the current scenario, politicians and their parties are running against time, and doing their best to revert to the old system.
Character assassinations are making a comeback. Fake news and alternative facts are running amuck. New vigour can be seen coursing through the veins of existing propaganda machines.
Regrettably, politicians are unaware of the concept and use of social and mass media utilisation in this changing world. As discussed above, they only consider it a tool to create campaigns to malign their opponents. For effective use of the medium, there is a need for comprehensive understanding of communication and publicity techniques, which politicians lack.
Publicity and communication is a science and art simultaneously. It tells us that ideas matter, not harsh words. Harsh words appear satisfying for a moment, but they do not have a lasting impact. In the absence of the required skills, politicians and parties become a victim of this problem – and PTI has tasted this medicine. First, all major media houses and journalists were questioning the viability of PTI in the absence of electable candidates. Once such candidates started to join PTI, they began questioning the party’s sincerity to its ideology.
The other dimension of political communication is that one should never let go of a strategic mistake made by one’s opponent.A genuine mistakebya rival can be exploited well throughsocial and mass media. For example,PTI’s recent ticket allocation has become the subject of much controversy. Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)’s weak top management has also made headlines. Lastly, Pakistan Muslim League – Noon (PML-N)’s involvement in the Panama case continues to haunt their running campaigns. In effect, Pakistan is already observing the impact ofhyper-engagement on social and mass media.
It is disappointing that after such avigorous struggle, thepolitics of the 1980s and 1990s is back in the market. Social media could not stop it from seeping back into the system – and have been shuffling their loyalties as they see fit.
PTI has emerged as the main beneficiary of real ignments because every other change of party leads to PTI. While this has helped PTI gain some street creds, it has also raised eyebrows. Loyal and committed workers of the party are now in disarray and are asking the party leadership what’s the way forward.
The process has already started. Sadly, the phenomenon seems to resemble PPP’s rise and fall. PPP emerged as a party for the common citizens, but was taken over by influential people in the long run. The process started during the second tenure of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto,and now it seems that it is in final stages. PTI has not learned from the past and is making the same mistake.
Apart from politicians, political parties are also following the traditional suite of realignment. The revival of Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) is a prominent example. Religious parties remained independent during the last five years but are now uniting to contest the elections. Even during the last five years, their alliances were at odds with each other – JUI-F was a PML-N ally, and JI was in government with PTI in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In recent past, PPP and PTI also joined hands to defeat the PML-N and its allies in the Senate elections.
Despite the 2013 result, where it was observed that well-established politicians were defeated at the hand of newcomers, these parties are still adopting old tactics.
The fact is that the winds of change are here, but Pakistan cannot benefit from them due to the baggage of the past, and the unwillingness of our political elite.
The prevailing system of status quo suites the elite of the country. Even the parties that touted the slogans of change have forgotten their agendas, and are more focused on finding candidates that can secure them big wins.
Maybe the time has come for the common citizens to realise that politics and government are too serious a business to leave to just politicians.
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The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.