The pivot of politics is always seeking power, so that a political party is able, so to say, to implement its program on the basis of which it wins voters’ mandate. That’s an ideal statement of an ideal polity! In reality it doesn’t happen like that. There are betrayals, treacheries, and opportunism on the part of political parties. There is perennial interference, for instance in the case of Pakistan, by the players who are external to the political realm but are always intent upon unleashing political instability and uncertainty in the country. Also, there are other elements different from both of the above, who now and then venture to seek power but in non-political ways. For such elements the society of Pakistan has always proved unimaginably fertile. That’s what may be termed a depoliticized Pakistan!
Let’s try to understand what it is that’s called being depoliticized! In Pakistan, everyone who has a bit of interest in politics knows well a term, Political Apathy, the usual use of which stopped probably after the Lawyers’ Movement (2007-09); though the Apathy still exists. Maybe because it’s that Movement that refreshed the interest of the people in the political affairs of the country! Prior to that, the term, Political Apathy, stood to mean people’s insensitiveness to matters political, and it was also argued that it was this factor which kept the voter turnout in Pakistan too low.
As far as causes of the Political Apathy are concerned, one is more important than others. First, regardless of the fact which party is in power, no civilian political government ever tried to deliver, so people became impervious to whatever was happening in the political arena. They turned to themselves and to their homes. Here it may be of interest to point out that with the introduction of “Development Politics” in the nineties, the credit of which goes to Pakistan Muslim League-N, the interest of the people in politics got a boost at least in Punjab. The Development Politics, however, did not succeed in changing the political paradigm; it’s too slow to make inroads. It’s in the general elections of May 2013 that the construction of Metro Bus Service may be said to have PML-N won the vote from Lahore.
Indeed, presently there is no talk of Political Apathy; but that doesn’t mean there is none, it is there. The voter turnout in the last elections is 55%. But the argument of the present writer does not base on the concept of Political Apathy. It lays its whole emphasis on the notion of a depoliticized citizenry of Pakistan. It may both be non-political and/or anti-political. The concept of Political Apathy is altogether different from the notion of a depoliticized citizenry. The Political Apathy is a reaction from the people to a fruitless and barren politics. It leaves politics on its own; it withdraws its interest from such politics. In contrast to that, a depoliticized citizenry is something very dangerous; simply because it overrides politics. It outdates politics; it predates politics. It does not lose its interest in politics; rather it is overwhelmingly interested in politics. However, it’s concept of politics is sort of unique. It’s sort of a supra-politics.
As in Political Apathy, people are least interested in what’s happening in the political realm; a depoliticized citizenry is most interested in whatever is happening and may happen both in the present and the future political realms. The overriding interest of a depoliticized citizenry is more fatal for a society and its state than the insensitivity of a politically apathetic citizenry. A depoliticized citizenry may destroy and dismantle whatever political culture a society enjoys and whatever political structure a state consists of and stands on. Since a politically apathetic citizenry has nothing to do with politics, it may damage it in an indirect manner; whereas a depoliticized citizenry positively and intentionally damages the polity of the country.
In a nutshell, a politically apathetic citizenry is indifferent to whoever seeks power and whoever comes in power, it knows it’s not going to change their fate. A depoliticized citizenry, as it is ardently and desperately interested in politics, does not believe in seeking power through political means; it derives its inspiration from an imagined future. It is in this sense, that it is said to be depoliticized. It is the essence of depoliticized elements, whatever their form is: they always seek power hungrily and seek it in non-political ways. As a matter of principle, political elements, their betrayals, treacheries, and opportunism aside, somehow come to believe in political ways while seeking political power. As against this, depoliticized elements are naked power seekers; they want power at any cost by any means. That’s their substance and hallmark as well.
One more explanation may help understand the nature of a depoliticized Pakistan the politics of which is being witnessed in the shape of Imran Khan (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf), Tahir-ul-Qadri (Pakistan Awami Tehreek), Chaudhry Shujat Hussain and Pervaiz Elahi (Pakistan Muslim League-Q), Sheikh Rashid Ahmad (Awami Muslim League). They are all seeking power in non-political ways, whatever their excuses and slogans are. In fact, it is all the martial laws which veritably nursed such power seekers. They crafted ever newer ways for non-political power seekers; and opened a whole new world for such non-political politicians. In addition, a constituency for such politics also emerged. That created a depoliticized Pakistan, which think and act non-politically. It derides politics. Some of the political parties learned a lesson or two not to seek power in non-political ways; but there is no dearth of newcomers and the old stalwarts who are still clinging to the old habits of seeking power.
Imran Khan’s would have proved to be a promising party for the politically apathetic citizens also, had it gone for seeking power in a political manner. Unfortunately it has opted for an alignment with a depoliticized Pakistan, which believes in non-political ways only. Political problems require political solutions. Likewise, in seeking political power in non-political ways, one party may succeed, but in the process what damage it wreaks to the state and society it may never realize. Now it is PTI which represents a depoliticized Pakistan; it’s strengthening it also. It’s on the rampage to destroy a political Pakistan, it must come back to!
Note: This article was completed on October 1, and was originally posted in November 2014.