How the Syndicate of Cult Politics Can Damage Pakistan

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Cults that are political and religious, can be long-lived and deadly dangerous. In 1978, devoted groupies followed Jim Jones, who was their discredited cult leader, in a mass suicide that claimed 909 lives, including 304 children. Moreover, Donald Trump spent four disastrous years in office and assaulted American democracy, but he is still adored by simple-minded Americans from the Bible Belt who cling to their guns and religion. Modi in India has incited his Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) followers against the minorities and is supported by millions of RSS followers. In Pakistan, it is Imran Khan, who has presented himself as a ‘messiah’ to his followers by using religion card, fake ‘foreign conspiracy’, and anti-corruption narrative. Just like Modi in India or Trump in the US, IK’s supporters are being fed a steady diet of hate and vitriol by his cult-ness. In India, the hate is against Muslims, in the US, it was racially motivated and in Pakistan, it is against every institution and the system.

Psychopathological cult leaders attack the follower’s psyche and cognition by arousing his fear and the cult leader presents him/herself as a savior of all problems. He presents something difficult to achieve and hard to pursue by giving false hopes. It is implanted in the cult followers’ minds that they are the chosen ones, and the rest are doomed and on the wrong path. In the good economic times, during the mid-to-late twenties in Germany, Hitler was thought charismatic by only a bunch of fanatics and in 1928 election the Nazis polled only 2.6% of the vote. Yet less than five years later, Hitler was the chancellor of Germany and leader of the most popular political party in the country. What actually changed on groud was the economic situation.

Hitler told millions of Germans that they were Aryans and therefore “special” and racially “better” people than everyone else, something that helped cement the charismatic connection between leader and led. Similarly, Imran khan, has woven his entire narrative around the difficult yet desired ideals and has nurtured his narrative around foreign conspiracy, dehumanizing his rivals, portraying them as the lowest of humankind and the reason of all the hardships Pakistan is going through. In an economic crisis, millions of people in Germany suddenly decided to turn to an unconventional leader like Hitler because he connected with their fears, hopes and latent desire to blame others for their predicament and the end result was disastrous for tens of millions of people.

Similarly, IK is blaming today the US for conspiring to oust him from office while naming the establishment as coconspirators as a cover-up to his 3 years of abysmal performance as PM. He has built a dangerous narrative through his cult politics which will prove detrimental for Pakistan’s internal/ external security as his narrative has aided the enemies of Pakistan. Intense public desire for charismatic leaders offers fertile ground for the use of propaganda. Through a carefully orchestrated public image of Nazi Party leader Adolf Hitler, during the politically unstable Weimar period, the Nazis exploited this yearning in order to consolidate power and foster national unity. Hitler’s fame only grew via speeches he delivered at mass rallies, parades, and on the radio. In this public persona, Nazi propagandists cast Hitler as a soldier at the ready, as a father figure, and ultimately as a messianic leader brought to redeem Germany. Building on his cricketing success and cancer hospital, Imran Khan worked relentlessly for decades at self-promotion and projection.

His growing cult swallowed story after story: corruption would end in 90 days; the national treasury would overflow once ‘looted dollars’ stashed by political rivals in secret overseas accounts were brought back; Pakistan would never see the dirty politics of horse trading; Naya Pakistan would overflow with milk and honey, Khan would “commit suicide but never return to the IMF”; foreign policy would be based upon principle rather than expediency; the world’s most sought-after passport would become the green one; and Pakistan would turn into a tourist haven; Jobs would be aplenty, the justice system would be overhauled, civil service officers appointed purely on merit, and the police system revamped but all these promises were merely to brainwash his followers to make them become “blind followers”.

Khan’s cult politics of promising a utopia turned out to be nothing but merely a tactic to brainwash his followers. Months after winning the election in 2018, IK’s government requested the IMF for a loan, inflation rose, and in January 2022, Transparency International announced that perceptions of corruption had taken a quantum leap. IK to save his sinking ship invented the cock-and-bull story of an American conspiracy to oust him due to his independent foreign policy specifically on Ukraine-Russia crisis but the question arises: why hasn’t Narendra Modi, also ambivalent on Russia’s aggression, alleged the same? Khan’s groupies cannot explain why this weeks-old ‘revelation’ came only after ‘a no confidence motion’ threatened his survival. Such political maneuvers must be avoided because they can prove to be detrimental for economic and political stability of the country. These tactics in which personal politics is given privilege over the national cause is inimical for the nation and must be held accountable.

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