By Asad Ali
In the late 19th century there was a major union organization, ‘Knights of Labor’ and also a radical populist movement based on farmers. It’s hard to believe, but it was quite radical. They wanted their own kind of political system and governance model. After struggling to implement their ideology that movement had ultimately failed and significantly damaged on our political and economic environment of the society.
The rising concept of populism across the world is massively damaging diplomatic, cultural, political and economic norms of the world. Populist leaders tried to grab sympathies of the masses by giving them fake hopes, based on idealist approach. When they came to power through populist mandate, they fail to deliver at economic and political fronts, triggering economic woes for the country. The recent example of this mandate is Indian Prime Minister Modi, who won India’s Lok Sabha elections in 2014 and again in 2019 with landslide victory over Congress. During his election campaign, Modi massively highlighted his economic achievements during his tenure as Chief Minister of state of Gujarat. He promised to implement that economic model throughout the country for the uplift of vulnerable Indian economy. However, after assuming the office of Prime Minister, his failed economic policies drastically destroyed India’s already dwindling financial indicators. After being 8 years in power, he is struggling to improve economic indicators. His rhetoric changed from economic to strategic front, which also brought shame for India. He used famous line “Chokidar Kon Ha” (Who is Guard).
Likewise, former US President Trump is another precedent of populism and its negative consequences for democratic values across the globe. Trump won 2016 US elections and surprisingly became President of world’s most power country. Since he was nationalist and won the elections through populist vote bank, his policies had negative repercussions not only for US but entire world as well. Due to his policies, international community refused to obey American policies regarding global issues. He also brought US at the cusp of full-scale war with Iran and North Korea. So, the trend of populism is purely disastrous for global political and economic world order.
Now, let’s talk about another aspect of populist vote bank. Former Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan has been using same populist approach to target his country’s political, judicial and military leadership in order to accomplish his political objectives. As Modi brought security paradigm to his populist approach for political point scoring, Imran Khan came with US a narrative of US conspiracy to topple his government.
Imran Khan won 2018 general elections with a promise to eradicate corruption, making country economically strong and govern the state on the model of Madina State. His other rhetoric was fighting Islamophobia worldwide. Unfortunately, he failed to deliver on all these fronts. His policies severely damaged Pakistan’s dwindling economy. He even couldn’t integrate the country politically, economically and socially. He further created intolerance, panic and chaos in the society. So, this is negative side of populist leaders. They came with majority, having no plan for the betterment of country. This personality cult is spreading now, which shows rapidly increasing polarization in our societies as well.
These populist leaders are living in post-truth ideology and have been creating negative political, and social discourses within societies. First they made statements, and then they themselves negate them. For example, Imran Khan is known as master of U-turn in Pakistan due to his lack of wisdom and ability to make any powerful decision. For example, first he praised Pak Army, but after his removal from office of PM, he accused them of behind his ouster over mere flimsy ground. He blamed Army but failed to present even a single evidence to prove his claim. During Nawaz Sharif’s tenure, he said “Modi ka jo yar ha, Ghadar” (whoever is friend of Modi is traitor). Likewise, he publically acknowledged Modi for foreign policies. Regarding corruption, he had promised eradication of corrupt elements from the society, but again couldn’t accomplish it as well. His own minsters were involved in corruption scandals. During his tenure as PM, Pakistan’s ranking further slipped in international corruption index. His hypocritic approach is being viewed as a threat to national interests.
It is pertinent to mention here that leaders always leads from the front and with examples. Irony is that Imran Khan is man of contradictory statements. His own kids are living luxurious life in Western culture. He himself spent half of his life with Western culture. But at the same time, he is pushing for Islamic social, cultural and political values. Unfortunately, he is also using religious card for his political gains. He is trying to become leader of Muslim world but at the same time, he has failed to do anything positive and constructive for Muslim states. He has been playing with the sentiments of people while using religious and political cards. He has polarized our society politically and socially. Now, people must think before voting for populist leaders such as Imran Khan. The world cannot afford more immature policies of populist leaders. Imran Khan’s political discourse must be changed. He must respect country’s institution and not to target them just for mere political advantages as it will give an ample reason to hostile elements to undertake propaganda against our country. Our institutions are working tirelessly to uplift the economic growth of the country. we need to support them instead of spreading political venom.
*The writer is Islamabad based expert regular contributor