Pakistanis need to own up to Reality: Decades of Propaganda, Brainwashing, and Otherisation

Blind devotion and cult-like following have damaged societies and polities all over the world. Pakistan, unfortunately, appears to be headed down a similar path. The blind devotion that Imran Khan has managed to evoke among his followers will not create any Riyasat-e-Madina, but instead will take Pakistan down a self-destructive path.

According to Fahd Hussain, political commentator for Dawn, “Imran Khan’s supporters can see no wrong in what he says or does. We have witnessed this phenomenon unfurl itself like a lazy python these last few years, but more so with greater intensity during Khan’s pre- and post-ouster days. On display is a textbook case of blind devotion. Such devotion entails a deliberate — or perhaps subconscious — suspension of critical thinking. Only mass hysteria can explain absolute rejection of facts and a willing embrace of free-flying rhetoric untethered by verifiable information.”

As Hussain notes, the problem lies deep, “These are rational people. You have known them for years, and admired them for their academic and professional achievements — perhaps even been motivated by their pursuit of success — and yet you see them experiencing a strange quasi-psychedelic meltdown in full public glare. It just does not add up. It is not just these metaphorical persons — resembling many real ones in all our lives, as it so happens — but hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis from all walks of life locked inside a massive groupthink spurred by sweeping generalisations dressed up as political narrative. No argument, no logic and no rationale — no, nothing makes sense, and nothing is acceptable or even worth considering if it does not gel perfectly with their preconceived notions.”

Hussain asks, “So why do such a large number of people believe what they believe even when overwhelming evidence points towards the opposite conclusion? In our context, this may be due in part to the visceral politicisation of the national discourse and the deep personal loathing of rivals that the PTI has injected into what should otherwise be a contest of ideas and ideologies. But the argument is only half done here. The other half is perhaps even more crucial — diagnosing why it has not delivered. It is here that Imran Khan goes off tangent. And he does so not just in terms of his solutions, but his own shockingly weak performance as the prime minister who had it all but could not do much with it. In fact, after nearly four years in power, and having precious little to show for them, Imran has for all practical purposes joined the long line of those who are, in fact, responsible for the sad reality that the system has not delivered.

In conclusion, Hussain notes, “In essence then, if Pakistani society wants to row itself back from this stage where the electorate is at war with itself on a battlefield littered with semi-truths, partial facts and outright lies, it will need to face up to a bitter fact: what we see unfolding in front of us is the contamination of decades of social and educational decay injected with deadly and potent steroids of propaganda, brainwashing and ‘otherisation’ of anyone who looks, speaks, acts or believes differently.”

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