Imran Khan broke into the Red Zone and took his party up to the front of parliament house in Islamabad on August 19, saying that if Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif didn’t resign he would take his several thousand followers to the prime minister’s house and drag him out “by his neck”. His agitation was hinged on the accusation that the 2013 elections, which brought Sharif’s party to power, had been rigged.
First he had wanted the tainted constituencies investigated, now he wanted the prime minister to go. He also knew that Sharif had fallen out with the army. He charged him with endless corruption, claiming that politicians had taken a sum of $200 billion out of the country. The Old Testament came to the rescue.
Imran Khan said, “We will free Pakistan of pharaohs”. The Dawn wrote: “The image of a righteous Prophet Moses (Musa) dethroning a wicked firaun (pharaoh) has often been employed before. It was perfectly effective during Iran’s Islamic Revolution. A poster of Ayatollah Khomeini, in the role of Musa dethroning Mohammad Reza, the last shah of Iran, cast in the role of pharaoh. Hosni Mubarak, the erstwhile strongman of Egypt, was also termed by his opponents as a modern pharaoh.”
Tahirul Qadri, leading another mob assaulting Islamabad, was more detailed, given his religious scholarship. He quoted the Quran in Arabic and then translated the divine message as ordering the two prophet-brothers, Aaron (Haroon) and Moses, to attack the palace of the Egyptian pharaoh. Strictly separated so far, the two cult leaders had brooked no dilution of their charisma. Now they became “brothers” challenging Nawaz Sharif, the pharaoh of Pakistan. Qadri, nursing an old feud with him, knew Sharif had fallen out with the army. Khan was more amateurish in his scriptural expertise. He quoted Ali, the fourth caliph, on corrupt Muslim states that collapse and honest infidel ones that don’t. People could collar the third caliph, Usman, in the street and question his acquisition of a new shirt when the common man went without one. The ideal (city) state was an Athens of Islam, with utopian “participatory democracy” in place, “justice coming to their doorstep”.
Khan carelessly said he was influenced by “Mahatma Gandhi”, but a more canny Qadri stayed clear of such references. Instead of the shower of praise he had expected, Khan got a heavy dose of textbook nationalism by the media, which looks at Gandhi as the villain who dared oppose Jinnah, the father of the nation. Qadri was ideologically correct and stayed away from Khan’s next “extra-Islamic” reference to civil disobedience too. The irony was that, whereas Khan’s party had been represented in parliament, Qadri was an outsider to democracy, a scholar continued…