Those who have really no belief in religion, but identify it as a means to political power, are the most cynical in using it for their purposes. Unfortunately for them, they deceive nobody. One may recall the sudden religiosity of certain leaders just before the last general election and the absolute absence of it since then. They fool nobody but, given the opportunity, continue to persist with such practices in the belief that the people are gullible enough to be taken in. A similar hypocrisy can be seen among those who claim to be ‘secular’ in the sense of being ‘rational’ in their attitude towards religion – their political courage is visible only in their criticism of what might be described as ‘benign’ communities in liberal countries. This one-sided secularism naturally does tremendous harm to the genuine practice.
An emerging classic example of such politics can be seen in what former cricketer Imran Khan has been up to since becoming Prime Minister of Pakistan. The Pakistan Army, which could not tolerate the relatively independent-minded Nawaz Sharif, conspired with Islamists to bring Khan to power. Since then, he has been trying to establish his own power base among the Islamists to be less beholden to the Army. Since the Army will have none of that, he has swung like a pendulum between his newly found ‘religiosity’ and the muscle of the deep state. He has completely forgotten why he was popular among the people in the first place – the playboy cricketer whose early philanthropy made him a role model for the youth – and is desperately hoping his new avatar will be liked by the Maulvis enough to maintain an edge over the traditional parties that have lost support owing to their rampant corruption. This is a classic case of puritan reaction to the immorality of the elite.
Unlike India, where there exists a ‘conservative’ party like the BJP, which is comfortable with its grounding in religion, the ‘traditional’ culture of Muslim politics in Pakistan has been completely undercut by the fundamentalist Islam imported from Saudi Arabia, Iran and, strangely enough, Europe, particularly Britain. As a result, Pakistan is developing the schizophrenic personality so visible in Imran Khan’s behaviour. As things get progressively worse in the material world, the greater is the psychological escape into expectations from ‘jannat’. The Maulvis have for long sold that opium, now even the politicians are succumbing. Everybody knows what all this will ultimately lead to – the best case scenario being another Army coup. There is a lesson to be learnt in this for India’s rootless politicians – stay clear of fake religiosity – it won’t work any better than self-serving secularism has.