Asad Ali

In the late 19th century there was a major union organization, the ‘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 the political and economic environment of the society. Populism is no longer just a concept of history; it has gained significant momentum in the 21st century.

The rising concept of populism across the world is massively damaging the world’s diplomatic, cultural, political, and economic norms.

Populist leaders tried to grab the sympathies of the masses by giving them fake hopes, based on the idealist approach. When they come to power through a populist mandate, they fail to deliver on economic and political fronts, triggering economic woes for a country.

A recent example of this mandate is Indian Prime Minister Modi, who won India’s Lok Sabha elections in 2014 and again in 2019 with a landslide victory over Congress.

During his election campaign, Modi massively highlighted his economic achievements during his tenure as Chief Minister of the state of Gujarat. He promised to implement that economic model throughout the country to the uplift 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 an economic to a strategic front, which also brought shame to India. He used the famous line “Chokidar Kon Hai?” (Who is the Guard?)

Likewise, former US President Trump is another precedent of populism and its negative consequences for democratic values across the globe. Trump won the 2016 US elections and surprisingly became President of the world’s most powerful country.

Since he was a nationalist and won the elections through a populist vote bank, his policies had negative repercussions not only for the US but the entire world as well.

Due to his policies, the international community refused to obey American policies regarding global issues. He also brought the US to the cusp of full-scale war with Iran and North Korea.

So, the trend of populism is purely disastrous for the global political and economic world order.

Now, let’s talk about another aspect of the populist vote bank. Former Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan has been using the same populist approach to target his country’s political, judicial, and military leadership in order to accomplish his political objectives.

As Modi brought the security paradigm to his populist approach for political point scoring, Imran Khan came up with a narrative of a US conspiracy to topple his government.

Imran Khan won the 2018 general elections with a promise to eradicate corruption, make the country economically strong, and govern the state on the model of the State of Madina. 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 society. So, this is a negative side of populist leaders. They came with a majority, having no plan for the betterment of the 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 make statements, and then they themselves negate them. For example, Imran Khan is known as the master of U-turns 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 as PM, he accused them of being behind his ouster on mere flimsy grounds. He blamed Army but failed to present even a single piece of evidence to prove his claim.

During Nawaz Sharif’s tenure, he said “Modi ka jo yar ha, Ghadar hai” (whoever is a friend of Modi is a traitor). Likewise, he publically acknowledged Modi for foreign policies. Regarding corruption, he had promised the eradication of corrupt elements from the society but again couldn’t accomplish it as well.

His own ministers were involved in corruption scandals. During his tenure as PM, Pakistan’s ranking further slipped in the international corruption index. His hypocritical approach is being viewed as a threat to national interests.

It is pertinent to mention here that leaders always lead from the front and with examples. The irony is that Imran Khan is a man of contradictory statements. His own kids are living a luxurious life in Western culture.

Imran spent half of his life in Western culture. But at the same time, he is pushing for Islamic social, cultural, and political values. Unfortunately, he is also using the religious card for his political gains.

Imran Khan is trying to become a leader of the 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 the country’s institutions and not 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 an Islamabad-based analyst

*The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not necessarily represent the policy of the institutions.  

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