- Michel Foucault’s Anatomo-Politics (also known as Biopolitics) is a concept that describes the relationship and combination of politics and life.
- In September 2020, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) united to overthrow Imran Khan’s government.
- Mr. Khan mobilized a large population across Pakistan due to his conspiracy theory, which he believed was a disrespect to the Pakistani public and their freedom.
- PDM undertook an act of deception by amending the laws of the NAB, exonerating themselves of corruption cases, garnering public wrath.
- Imran Khan and his parliamentarians resigned due to the new government’s lack of legitimacy, but what happened next speaks volumes about his imprudent strategy.
“Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas.”Joseph Stalin
The current political instability that has triggered a spree of hooliganism and unleashed mobsters to rampage on the streets made me write this article. Although I am busy as a beetle these days thanks to my upcoming exam, the seriousness of the situation merits a detailed response. In this article, I will first explain the fancy word given in the title, then apply it to the political culture of Pakistan through some precedence. Lastly, I will try to communicate what I think of the protests and demonstrations that have become the norm in Pakistan.
The term Anatomo-Politics (Also known as, Biopolitics) was introduced by Michel Foucault, and this fancy term holds immense depth, making it a complex concept. I will try to explain it in the most limpid way possible. Biopolitics is a concept that describes the relationship and combination of politics and life. It means their reciprocal impact on each other. Now here is one thing that should be kept in mind. The word “life” in the definition means a person, group, community, society, or nation, as a whole.
According to Foucault, the exercise of power has evolved with time. When we talk about power, John Locke comes to mind because he was the one who came up with the concept of legal authority or power. Foucault says that now power is not exercised in an overt “do and don’t” fashion. It is more subtle in modern society, or, in his words, rational society. People at the helm of affairs use different methods to control people that power normally does. Such people use techniques and devices, that are less manifested, to achieve certain ends, including incitement, provocation, marginalization, and all that jazz. For instance, inducing a virus to make their gigantic pharmaceutical business boom, or instigate a conflict to drive the expansion of their military industry. Thus, in modern societies, people are controlled through subtle narratives just to accomplish some ulterior motives.
After having discussed biopolitics, and I hope I did justice to it, we will now discuss what the political culture of Pakistan is. How the new governments obtain political mandates in the name of public welfare, but do the complete opposite when they get into power. To that end, I will not go into the historical facts; I will begin with the chaos that began just before the fall of Imran Khan in April 2022.
The Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), a hodgepodge of politically ambitious people, had gathered together in September 2020 to topple Imran Khan’s regime. Theoretically, they wanted to remove Imran Khan because he had caused inflation and a debt crisis owing to his feeble policies. To this end, they mobilized the general public and inundated them with long harangues and demagoguery every day. In reality, they wanted him removed because he was not cutting them some slack owing to their corruption and other malicious activities that they had been practising for three decades. Nevertheless, they succeeded in removing him eventually, in April 2022. On the day, Mr. Khan was removed, Maryam Nawaz, a Pakistani politician and the daughter of former Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif, stated that now the time has come to soothe the wounds of the poor Pakistanis. But they were only scratched.
After his removal, Mr. Khan mobilized an unprecedented and astronomical population across Pakistan. It so happened because Mr. Khan had broached a conspiracy theory that was highly fatuous and inane. Mr. Khan, with full premeditation, evoked poignancy and passion in public by associating his removal with American involvement. Pakistanis very easily fall for such gambits because of their maudlin sentimentalism. Furthermore, Mr. Khan, in his subsequent demonstrations and protests, broached his conspiracy theory coupled with an “Islamic touch” to make his audience emotional. He would purport that American involvement was a huge disrespect to the Pakistani public and their freedom, and the only redress to this affront is fresh elections. That was in the best interest of people of Pakistan. In reality, he was carried away by his arrogance and narcissism.
After having discussed the prevailing political culture of Pakistan, now we will discuss how Foucault’s biopolitics apply here.
As soon as PDM assumed power, the very first task they undertook was to amend the laws of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). By dint of that, they exonerated themselves of all the corruption cases and went scot-free. Thus, through this act of deception, they garnered public wrath, as it was flagrantly clear that they staged the entire drama of anti-government protests and demonstrations just to save themselves from penalties. They did not harbor any sympathetic sentiments regarding the depressed state of the public during Mr. Khan’s regime. Furthermore, what Mr. Khan did after his ouster also requires some deciphering.
At face value, Mr. Khan and all his parliamentarians resigned on the grounds that the new government lacked legitimacy. This step was espoused and supported by the die-hard partisans of Imran Khan’s soi-disant clairvoyance. But what happened next speaks volumes about his sophomoric and imprudent strategy. For instance, Mr. Khan’s party became the strongest opposition party in the history of Pakistan, occupying around 152 seats in the National Assembly. If he had stayed back and not resigned, then how could PDM have managed to make any amendments to the NAB laws? Furthermore, after the exposition of fissures between Imran Khan and Pervaiz Ilahi over the honor of General Bajwa, what compelled Imran Khan to not withdraw his support from Pervaiz Ilahi? Besides, when Shireen Mazari, Human Rights Minister during Imran Khan’s regime, claimed after Mr. Khan’s removal that they were about to introduce a law pertaining to the “missing persons”, but they were constricted by the “Powerful People”, why did they not resign or expose them? These are a couple of points to ponder.
All these examples underscore a common trend in Pakistani politics, wherein politicians leverage various issues to elicit public emotions and subsequently exploit them to further their political objectives. To accomplish this, they may use factors such as religion, ethnicity, nationalism, and all that jazz.
Now one may wonder, what actions should individuals take in such a situation? Previously, colonial forces controlled people through the “Divide and Rule’ strategy to weaken people’s unity that helped them the most in managing them. The same principle is being used to divide people that is leading to the attrition of public unity. It is my opinion that it would be more beneficial for individuals to unite with each other rather than aligning themselves with a specific political party. It is my strong conviction that a brighter future for our nation can only be achieved if we move beyond political partisanship and instead unite as a collective with a vested interest in the prosperity of our country. Unlike political leaders who may have alternative options, it is up to us to prioritize the well-being of our fellow citizens and work towards a more promising tomorrow. We need to understand that these politicians and “other” people in commanding positions are suckling on the tit of our good work. We pay for their luxuries by paying taxes out of our hard-earned wages, but we end up dancing to their tune, while they pull our strings.
“When the elephants fight, the grass gets trampled”An African Proverb