With the ascent to the container, we saw Imran Khan acquiring the stature of an esteemed leader inspiring millions of devotees who believed in his power to change the fate of the country. That sit-in of 124 days, introduced not just a sweeping change in the climate of Pakistani politics but also was to warn us about the emerging trend of cult-notion. In those years, Imran khan turned into an infallible leader mobilising a blinded flock, who believed and defended even his most ridiculous statements. Hereafter, opposite forces started calling them a cult, a period when we were being acquainted with the danger of cult.
Having observed PTI for two years, however, I am here to doubt the perception of a cult associated with PTI. In these two years, we saw PTI striding with a sort of fluctuations in their stance. Every time, Imran Khan made a decision -obviously one that stands poles apart from his original promises- his followers came out with varying feedback, ranging from complete denial to an unfortunate condemnation; an air of confusion to defend or decry, pursued. But wait! Isn’t this particular attitude inclusive to the followers or defines every party in Pakistan? Well, PPP, PMLN, JUI or any other party are not so different when it comes to defending the gaffes of their leaders or defends the wrong of their parties altogether. Additionally, there are followers within the cadres, who would use logic and reason distancing themselves from the wrong of their leader or party. Obviously, I have seen a lot of followers, taking a high road and acknowledging their wrong. CULT, on the other hand, holds quite a different approach when it comes to using critical thinking.
Imran khan turned into an infallible leader mobilising a blinded flock, who believed and defended even his most ridiculous statements. Hereafter, opposite forces started calling them a cult.
Before labelling some groups to be cult, first, let’s define a cult. As per Merriam Webster, Cult, sharing origin with culture and cultivation, stems from the Latin cultus, a noun with meanings ranging from “tilling, cultivation” to “training or education” to “adoration”. In simple words, It’s a community of people with a shared commitment to usually a radical doctrine, uniting them under the umbrella of a charismatic leader. The three most common features of any cult are, (Read about Jim Jones for further information)
-A charismatic leader who is lifted to the level of deity, a subject of worship immune to any accountability. Every word of the leader is considered to be of the supreme importance with no tolerance for a question or objection.
-The process of indoctrination. A lofty sense of adherence is installed with the perpetual use of influence and control. People are cheered to join the group but are intimidated from leaving it.
-And the exploitation (Physically, sexually and financially) of the devotees for the sake of leader. Followers are persuaded to keep the leader above everything and renounce their own needs. They are encouraged to pay with their physical and financial resources just to serve the cause of the leader.
Some of the other features include an extreme level of commitment towards the cause of the group, to be wary of outside the evil world, and to discourage the out-of-the-box deliberation. Then, we see almost every religion with some degree of a cult-mindset? No? In the name of blasphemy, we have seen a child chopping off his own hand to purge the sacrilege that he allegedly committed. Or the custodian of a mosque murdering his 20 devotees in the name of ” cleansing”. Or a teen stabbing his own teacher for alleged blasphemy. Or a Tantrik encouraging people to sacrifice children to purify an evil-shadow from their lives. Despite the arguments, to be honest, I am not here to talk about the religious cult, they have been here for long and will continue to prevail, we can not do anything about it, but here is another cult forming the mould of a religious cult.
Besides, banking on a charismatic leader, rendering an extreme level of commitment towards the cause of the group, to be wary of outside the evil world, cults also discourage the out-of-the-box deliberation.
There is little denying that the Army has always been an esteemed institution that maintained a good reputation in Pakistan but recently it has grown into a kind of religious cult. An institution that can not be pointed finger at, otherwise, it takes the state of blasphemy. With widespread Internet communication, nowadays, cults don’t need a physical space to attract and inspire their followers. The space to communicate is everywhere, at the fingertips of everyone. Simply open social media and BOOM, you are the victim of the cult-mindset. From dog-whistling to organized trends, we have seen specific people claiming the space of social media and cornering the people who oppose their views. The difference here, however, is a violent and extremely destructive position of the followers of the army. From defaming with objectionable stories to terrorizing people of enforced disappearance to killing at the spot, the cult wants to protect the name of its leader at the expense of anything. From a paid blogger to highly qualified volunteer, the mechanism of intimidation is not so different. We all are cognizant of the level of corruption they did to serve their interests, the incompetency to focus their own job while meddling in politics, well, it takes a little courage to acknowledge them, still, the cult-mindset demands us a blind eye to overlook their blunders. Whether it’s Qamar Bajwa or Asim Saleem Bajwa, the level of commitment for their cause doesn’t appear wavering. Yes, the political parties do display some level of indoctrination but turning that indoctrination into a cult appears to be the handy job of the power that be.