James II in Pakistan: the future of the PTI


I wrote my previous post while Imran Khan was still the Prime Minister of Pakistan. Some of the predictions implied in the last section of that post have come true since then, and some readers have asked me to elaborate a few more points. I would like to begin by elaborating the comparison between Imran Khan and James II of England.

I have already mentioned the similarities which exist between the reigns of the two rulers. Let’s proceed to draw some lessons from the similarities that exist between how the two rulers behaved after losing power, and how their supporters reacted.

Refusal to accept the new government

After losing power in 1688, James lived for almost thirteen years until his death in 1701. Throughout those years, which he spent in exile, he never conceded that his removal was legitimate, and never gave up his dream of regaining the throne. His followers accepted his claims and his dream, and refused to accept the new monarchs, William and Mary.

We are witnessing the same phenomenon in Pakistan. The close associates of Imran Khan and many of his followers continue to call him their “Prime Minister”, while refusing to accept the new government. Their hopes of returning to power also remain as high as those of James II and his supporters in the months after his abdication.

In Britain, some officials refused to take the oath of allegiance to the new monarchs, thus becoming known as the “non-jurors” (literally, those who refused to take oaths). In Pakistan, we have witnessed similar scenes. To mention just a few examples, the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly (both belonging to the PTI), resigned instead of supervising the vote of no-confidence against their leader, and subsequently even the President of the country, a senior member of the PTI, excused himself (although on “medical grounds”) from administering the oath to the new Prime Minister.

The Jacobite Revolts

The refusal of the supporters of James to accept the new government led to hostility and bloodshed at least in three important manners.

Firstly, there were many battles between the British government and the supporters of James, who were called the Jacobite (from Jacobus, the Latin version of “James”). These included the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 where the Jacobite were led by James himself, and the Battle of Culloden in 1745, where the rebels were led by the eldest son of James. Only time will tell whether the rift between the supporters of Imran’s PTI and the new government in Pakistan can also go to the extent of full-scale conflicts, but the signs so far have been quite disturbing.

Secondly, the revolts spilled over to the British territories in North America, directly or indirectly prompting the Boston Revolt and the Leisler’s Rebellion in 1689. In the case of Pakistan, the supporters of Imran have also carried their protests abroad, not only restricting themselves to organized demonstrations in London but also taking to unruly behaviour in Madinah.

Thirdly, separatist movements had existed in Scotland and Ireland. Although James II did not support these movements while he was on the throne, his Jacobite followers in Ireland and Scotland soon associated themselves with the separatist movements in those lands. Likewise, in Pakistan, there have long been separatist movements in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (formerly NWFP) and Balochistan. We cannot say if the movement for the support of Imran Khan will also end up providing fuel to separatism, but Imran Khan has stated it more than once in the last two months that Pakistan would already have broken up into three pieces if the army had not been keeping it together.

The divine right to rule

The supporters of James II believed in the Divine Right of kings, and this is why they maintained that the Parliament did not have the authority to remove their monarch. The stance adopted by the supporters of Imran is practically the same, notwithstanding any difference in theory. Their various claims and demands amount to saying that neither the Parliament nor a court of law, nor the voters of Pakistan, have the right to pass any judgement against Imran Khan.

It is true that the PTI is currently demanding election on the plea that their opponents, who hold majority in the parliament, have become “traitors” and will therefore lose the next election, which will prove that they were guilty as charged. However, the PTI has also made it quite clear that the opposite results in the next election would not mean vindication of its opponents.

Hence, the real demand of the supporters of Imran is that he must rule, regardless of how many charges of personal or political corruption are proven against him, whether he loses an election or wins it, and irrespective of any judgment passed against him by a court of law or the parliament. This is the substance of the Divine Right to rule, minus the dogmatic underpinnings of the theory.

Implications for the future

The Jacobite trouble continued in Britain for almost a century, but the British nation survived it and came out stronger. The dangers for Pakistan might be more severe, due to a number of factors. The factor most relevant here is that while the Jacobite knew what they wanted, the supporters of the PTI do not.

The supporters of James knew that they were upholding the dogma of the Divine Right of Kings. The supporters of the PTI do not know this. Therefore, it is unlikely that their revolt should last as long as the Jacobite resistance lasted in Britain.

Since the revolt of the PTI is fuelled by lack of awareness, it can only yield one of the two outcomes. The first possible outcome is that this revolt will endanger the very existence of the country within the next four years. This appears to be the natural course of things at the moment because, in the words of Rumi, “Every nation which perished before you has perished because it mistook one thing for another.”

The second possible outcome is that this revolt may fizzle out if true awareness comes in time. Most of the ordinary supporters of the PTI are drawn towards Imran Khan primarily because they want to get rid of the corrupt dynastic rulers who have long been playing with the destiny of this nation. What needs to be known is that Jinnah, the founder of our nation, also faced the challenge of putting such politicians in their place as soon as he started his mission of uniting the nation in 1936. He succeeded in less than four years. This was because of the method he used.

The method of Jinnah was to revive the national organization of the Muslim of the Subcontinent, the All-India Muslim League. By doing this, he provided a common political platform where the entire nation could unite, and the power of the corrupt politicians began to fade in front of the unity of the nation.

Today, it is possible for us, the ordinary citizens, to revive the same national organization, just as Jinnah did. In fact it can be much easier for us to do it than it was for Jinnah: we can do it through the social media. We can revive the national organization as a “virtual reality”, and its revival in the physical world will follow automatically.

Before discussing this in further detail, let’s compare the present rulers of Pakistan with William and Mary, the successors of James II in England. This will be the topic of the next post.

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