I shudder at the thought of poor people now lining up for sajdas at shrines, believing that Imran Khan won because of his dargah visits.
As the official Pakistan election results came dripping in at an agonisingly slow pace, my well-informed friends began making arrangements to sell up and leave the land of pure.
I started receiving phone calls from outraged, passionate, democracy-loving analysts and Twitter celebs. My role became one of an agony aunt listening to their rants.
The most disturbing thing for me was the misuse of religion for politics in this election – much more than the selection of a man who I would not trust behind a steering wheel of a car, and more than the disturbing mix of political upstarts and ageing routine offenders who had ended up in parliament as a result of a movement to eliminate the Sharif surname.
My primary concern was religion and the unacceptable deviation from the foundation of our faith that the belief in the oneness of God. I had predicted it in lectures and also wrote about it in my book.
With the dawn of Naya Pakistan, we had slipped back into the dark ages.
Women on posters had become faceless — their husbands representing them in rallies and posters instead. And, the face of the first lady would remain hidden too. This was in stark contrast to the strong, modern visual of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) heir apparent Maryam Nawaz.
While weathered politicians across the board tried appeasing tactics, Maryam roared like a lioness in defiance. For the PML-N, it was a clear departure from its inception as a right-wing party created by Mard e Momin, Mard e Haq Zia. The change towards a progressive image was demonstrated by the Women Protection law in Punjab while strict punishment was accorded to those who murdered in the name of the blasphemy law.
Even before Imran was forced to reveal his third marriage, a new dangerous trend had taken root. To our horror, offensive and violent phrases against women were mainstreamed in public speeches by clerics like Khadim Rizvi.
I shudder at the thought of how many poor people would now be lining up for Sajdas at shrines, believing that this is how a politician can win the prize after 22 years of waiting. There would be a shortage of rose petals in the market and Aqeeq (quartz) would be classified as a precious stone because people would be desperate for a ring on their pinky.
My adherence to a simple Deobandi no-frills-attached faith had raised enough eyebrows for Imran to raise his voice on more than one occasion. On his birthday, when I got a Quran-khatm organised (a reading of the Quran), he got paranoid that others would find out about it and photos would be released.
The simple act of completing a recitation of Quran could enrage him because he would receive mysterious, disciplinary phone calls and emails. Strange, voodoo-style practices, on the other hand, were almost a weekly feature at his home — amulets with odd script and numericals spread all over, blind pirs performing prayers and blowing into the water as they muttered under their breath.
Such rituals are considered superstitions, and called bid’ah, which is not allowed in Islam. Practices like palmistry or future predictions (like the prediction about Imran coming to power) are against the core belief of Islam. It’s a relief that Imran says he will not live in the PM House in Islamabad, otherwise such rituals would have been commonplace there too.
So, while the sensible voices mourned the demise of democracy, I could see a much bigger problem. The intolerant, harsh, ritualistic, extremist label had been successfully achieved. We were already being called a failed state by even Bollywood actresses.
Yes, Imran got what he wanted but at the price of everything we held dear. As my 21-year-old daughter followed the race for power in dismay, she remarked, ‘ignorance is bliss, I wish my hope had not been taken away’.
Since the cricket hero has changed his sporting style, I am going to borrow from another FIFA 1966 World Cup Final. “They think it’s all over… it is now.”
Reham Khan is a journalist, child rights activist, and single parent in Pakistan. She authored ‘Reham Khan‘, an autobiography.