Illusion Not Freedom: Syed Farhan Ul Hassan 

During the recent years, Pakistan has witnessed significant changes in its political system, particularly under the leadership of Imran Khan, the Chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan and various other leaders of PTI gained unprecedented popularity that seemed inconceivable. The majority of PTI supporters was the young generation inclusive of college and university students, indicating that the current youth of Pakistan is tired of the stagnant political system and is inclined towards change.

However, the story isn’t over yet. Prior to the 2018 general elections, various youth organizations made an appearance across Pakistan (some of which were already working but gained momentum during this period). Those organizations seemingly worked to showcase the positive aspects of Pakistan to the world and engaged the youth on different social media platforms. They initiated hashtags and social media activities on various social issues on Facebook and Twitter. Gradually, they progressed from social media activism to promoting tourism in Pakistan. The Fifth Generation Warfare and its impact enlightened the youth, and different events were organized by almost every organization to condemn the Indian oppression and atrocities in Indian Occupied Kashmir.

The majority of the youth actively participated in the above-mentioned activities and events. However, during this period, one thing went unnoticed: in all these events (regardless of which organization organized the events or the topic they were based on), the guest speakers or chief guests were either exclusively from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) or predominantly associated with them. This could be a mere coincidence, but it could also suggest some form of government influence, particularly after the 2018 general elections (although I don’t have any concrete evidence, only circumstantial evidence).

Whether the event was related to any topic or organized by any organization, some prominent leaders from PTI would always be present as the chief guest or guest speakers.
These guests seemed to prioritize discussions on youth development or the situation in Indian Occupied Kashmir. Notable personalities affiliated with PTI, such as former federal and provincial ministers Ali Muhammad Khan, Shaheryar Khan Afridi, Simabia Tahir, and Farrukh Dal (former Assistant Attorney General and Chairman of Read Pakistan), were part of the always invited guest speakers. Consequently, a significant, albeit uncertain and largely unconscious, number of youngsters became infatuated with PTI, its leaders, and ultimately Imran Khan. It is said that love is blind, and the hearts of the youth were so captivated by this newfound love that they were willing to be pulled by its thread into the future they desired.

After the general elections in 2018, when the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government realized that the youth of Pakistan had developed a deep affection for Prime Minister Imran Khan and the PTI leaders, several officials from various government institutions, including the President of Pakistan Mr. Arif Alvi invited these youth organizations & their leaders and awarded then different official awards. During this time, PTI also embraced the idea of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) for future general elections. Some young individuals from these organizations were given government jobs, seemingly working as social media advisors to the Pakistan government (Both in Federal & Provincial Governments), but they were actually serving as social media advisors to PTI, which was apparent to everyone.
Then, in the first half of 2021, there was a noticeable decrease in activities and events related to these organizations.

However, the passion of the youth who had fallen in love with Pakistan and its flag, particularly Imran Khan and PTI, did not diminish. Consequently, in the last few months of the previous government’s tenure, certain unknown individuals were seen instilling fear in people by using some unknown incidents. Subsequently, when Imran Khan’s government ended in early 2022, Pakistan witnessed major protests where, although there seemed to be no central figure from PTI, a wave of youth flooded every city of the country as if it had rained enthusiasm.

The time had come for reaping the benefits of investment, but perhaps Imran Khan and his associates never considered the benefits they were reaping in terms of political interests. The new government and state institutions appeared helpless in front of Imran Khan, while his popularity continued to grow with each passing day. Time went by, and almost a year later, when Imran Khan was arrested from Islamabad High Court, Pakistan witnessed the most intense and terrifying protests in its history. The army’s vehicles, breaking away from the usual protocol, would stop, and the soldiers, dressed in their official attire, would step out of the vehicles and threatened by the protesters. They even attacked them. The official residence of the Lahore Corps Commander was also attacked.

However, this was the turning point where the story took a new twist, and Imran Khan, along with the leadership of PTI, realized that the situation was no longer under their control. Nevertheless, they continued to adhere to their anti-government rhetoric in public and, at the same time, engaged in negotiations with the same government they had refused to acknowledge until a few days ago.

However, Imran Khan had forgotten in all of this that politics of confrontation with the state is neither so easy, nor is it acceptable in any way. So far, in response to Imran Khan’s fiery speeches, the government institutions, which were almost silent, have left the path of patience, and now everything that is happening is in front of all of you. A year ago, Imran Khan, who cried about the “American conspiracy” at the end of his government, is now filing complaints to American government officials against the behavior of Pakistani institutions and the government, and the likes of Khalilzad, an Afghan-American government official, are formally representing Imran Khan.

But those who are blindly in love with Imran Khan have become so blind in their love that even after seeing all this, they are still saying “We don’t believe it.” However, there has been a benefit from the events of the past few days, and that is that the storm of indecency that has been going on on social media for the past decade has diminished, if not entirely. And the people who thought they were untouchable were not only touched but also had their ego shattered, and most of them regained their senses.

In my personal opinion, there were a few officers in our institutions, Imran Khan and the leadership of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf never wished to do all this that has happened. They were only gathering their forces to bring victory in the next general elections. But suddenly, when they lost power, they were engulfed in frustration, and they not only left no stone unturned to darken their own future but also darkened the future of a large number of youth. Now, the future of that youth who was involved in attacks on government installations and were maliciously criticizing state institutions on social media has become a big question mark that cannot be erased by any answer. And a few months later, the young generation who chanted slogans of “Real Freedom” will realize that the incident in which their future was darkened was not the result of a real struggle for freedom but a deception of “Pretend Freedom” in which a knife was put on their jugular veins and which has been bleeding for many years. May Allah be our adherer and helper, Ameen.