Ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif says that his competition isn’t with Imran Khan or Asif Ali Zardari but with ‘aliens’. Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, the man who replaced him, also echoed the same sentiments. Maryam Nawaz and ousted Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif have said the same as well.

As things stand Nawaz’s competition might indeed be with actual aliens who might be populating other parts of the Milky Way. For, they are as eligible to contest the upcoming general elections in Pakistan as Nawaz Sharif.

Of course, he has argued for the past nine months that this very lack of eligibility if owing to ‘his’ faceoff with the aliens. And while both he and those that consider him the supreme leader of the ruling party that continues to be named after him, have made it perfectly clear who these ‘aliens’ are – for those that needed such rudimentary clarifications – what they won’t discuss is that they aren’t the only aliens in the mix.

If ‘aliens’ is the barely concealing euphemism for interference in the democratic machinery, there are aliens everywhere – including within the foundation, and the forefront, of the same machinery.

Let’s start with the very basics. Regardless of the ruling party’s reservations with the Supreme Court’s verdicts that first ousted Nawaz Sharif and then declared him ineligible to even lead the party for life, the fact that the party is still being run under the Nawaz banner is pretty alien for a democratic party.

There is dynastic politics – and then there’s a party fixated with an individual, who can’t even wait for his folks to win the election and make the needed amendments to make him relevant again. No he can’t risk it.

Sounds pretty alien.

This is not even getting into the whole ‘oh look how leading politician X only became popular through sucking up to military dictator Y’, because that’s a never ending viscous circle. This is simply asking the flag-bearers of democracy, detached from their political origins, to stop acting like, well, aliens.

Another big alien in the mix is religion, whose violent reach was seen when Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal was shot in an assassination bid in Narowal.

How can any process self-identify has democratic, when it differentiates between the voters on the basis of religion?

This is not just limited to the derogatory separate voters list for Ahmadis – over which the Election Reforms Bill hoopla in October was founded, which resulted in the Faizabad dharna, which in turn led to the shots being fired in Narowal. There, of course, is the reality that anyone who’s not a Muslim cannot actually become the prime minister of Pakistan – continued failure to differentiate between majoritarianism and democracy.

Radical Islamist aliens.

How about the fact that 12 million women who are eligible to vote haven’t been registered because the ‘men’ who believe own them haven’t granted them permission. Couple this with Punjab law minister Rana Sanaullah’s brazenly misogynistic comments directed at the women who participated in the PTI rally – and his shameless refusal to apologise – and you know what you get?

Patriarchal, sexist aliens.

Following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the world has come to realise is that social media – which has been at the heart of most election campaigns around the world – is breeding a new kind of alien, by mating data theft with fake news.

So what is happening is the you – who mightn’t even be valuing their own data – are inadvertently being lured into siding with party X, Y or Z through Twitter bots and fake Facebook profiles that proliferate propaganda, all the while your online activity – and basic details – are being rented out to the highest bidder, so that they can sell a more streamlined version of that propaganda through online ads.

Hacking, stealing, digital aliens.

That’s when you realise that the upcoming elections aren’t pitting PML-N against the aliens – it’s aliens versus other aliens, all of whom claim to have the best interest of us ordinary humans at heart.

Fittingly this has coincided with the release of Avengers: Infinity Wars. Because, in Pakistan, this alien on alien war looks like going on till infinity.


The writer is a Lahore-based journalist.