There is a meme doing the rounds on social media, one that many middle class and upper middle class Pakistanis proudly put up on social media. It goes something like this: “What hurts most as a Pakistani? When you see an educated and mature person supporting this man”. The man in the meme is none other than our incumbent Prime Minister of PML-N fame, Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif. There are very good reasons for people to share the meme, our PM doesn’t have the best of track records when it comes to governance. There seems to be a bigger push towards investing in physical infrastructure such as signal free corridors, making highways within major cities, propping up bridges and not spending enough on education. Likewise, our state is still not the economic powerhouse that was promised to us, job creation isn’t as high as it should be. Pakistan hasn’t solved the energy crisis in its entirety yet. The state seems to be fighting terror but not addressing the symptoms of terror, i.e., the extremist mindset that seems to have permeated all sections of Pakistani society. Corruption isn’t eradicated, many questions about financial irregularities have not been answered and perhaps never will be answered. Yet, this man has a loyal band of followers. The question arises, why?

Let us take a look at the alternatives, the previous PPP regime led by President Asif Zardari faced most of the same criticisms, governance was abysmal, the economy suffered, blackouts for the whole day in capital cities were not uncommon. Education, terrorism, extremist thought was not addressed adequately then too. Accusations of financial irregularities were just as common if not more. And yet, one is still inclined to vote for the PPP or the PML-N yet again. Yes, their records have not been the best but the third alternative is just plain scary.

Most of the people on my social media profiles who have put up the meme of PM Sharif are PTI supporters, lead by MNA Imran Khan. The PTI is the champion of the common man, except for the fact that it doesn’t seem to be. The PTI leader talks of being a progressive individual and most of his supporters will be quick to tell people that he went to Oxford, they will go on mention his philanthropy efforts and one cannot argue that these things are irrelevant. A cancer hospital in Lahore, a cancer hospital in Peshawar. A good Muslim who cares about others, he seems to be the embodiment of every good Muslim ideal. But is he? He seems to be against affirmative action for women by protesting reserved seats for women in a patriarchal country like Pakistan where women would not easily be able to win an election against men. This itself is just the tip of the iceberg regarding the “progressive ways” of Mr. Khan. This is a gentleman who has recently compared Osama Bin Laden to George Washington, has refused to condemn OBL by using the old hackneyed adage, “one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist”. This is a man who refused to condemn the Taliban by name, even after the massacre of hundreds of children in the Army Public School. This is a man who was against all efforts to fight the terrorists by calling them misguided individuals. This is a man who has supported the provincial KP PTI government’s decision to give the equivalent of almost $3 million to the privately owned terrorist factory known commonly known as the University of Jihad. His defence is that the millions of children study in these madrassas and should not be neglected. So rather than creating schools or improving schools in the region, its makes sense to gives a madrassa that itself does not have millions of students millions of dollars. By doing so, Mr. Khan and his party have condemned many of these Pakistani “students” to a life of fighting military men and condemned them to violent deaths.

So when PTI supporters put up their memes telling Pakistanis to wake up and support Imran Khan’s PTI for change, one can only be scared of what that change might be. So what is it that hurts non-PTI supporters? When one sees educated and mature Pakistanis supporting this man and his ultra-conservative-bordering-on-terrorism agenda.