The fluid imperial script

The media and our parliamentarians have bombarded us with stories about this script or that lately. Unfortunately, much of that talk serves as blinkers to stop us from seeing the larger picture. Amidst all the fuss about scripts that are either purposely fabricated distractions or, at best, about less significant side-shows, nobody wants to talk about the full-length horror story that is the imperial script.
Listening to our opinion leaders, it would seem that the empire itself doesn’t exist, let alone a script to achieve its greedy global goals. They are the ones who throw up their hands and curl up their dismissive noses, blaming us for not taking the responsibility of our failures and for inventing external factors to hang all our troubles on. They’d like us to ignore the blood-soaked fingers of the empire in almost everyone’s pie.
Round and round they go, talking endlessly about fantastic plans featuring unlikely partners. Even if some grains of truth are found in one conspiracy theory about some script, or in another one about some other, these scattered grains are of no use, obscured as they are by the dirt flying in all directions. In any case, the partial truths about sub-plots are meaningless without any reference to the larger drama unfolding at a great speed and threatening to consume everything in distractions, chaos and violence.
Internationally, the newest bogeyman in this horrid drama is the ISIS, a ready reason for the US to bomb Iraq again and to include Syria in its bombing list. Like other ‘Islamic’ terrorist groups in Libya and Afghanistan that the empire spawned and nurtured, directly and through its royal Middle-Eastern proxies, the ISIS provides it the convenient excuse to attack and occupy countries on the pretext of saving them. The scary thing is that these barbaric hordes are no frankensteins gone out of control. As Glenn Greenwald says, “Continuously creating and strengthening enemies is a feature, not a bug. It is what justifies the ongoing greasing of the profitable and power-vesting machine of Endless War.”
Broadly speaking, divide and rule is still the name of the imperial game. The empire craftily exacerbates and fuels divisive identities within polities, be they tribal or ethnic, sub-national or neo-fascist. In Muslim countries, sectarianism is the empire’s favorite tool. Intolerant terrorist brands have been brewed up and dangerously equipped in collaboration with Arab kingdoms to give impetus to sectarian violence. It wasn’t by chance that the post-Saddam politics in Iraq was fashioned by the empire on Shia-Sunni lines. The empire would like all politics in Muslim countries to be understood in a sectarian framework, and that’s why the imperial narrative is awash with little else. The idea is to create conflict around sectarian identities and raise it to such a pitch that it drowns out all other political currents.
After enumerating a list of proxy conflicts in Syria, As’ad AbuKhalil writing in Alakhbar English says, “These proxy conflicts now determine the course of events in Syria and the Syrian people themselves, on either sides of the conflict, have very little control over them. The slogans that are being raised by both sides of the conflict merely serve to rationalize the policies and decisions of external patrons.” It is no longer about the aspirations of the Syrian people for a more democratic society. It’s about Salafis, Shias, Alawites and what not.
To my mind, with or without hidden hands behind him, Imran Khan’s PTI represents a political awakening demanding a system that is closer to democratic ideals. It challenges divisive identities and talks about uniting Pakistani citizens for their democratic rights. Whatever its shortcomings of leadership and strategy, it is a positive factor that addresses problems central to our democracy project. And it has the potential to push the polity in the right direction. Now that would upset the imperial script, won’t it? Planting its corporate pawns within the PTI to ensure that the party doesn’t rock the boat too hard was obviously not enough. Hence the need for the parallel show of Tahirul Qadri.
Sympathy for the poor misled people at his dharna should not cloud our perception about the self-styled sheikhul Islam and the danger that he poses. Like other imperial agents of chaos, he has latched on to popular issues and laced them with violent utopian rhetoric. Last time, it was only the PTI slogans that it borrowed from. This time, he has shadowed the party’s campaign on the ground as well, scheduling his protests to coincide with PTI besides shamelessly copying the party’s vision and rhetoric. It is a pity that instead of categorically distancing his campaign from the shenanigans of the shifty cleric, Imran Khan is seen to be inching closer to a monster created to diminish him.
Theories about countering the intolerant Saudi-sponsored sectarian brands with Tahirul Qadri’s ‘moderate’ Islam surfaced when he came last time to bring the house down. And once again, there’s talk about the evolution of the Shia-Barelvi axis around him. Sectarian groups like the Sunni Ittehad Council and Majlis-e-Wahdatul Muslimeen share the stage with him, poised to provide the sectarian fireworks when needed and push the political debate within a manufactured sectarian framework.
The script being written in real-time by the empire is actually quite fluid. Like a long-running serial, it introduces and drops characters. It adapts the scenes, adds or deletes them. It pulls characters this way or that without mathematical clarity about where they will finally end up. The duration and twists and turns are all flexible. The only thing fixed is the ending, and the entire exercise is directed to eventually reach the planned end under all circumstances. For us, that involves drowning genuine political issues in a flood of sectarian mayhem.
Our opinion leaders, in the media and the parliament, don’t talk about the larger imperial script because they are trapped within the framework of the imperial narrative. If they step out just a wee little bit, they might realize that the script most worthy of their attention is the one being written in real-time by the empire.

 The writer is a freelance columnist.

The writer is a freelance columnist. He can be contacted at

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