Imran has initiated his campaign for change, an end to corruption and a clean and efficient administration at a highly opportune moment. Both PPP and PML(N) are fast losing popularity and they very well know it. With a two party system in place, what both the PPP and PML(N) are banking upon is that the other side might turn out to be more unpopular. The PPP has tried to bolster its electoral position through alliances while the PML(N) is belatedly trying to follow suit.
A number of questions however remain unanswered. Can Imran emerge as a power capable of defying the scheme created by a two party system where a relatively less unpopular party is bound to form the government? Will Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf be able to emerge as a party capable of replacing the two major parties?
Will Imran be able to realise the ideals of revolutionary change with the type of the team that he intends to bring into the electoral field? Will his avowed 1,000 candidates create a clean set up, an efficient government and eradicate the rampant corruption prevailing in every state institution and government department?
Will Imran be able to form a government of his own by winning a majority of seats in the National Assembly or will he make alliances? In case of failing to get a majority, will he be able to resist of lure of power through the all too common wheeling dealing?
Imran often refers admiringly to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto who formed the PPP in December 1987, jumped headlong into the anti-Ayub movement and a year later gave tickets to several unknown candidates, popularly known as electric poles, and got them elected. Among other things that stand in Imran’s way is the absence of a political agenda that can attract vast majority of the masses.
The four point programme announced by the PPP at its formation – Islam is our faith, Democracy is our politics, Socialism is our economy and All Power to the People – resonated with the majority of population. Soon followed a detailed election manifesto promising land reforms, housing for the landless in rural areas, reform in labour laws and details of how to provide jobs to the unemployed. The agenda was reflected in the slogan “Roti, kapra aur makan” which got immediate currency. Habib Jalib’s poem castigating the 20 families of the super rich became a hit song during the elections.
The promise to turn the Thar coal reserves into energy to remove the shortages and fend for the next many decades or of bringing back the looted wealth to Pakistan to make it prosperous attract only a small section of the people. Imran Khan has yet to present a detailed and workable programme for the lower middle and working classes and the urban and rural poor. As things stand, the programme has little relevance for the millions of poverty stricken landless masses. Again, Imran’s programme l has no appeal for the smaller provinces where people continue to suffer from an acute sense of deprivation.
Unless, Imran uncovers a detailed election manifesto which relates to the concerns of the common man like poverty, lack of medical cover and cheap and quality education, and inflation and widespread unemployment, he will fail to attract the masses either for a movement or for voting him to power. His appeal would thus remain limited to the important but relatively miniscule section of the urban middle class which thronged his public meeting at Minar-e-Pakistan and where there was no more than a mere smattering of, to borrow the term from the Occupy the Wall Street protestors, the 99 percent.
But can he implement a pro-people manifesto with the type of team he is gathering around him. During the past by-elections, Imran displayed little hesitation in adopting political castaways or scions of families who have been a part and parcel of the corrupt system he has vowed to end.
He continues to welcome turncoats from the PPP, PML(N) and PML(Q), even those known for corruption of all sorts. How many will get themselves cleansed of the muck in which they have revelled for years and decades? How many will work for the change he has promised instead of working for themselves? He can maintain that the end justifies the means. But is he aware that means sometime start determining the end itself?
Imran’s dilemma is that the change he envisages has to be brought through elections. Elections need an efficient countrywide organisational machinery. If one doesn’t have it, as is the case with Imran, one will have to rely on undependable allies.
In case there is no party network in the provinces, as is presently the case with the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI), Imran would have to look for winnable candidates with enough clout and sufficient resources. In case he recruits the rural and urban elite, they would bring the traditional culture of corruption, cronyism, misuse of authority and inefficiency with them.
The writer is a former academic and a political analyst.