What he cannot be faulted for is at least trying
It certainly helps that Imran Khan has had a distinguished cricket career and that his swansong was winning the World Cup in a ‘boy-on-the-burning-deck’ avatar.
The feat was like a fairytale rooted in one man’s belief to perform the mission impossible against all odds and its 21st anniversary last week would certainly have rekindled the fire as was evident at the rousing, if rain-drenched, National Day rally.
Where cricket has helped Pakistan’s greatest captain is in doing the hard yards at 60 and keeping himself fresh: he still maintains physical fitness by workout and despite often falling short of required sleep or even happy meal hours thanks to unbearable demands placed by his party, he even keeps a steady stream of tweets going out on an average day — he has the highest number of followers for any Pakistani.
It also works in his favour that he has tremendous self-belief — borne out of previous career or life-changing events when detractors laughed off his ambition(s) and he proved them wrong almost more often than not.
In short, it is a bio well told to bear repetition.
But his perseverance in guiding the PTI into a viable alternative entity against all odds and significantly, in defiance of established electoral politics in Pakistan deserves some credit.
Last week he pressed home around 80,000 office bearers who were directly elected by the members of PTI in an unprecedented, if long drawn out, intra-party polls, which were, again, deemed impossible by naysayers.
The exercise was also reckoned to be counterproductive since it would bring fissures to the fore, resulting in disgruntled elements, especially those at the losing end, who would then switch party loyalty.
In fact, Khan was seen as naïve to indulge in an exercise, that as well as virtually taking him into political hibernation while his rivals lapped up fair weather friends and forged alliances, was pregnant with the potential to disintegrate the party.
However, what has happened is that despite the bickering and the odd desertion, PTI has rung a paradigm shift in how even ordinary people — including a village tailor — have been able to canvass and become office bearers on the strength of popular vote.
The detractors are now struggling to explain the dénouement even as the party has survived dire predictions to sustain itself. Potential voters are bound to note this stark difference in how the PTI and the two mainstream parties — the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) — run the show. The PPP and PML-N have a strong dynastic make-up and it is well nigh inconceivable for them to pitch-fork a raw party worker for a parliamentary seat.
PTI’s National Day outing was its first major show of force after a nearly five-month hiatus thanks to the intra-party polls during which critics had begun to wonder if its tremolo had waned to the effect that it was no longer a major player.
But the road show has firmly put that speculation to rest. It was also the first public rally by any party after the announcement of the election date of May 11, and coming in the stronghold of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N, which is widely favoured in a slew of opinion polls to win the next elections, it is bound to set the stage alight.
The PTI’s comeback weeks away from the election will certainly ignite the passion of its workers who are fresh from the net practice of having gone through an extensive intra-party poll exercise. In the past, the lack of experience was a major chink.
However, much as the average PTI activist or supporter believes, the party is far from having acquired the ability and capacity to “sweep” the polls — which its leader continues to harp on (more likely a studied tactic to keep the morale of party hopefuls high).
While the PTI is generally assumed to have been able to force swathes of urban-based population particularly in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provinces to think along the lines of giving it a chance against the status quo parties, its singular failure has been to hit the straps in rural Pakistan, where over 60 per cent of voters reside.
Perhaps, PTI has been hemmed in by the fact that rural Pakistan is still dominated by clan politics and financial/administrative muscle and that voting here is not driven by any notion of change. But this should not have been a deterrent, only a motivator, to try to nudge the rural folks however difficult.
But it seems, like other contenders, the PTI, too, has concentrated its math on the 148 National Assembly seats on offer from Punjab — the corollary being that whoever controls Punjab is more than likely to claim a stake at the Centre, too.
Perhaps, if the PTI had taken the intra-party poll drive to the rural areas right after its game-changing October rally in Lahore in 2011, it would have built enough momentum to rise as a truly national force by now. Currently, it has no support base in interior Sindh or Balochistan.
Having said that, it is refreshing at times like these to have a status quo challenger who is at least walking the talk as was evident in some of the promises he made his compatriots.
These may have seemed simple — the one about never lying with the nation even naïve to the wise heads of Pakistani politics — but when was the last time a Pakistani politician even made a trite attempt to establish a relationship with the awam?
The writer is Editor Pique Magazine based in Islamabad. He can be reached at [email protected]
The PTI is looking to change a corrupt political culture which is so deeply embedded that it cant be changed overnight. All kudos to the PTI for trying, we know they are not going to succeed, as the people of Pakistan are corrupt and they will vote for corrupt politicans but unlike the PPP and PML they are patriots and care for the country. Not a single member of the PPP and PML has or ever will care for Pakistan.
Yes they will BC they will clean sweep and naya pakistan will be born. Pmln ppp will no longer exist, no longer get any votes, no longer have any supporters!
A nice article. PTI is certainly fighting against all odds and against all the Status Quo forces. Their victory is a prerequisite for a NEW PAKISTAN
Can he keep the promise? Better, still, will he make it to deliver on his promise?, Jonaid Iqbal, Islmabad
@ Jonaid Bhai. He is the only one who kept all his promise since the days of his Cricket career. If you are talking about Nawaz Sharif or Asif Ali Zardari than you question is appropriate. Imran Khan has only elevated our’s and your Status in the world by accomplishing feats of impossibility. Let’s support honest leadership once in our live to accomplish what this country was establish for Faith, Unity and Perseverance.
Nice job, it
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