Kaptaan’s calling


PTI’s score may determine the post-poll math

It is a million dollar question: can Imran Khan pull off the impossible? On that equation may be riding the outcome of this election in more ways than one.

The claims of a “clean sweep” are akin to talk being cheap; so, in my humble submission, that is ruled out (even in cricket terminology). I suspect the Kaptaan indulges in his favourite prediction game only to keep his party’s morale on the necessary motivational keel, which is instructive, especially in a polity where the swing vote swings wildly towards the party projected to form the next government.

The “PTI factor” will play a crucial role in the make-or-break of the next government if it hits the straps. Here’s how: if the ‘party-for-change’ manages to win 35-40 National Assembly seats (reserved and minority seats included) and follows on its avowed decision to sit in the opposition by not breaking bread with either the PPP or the PML-N at the Centre, the big two status quo forces will be forced to join hands if neither wins a simple majority and/or has enough meat in terms of allies.

Such an eventuality would be a disaster-in-the-making given their recent history. There is such visceral acrimony between the PPP and PML-N that even if they were to somehow tide over the creases initially, it’s a cinch the probable coalition won’t last.

This sort of situation would be tailor-made for the PTI to make itself count — as the opposition, both in the short and long term. PML-N, presumably, would be more desperate than the PPP to form a coalition of the willing since the flock of Leaguers has historically been a fair weather friend. Also, the senior Sharif has been out of parliament for 14 years now; this is by all counts, his last big ticket to become prime minister. It will take a big heart for him to let the PPP and PTI form a coalition — even if highly improbable, and something that will take a brave man to wager on!

But that is still some distance away with lots of ifs and buts riding on it. Purely from the PTI’s perspective, if the rather fantastic clean sweep does not materialize and the party finds itself well short, the Kaptaan will have a situation on his hands. The young PTI hopefuls appear to have already taken the sweep for granted. A setback will require him to dig deep and hold the ship together.

However, there would still be positives to take home even if the PTI only manages to open a decent account.

The party’s arrival as a serious contender bodes well for Project Democracy. Imran Khan and his legion of young party cadres deserve credit for breaking the stranglehold that status quo forces had over the electorate, and perpetuating a system designed to keep the reins of power with them. There is now a choice of substance before the electorate.

The single biggest contribution that the PTI has made — and which is a change in itself regardless of there being immediate dividends or not — is in creating a magnetic field for the youth: now they can not only participate in politics as candidates but effectively, carve out a role that potentially enables them to become tomorrow’s decision-makers at the highest level.

That it has actually awarded 35pc of tickets to candidates below the age of 40 will give them a strong sense of self-belief and encourage them to invest in their — and hopefully, the country’s — future.

Holding intra-party polls is another feather in the cap. It has already drawn grudging recognition even from naysayers, some of whom had predicted the exercise would be a death blow to the party given how the system works. Surviving the odds has earned PTI a distinction no other party can boast of.

Fellow commentator Saleem Safi, who isn’t particularly enamoured of PTI’s calling or even direction made an interesting remark recently about its contribution to the political landscape, and how it will fare in the coming elections — the second part continues to vex every pundit worth his or her salt.

Safi said he didn’t know what PTI’s fate will be but it has done enough to “soften the rod in the neck” — to borrow the Urdu colloquial for arrogance — of the PML-N leadership, which used to haughtily shoo away politicians wanting to come under its shed, based on personal like or dislike.

In the same vein, he said the PTI’s rising graph particularly among the youth also made the PML-N realize “there was something like the youth, which exists” (sic). Giving a random survey of his own in Islamabad, Lahore and Peshawar, he said, the party appeared to be riding a crest of popular wave but that it had left him confused about the eventual outcome.

At the least, what is apparent is that the party will offer genuine opposition — in the parliament, for a change, and where it counts. In such an eventuality, it can use this time to build on its strengths and work out studiously on the loose ends.

The PTI as a potent opposition will keep the government on its toes, and have time on its hands to build pressure through all avenues available to push for one piece of legislation which is vital to its future: the right of vote for overseas Pakistanis — a major chunk of which it may have been robbed of because big parties were scared of being at the receiving end of such a vote at its expense.

Indeed, a prominent TV anchor had tipped me off before the lenient verdict came out that the court hearing was little more than an attempt at grandstanding to be on the right side of history. The fact is that the idea for granting voting rights was broached the first time three years ago but had been deliberately stalled by the conniving bureaucracy, the PPP government and, later, by the PML-N as a partner-in-crime by not legislating on it.

A turnout in excess of 50%, most analysts suggest, could still turn the tables for PTI. The trump card is perhaps, held by more than 10 million voters in the 18-25 age bracket, and more than 36 million registered voters with no previous baggage.

The writer is Editor Pique Magazine based in Islamabad. He can be reached at [email protected]


  1. Imran gives examples of leaders in the western world who quit politics on mere charges why Imran does not follow them? Does he meet article 62?

    • Does NS meet it, give the fact that he has laundered, looted national funds ? Does Zardari meet it with his endless corruption ? Does Maulana Diesel meet it with his famous kickback scheme ? Does Pir saab meet it with so many excesses on his hands ? Personal follies are way less harmful to the cause of a nation than these so called leaders who have committed sins against the public. Don't confuse sins with crimes. Imran might have sinned in his past but he certainly is not the 2nd rate criminal like our current national leaders.

      • Character is the most important thing required out of leaders; Remember the case of Clinton and Monica what happened? Leaders are role models and western democratic countries have a strict criteria in this regard; let me remind you a quote

        When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost.
        Billy Graham

  2. Kamran Sahib, in your view of things stated, Imran Khan will porbably settle with PPP for the coalition given its demonstrated animosity for PML(N).

  3. Kamran Sahib, you probably see, Imran Khan prpobably settling for coalition with PPP, given its demonstrated animosity for PML(N). But IK will probably win more than 30 seats. Opinion writers such as you have today come to the conslusion that PTI and PML are very good contenders in the Punjab

Comments are closed.