The just concluded first phase of LB polls and their results, especially in Punjab, have proved beyond any iota of doubt that PML-N has a very strong support at the grass-root level and the mandate given to it in the 2013 General Elections was genuine and authentic. The rout of PTI in Lahore particularly constitutes the biggest ever snub for Imran Khan’s brand of politics. Those who subscribed to the view including Imran Khan that the loss by a narrow margin for the party in NA-122 and winning the provincial seat, indicated growing popularity of PTI and Lahore was likely to become a PTI fortress, were terribly wrong. The voting pattern in other phases, according to experts and political analysts, is also likely to confirm this ultimate reality. The results of the Cantonment Board Elections and all the by-elections for NA seats held recently also have established the ascendency of the ruling party.
It was really amazing to see some of the PTI stalwarts still harping on the same tune in the debates on electronic channels and refusing to accept the legitimacy of the results, with one honourable exception of Shafqat Mahmood who accepted the responsibility of party defeat in Lahore and resigned. Imran Khan, who is lying low and staying away from the media due to his separation from Reham Khan, has not yet given his reaction on the LB polls, but going by what he has been claiming and preaching about the legitimacy of elections during the last two and half years and the way he has been rubbing the contrived notion of rigging, one could not have expected a different response from him.
The people have faith in the leadership of Nawaz Sharif and his party, a fact also corroborated by a recent PILDAT report. The reason that the people have their faith in PML-N is that the party during the last two and half years has taken verifiable strides towards resolving the formidable inherited challenges. It has taken on the terrorists with an unswerving resolve. Zarb-e-Azb has almost broken the back of the terrorists and dismantled their infrastructure in the tribal areas and resultantly incidents of terrorism have considerably declined. National Action Plan is being pursued with unruffled commitment. Karachi is fast returning to normalcy and there has been considerable reduction in acts of terrorism and other crimes. Insurgency in Balochistan has died down and the efforts to bring the exiled Baloch leaders into the political mainstream are proceeding satisfactorily. And above all the economy of the country, which was in complete mess in 2013 has been revived, a fact corroborated by international lending and rating agencies. Load shedding has been reduced and a number of power producing projects have been initiated, most of which will become functional by the end of 2018. According to Transparency International, corruption during the last two years has decreased.
Imran Khan and PTI have overdone the rigging mantra and his repeated escapades to cash on the rhetoric have backfired. His misplaced obsession about rigging has almost descended into the realm of insanity. Einstein described insanity as doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results. To begin with, most of the PTI petitions in the Election Tribunals regarding NA elections except three were dismissed on different grounds and even in the cases where re-polling has been ordered, it has been done on the basis of irregularities rather than rigging on the part of the winning candidates. The Judicial Commission, headed by the Chief Justice, dismissed claims of systematic rigging and held that the result of 2013 elections reflected a genuine mandate of the people. But Imran Khan, despite a written agreement with PML-N made in the wake of setting up of Judicial Commission to accept the verdict ungrudgingly and withdraw his rigging allegations in case his claims were negated by the inquiry report, wriggled out of his commitment and restarted the rigging rhetoric, shifting the focus exclusively on the Election Commission.
The results of LB, Cantonment and NA by-polls have established the fact that Imran’s brand of politics has not endeared him well to the people of Pakistan. He also wears the stigma of a conspiracy to topple the legitimately elected government, introducing violence and lawlessness in politics and recklessly indulging in anti-state actions. I have witnessed many political movements during the last six decades which even turned violent sometimes but never ever the people of Pakistan had to endure the spectacle of attacks on state institutions like PTV and the Parliament, which were undoubtedly anti-state acts. Thanks heavens the umpire did not intervene and the country was saved from a drift into an unending political instability. He is very fond of quoting examples from the Western democracies about the democratic norms and adherence to law and constitution, but acts quite contrary to them. It is only Pakistan where he has escaped accountability for his anti-state act of attacking state institutions. In the Western democracies this kind of antics are simply unimaginable. He must understand that revolutions are caused and brought about by the proletariat and not the bourgeoisie or the capitalists that surround him. Even he himself is not a fit case for a revolutionary.
As they say it is never too late. It is indeed a wake-up call for Imran Khan to get rid of the delusion about his invincibility and self-righteousness as his credentials and the ground realities are quite contrary to what he believes and has been preaching during the last two and half years. He has actually betrayed the mandate of the people by not coming to the Parliament and resorting to settling issues on the streets through violence and lawlessness. His attempts to create fissures within the society and undermining the national unity at a time when the country was faced with formidable challenges and needed impregnable unity among all the segments of the society, is very regrettable. He can and must compensate for the follies that he has committed by coming to the Parliament, showing respect to the mandate of the ruling party and accept the legitimacy of the 2013 General Elections and the subsequent polls.
This country undoubtedly needs reforms in the governance and electoral system and the legitimate and desirable way of achieving these objectives is to have them orchestrated through the Parliament with the support and consensus of other political forces represented in the legislature. Evolution and not the Revolution is the best recipe. The process requires selfless devotion to the national cause by the political entities, placing the national interests above their narrow political interests and controlling their ambitions to grab political power without caring for the legitimacy of the means. It is therefore advisable for Imran to return to the parliament and play his due role in nudging the process of reforms and focus his attention on the 2018 elections.