Taking a look at the ground realities
The PML-N has made a clean sweep in the AJK polls by clinching 32 seats out of 41 directly contested seats, contrary to pre-poll assessments of the political commentators and the propaganda of some private TV channels, essentially hostile to the PML-N government in the Centre. The pundits who predicted inroads into the AJK politics by PTI and even those who forecast mixed results have been fairly and squarely proven wrong. The elections were held in a peaceful atmosphere barring sporadic skirmishes among the workers of different political parties. However, no major incident of violence or irregularities was reported. Imran Khan and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari who have been campaigning vigorously hurling scathing criticism at PML-N failed to create any impact. While the results represent a nosedive into political wilderness for PPP in AJK, for PTI, it is tantamount to a rude snub by the people of the state.
In my view the factors which contributed to this landslide victory for PML-N include: dismal performance by the PPP government during its tenure like the government under Zardari in the centre between 2008-2013; rejection of the politics of hurling unsubstantiated allegations against PML-N government by both Imran and Bilawal; their immature approach to serious issues like Kashmir and lack of understanding of the dynamics of change in the region. In regards to the significance of the poll results, it has established the credentials of the PML-N as the most popular political party in Pakistan as well as in AJK and has also sent a loud and clear message that the people were no more interested in politics of self-aggrandisement and agitation.
The PPP as usual has complained of massive rigging but Imran Khan whom people on the basis of his track record expected to repeat the ritual of the rigging mantra, surprisingly accepted the results and even congratulated PML-N on its triumph. That is a very positive change in the attitude of the man obsessed with irrepressible streak of self-righteousness and illusions about his invincibility and unmatched popularity. There is no denying the fact that he has a considerable following among the youth and urban middle class in the country but that is not good enough to catapult him to the heights of invincibility. That reality has time and again been testified at the ballot box. One hopes that he accepts the ground realities and revisits his political creed and strategies that paint him in dismal colours as a politician and a man hungry for power no matter how it is achieved and not a revolutionary that he boasted about on the eve of his formal political baptism in 2011.
His sole focus on dislodging the PML-N government through creating chaos and anarchy in the country has failed once and not produced the desired results for a variety of reasons which have remained constant since then. Resorting to the same strategy thinking that it would produce different results is insanity according to Albert Einstein, whom Khan has also been quoting in his speeches during the election campaign. The credibility of corruption allegations has also been seriously dented by the three consecutive reports of the Transparency International providing an irrefutable testimony to the fact that corruption in the country is on the decline. The PML-N government has also shown unflinching determination and commitment in dealing with formidable challenges that it inherited. It has revived the economy; a claim corroborated by international lending and rating agencies. It has checked the demon of terrorism in its tracks. It has taken credible and concrete steps to rid the country of the energy crisis. Situation in Karachi and Balochistan are far better than in 2013. That probably is the reason that the people have kept their faith in the party at the ballot box. These positives of PML-N have surely become negatives for Imran.
In the backdrop of the foregoing factors and the fact that the PTI is afflicted with internal dissensions and some of its legislators have persistently been complaining about corruption in KPK, I do not think the party is in an enviable position to launch agitation against the government. The PPP also seems to have distanced itself from the agitation and seems more inclined to settle its differences with the PML-N governme government. Under the circumstances, Khan is better advised to focus his energies on playing a positive role in bringing the much needed and aspired changes in the system of governance which is the mother of all ills and has been the cause of creating a political culture of graft and entitlement. Not only the PTI but also the PPP which is still a political force to be reckoned with must join hands with the government in improving the system of governance.
The PTI and PPP have already filed references against the Prime Minister in the ECP for his disqualification which is their legal right to have their grievances addressed. There are other legal forums also available to them to prove their point if they are really convinced that it has some merit. As far Panama Leaks are concerned, it is nothing but a political hoax. A lot has been written and said about them and the opponents of the government, especially Imran Khan thinks that it is not only the last chance for him to have a swipe at the government but also the God send opportunity to weed out corruption from the country. Both of his assumptions are wrong. The ground realities do not point towards Imran Khan being able to destabilise the government. Corruption cannot be eliminated through witch-hunt of one man but through reforms in the system of governance which breed a culture of graft and entitlement. The system of governance can be reformed through parliament with joint efforts of the parties represented in the legislature and not on the streets.
As far as Panama Leaks are concerned, even if a Judicial Commission is formed, nothing will come out of them because of legal impediments at the international level, unless Pakistan has a bilateral arrangement with Panama, which it does not have. The parties, including PTI whose stalwarts are also named in the Panama Leaks and Imran Khan himself having bought property in UK through an off-shore company, are fully aware of this fact and that is probably the reason they are crying hoarse from every convenient roof-top for accountability of the Prime Minister. However they think that they could at least embarrass the government and obstruct the implementation of its development programme, to gain political mileage. That is not what is required at a time when the country is faced with egregious challenges. Politicking can wait for better times.