WRITTEN BY DR. MUHAMMAD ASLAM KHAN
Democratic Arab Center
Empires rose and fell in the history but none fell before the rise. The empire (a metaphor) characterized by his appeal to the masses’ passion rather than territories that is christened by (Imran) Khan, a cricketer turned philanthropist and later a politician, saturates the nation morally as does a mystic inspires his folks about the virtues he is determined to cling to, no matter what the cost, even life, if he has to sacrifice. This blizzard of hope has taken roots in a country soaked in corruption, anger, ethnic schism, poverty and incessant malicious blackmail from the top for last about six decades, turning the peace mongering society into fractured islands of violence.
His election campaigns sparked the ardent desire among his supporters to do something that could serve as a beacon for the posterity, heralding an era of peace and tranquility. Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI), that translates as ‘Pakistan Justice Movement’ is his platform from where he speaks extempore and with conviction. Truth drips from his every word, cutting through the thick layers of vile deception that wraps all politicians (a few exceptions apart), contesting 11 May 2013 general elections in Pakistan.
Fall and Rise of Khan
An edifice of empire with ‘center’ orientation, yet an ideological one was building up fast. Everyone would love to rush to his rallies and those not finding the option feasible would get glued to TVs from the sofa brink. Then something struck like a bolt. Only three days before the elections, millions of his fans saw the towering Khan plummeting from 16 feet crashing platform. Hundreds of hearts were near to cease. It was as if the dream of Pakistan was shattering. The hope for emergence of a brilliant, meaningful and prosperous state where justice ruled was inclined to abandon us much faster than the falling Khan.
He sustained head injury and went unconscious for a while. The fall had occurred. Millions hands went up high above the shoulders; beseeching God to give him and Pakistan a chance. Lo and behold, All-knowing, All-seeing, the Merciful and the Magnificent answered prayers within minutes. Khan was back to senses, talking as if the hope had reinvigorated, pushing the entire nation in a fit of mix of jubilation and responsibility. Country appeared rising from the fall as did Khan who was on fast pace of recovery, consoling his fans from hospital bed to be calm and thrust ahead to realise PTI manifesto. He did not utter a single word to explain or complain, how and why he was tossed off the platform. With hands on the pulse of the people of Pakistan, he knew the scale and intensity of their anguish and at a critical moment he did not want to stoke their anger further. He aimed high. Brush with angel of death appears to have given him an added feel of aroma of ultimate success even if it was partially elusive this time on conclusion of current elections.
Spark of Hope
During his electioneering campaign, Khan sounded scary warnings about inevitable Tsunami to corrupt politicians and some top government functionaries against whom cases are pending in higher courts for swindling billions of rupees from state’s coffer. Tsunami, he described, would wash away all evils, the corrupt and others committing acts of felony but hiding behind the safety net that democracy affords even in the countries where rule of law is flouted or seen applying to the down trodden only. An elite class is above it, even when its crimes are abhorrently heinous. Dawn of 11 May witnessed an unimaginable phenomenon. Young, old men, women and children wrapped in PTI flags were reaching the polling stations before the doors opened.
Khan labelled the PTI performance akin to defeat amidst wide spread rigging episodes in Punjab and Karachi. However he was hilarious about the youths’ fervour with which they toiled day and night for the party. PTI has recovered from long drought. In 2002 elections, the party had yet not geared up and Khan won solitary National Assembly seat from his native constituency, NA-71 Mianwali. In 2008, PTI boycotted the general elections as a protest against the dictator, Gen Musharraf’s policies. During the five years break, it concentrated on organisational aspects and opinion mobilization that led to its impressive performance, now in 2013. Jumping to National Assembly with 33 seats in pocket, emerging as leading party in Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa (KP) with 34 seats and in Punjab with 22 seats, its leadership has proved that PTI is a force in national and international politics to reckon, with potentials of yet longer, perhaps trampling leaps during 2018 elections.
Summary of the election results which are yet to be officially declared amidst wide spread rigging charges, several parties have sounded, shows PML (N), a party led by Mian Nawaz Sharif has secured formidable position in National Assembly at the federal level and also in the Provincial Assembly of Punjab. PTI of Khan swept in KP with ‘Independents’ and JUI (F) on the trail prominently. Province of Sindh has been bagged by PPPP and in urban centres, MQM has made significant gains. Baluchistan has been the arena of nationalist parties where major parties have not been able to demonstrate their electoral power. Significant numbers of seats have been clinched by ‘independent’ candidates throughout the country with apparent motives to trade off their pivotal position as the bargain chips while extending cooperation to the leading party’s race to the power corridors. In a short stipulated period, they got to join some party but in the process, there have been instances in the past that they earned millions of rupees in exchange for the electoral support to the party wishing to ascend the podium.
Ground Realities and Future Projections
Some pleasant and bitter realities have emerged. PPPP led by Asif Zardari, the scandal-prone ruling party, has been reduced to non-entity in the national assembly as well as in the provinces except in its strong hold of Bhuttos (Sindh) where it managed to keep the nationalist tinge alive despite claiming to be the secular party. Indulgence in massive corruption and allowing coalition partners to blackmail it during the entire previous term in exchange of letting the party to run the highest offices at the federal level are the main causes of its downfall. No issue of the public concern when the nation sweltered under the weight of power crises or inflation and hopeless law and order situation, were addressed by the party seriously. They consumed the term in the struggle of their survival.
PML (N) has clinched dominating position at National Assembly and Punjab Provincial Assembly. The populous province of Punjab alone has more than 50 % share in the total electoral tally. With coalition partners that it may enlist, it is likely to rule Baluchistan as well. It would be unfair, though not impossible if it attempts to hijack PTI mandate from KP to constitute PML (N)-led government through alliance with smaller parties. Thus the party is confronted by interesting paradox which, if not handled with care could ruin its index of good governance.
PML(N) has the tendency to flout the majority mandate as it did during its previous term by locking horns with Chief of Army Staff, Gen Pervez Musharraf. As the prime minister, Mian Nawaz Sharif had the prerogative to appoint a chief of his own choosing but the manner he proceeded with to remove him was loathsome for the entire army. He wanted to prove himself an unbeatable macho and the Army chief a humble taxi driver as if the chief was to change the wheel only, forgetting that Army is extremely disciplined and respected institution. Even if he has learnt from his tragic episode of removal by Gen Musharraf, he is likely to fail on certain issues as one reads from his statements in last couple of days when he has yet not taken over the coveted office of the Premier. Hate for Army runs in his family genes for reasons best known to him to the extent that his brother, Mian Shahbaz Sharif, who shared PPPP government until March 2013 as the chief minister of the largest province of Punjab, gets hostile even to the retired Army officers. If ever any of them approached him for the redress of grievance, he took pleasure in giving cold shoulder to him if not an insult of the kind.
On the national and international issues, PML (N) is likely to fall trap to the glitters that are not to heal the wounds of people of Pakistan who have been afflicted with during the last about two decades. Its leadership rule would be characterized by love and hate only as it has no middle position, extremely vindictive to the foes and forgiving to its well wishers, no matter the degree of crimes they commit. Within last few days, talk of the town is that US and Saudi Arabia lent Sharif Brothers unrestricted financial support to prevent Khan Tsunami sinking PML (N) to the depths of nonentity. A journalist reportedly has pulled a loud shot through a column, claiming that to defeat Khan from Lahore constituency, Sharif Brothers doled out money to rig the election to the tune of 850 million rupees. Also their vengeance was at peak against PTI when they made two deplorable moves in Khan’s native constituency in Mianwali by forcing Humair Hayat Rokhri, a traditional winner family, to withdraw and leave field open for Obaidullah Shadikhel alone to win from Khan. Not stopping here, Sharif Brothers are alleged to have opened the treasure chest filled by US and Saudi Arabia for their candidate to defeat Khan, no matter what the price. Mercifully the tons of money could not purchase the proud people of Mianwali. The proofs are yet to surface from the level of wide spread gossips. Fortunately gossips in Pakistan are generally more authentic than the government inquiry commissions who produce concocted , distorted and corrupt reports.
There is a considerable hate for US but saner elements are of the opinion that powerful US must be respected and moved along as a partner. However no one, like Khan had declared, is inclined to be subservient to US. Royals of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are predominantly respected by every Pakistani, being the ‘khadim-ul-harmaain al-shariffain’but interference in Pakistani politics to such an extent to defeat a sincere, truthful and dedicated leader like Khan is against the teaching of Islam. If the Royals had to side with anyone, they should have sided with PTI on merit or stayed away from PML(N) whose past record is quite tainted.
The Elusive ‘Maulana’
JUI (F), led by canny Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman, is one case in the entire exercise who has gained in 2013 general elections despite lending support to dictator to the hilt for the entire duration until 2008 and his notorious Legal Framework Order (LFO) that has been overturned by the judiciary. He is capable of speaking from the dais to scold US and Jews but off the scene, he can beg concessions from them. He is one man who has not been discovered or if the masses have registered his lust to remain part of every government minus political morality, they have not held him accountable by shunning him off on the eve of general elections. It appears as a research topic to ascertain why proud people of FATA and other provinces have failed to measure his follies.
PTI is likely to do well in whatever capacity it finds itself. The leadership is sincere, mature, educated and young. Even if the conspiracies by old hacks force it to play the opposition role that is equally crucial as it would have been in power. Striving for the rule of law, prevalence of justice no matter who is in the dock must remain their cardinal points of conduct. With the larger picture yet to emerge, PML (N) should be best advised to dampen its arrogant and revengeful history. It must heed PTI and other sincere political parties for the conduct of internal affairs and about the matters of foreign policy, an area it is woefully ignorant, at best emotional. Mian Nawaz Sharif, just on receiving the felicitation messages from foreign dignitaries, has started showing his cards that should have taken months to reveal in exchange for national gains. Deficit of brinkmanship was legible on his face. On the hand, the party has to root out corruption, as it has festered in Punjab even during their recent rule for several years. Dispensation of justice and building up the institutional capacity of the departments must be its top priority. It must remember claims are easy to make but need Herculean effort to implement. If peace in the country, self-sustaining economic recovery and diplomatic palpability, not necessarily through alien shadows, is not achieved the soonest possible on merit of our national interests, then we are headed for status quo. Such a monster of despair must cause shudder to every Pakistani because none can endure a corrupt and inefficient as well as biased government for yet another term. One would wish happy governance to PML (N) at the Centre, in Punjab and possibly Baluchistan, to PTI in KP and to PPPP in Sindh.
Author is a retired Brig Gen from Pakistan Army, holds Master’s as well PhD degree in International Relations and has authored a book. Writes frequently, has participated in several national and international conferences/seminars.