Change that already happened

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Remember back when so many of the educated city-folk in Pakistan used to turn their noses at the very mention of politics and politicians? It wasn’t very long ago. Turn on the radio, look at the streets, read the status updates on Facebook, and watch the talk shows. There is a magical connection people have developed with politics. If there’s one man who can take credit for this, it is Imran Khan.

Khan Sahib is the Pakistani Superman. He evokes such raw and deep emotions that it is hard to fully grasp just how deeply embedded he is – as an image, and an idea, and an ideal within the Pakistani psyche.

Khan was lucky to be born to a family that helped him realise his potential as a person. He was lucky to be blessed with natural talent that only a few cricketers in history have had. He was lucky to attend Oxford and lucky to befriend everybody from the Rolling Stones to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. But nobody comes upon the trust and innate love of massive numbers of people by luck. He has earned the way millions of Pakistanis feel about him. His integrity, his visceral optimism, and his dogged pursuit of clearly-defined objectives inspire people at a subconscious level that can’t really be fully articulated in words.

So when Imran Khan fell from the lifter in Ghalib Market, I knew I was not alone in shedding a tear, and saying an immediate prayer. Khan is a permanent imprint in the Pakistani imagination. His entry into politics has been a source of new energy and narratives, not just since October 2011, when he is generally seen to have ‘arrived’ but in fact from 1996 onwards.

One measure of his impact on politics is to track the emergence of accountability and corruption as policy issues in the political discourse. Direct attribution is a tricky business in public policy, but three data points help make the argument.

Khan announced his intent to fight corruption and graft, and to advocate quick and effective justice, through the formation of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) on April 25, 1996.

The late President Farooq Khan Leghari’s ‘conscience’ awakened on November 5, 1996 as he dismissed BB’s second government on charges of graft and corruption. On November 18, 1996 the Ehtesab Ordinance, 1996 (Ordinance CXI of 1996) was promulgated, ostensibly to fight the corruption and graft that was (and continues to) eating away at Pakistan’s institutions.

Coincidence? My theory is that it is not. Khan shook up the political spectrum when he entered it. When Khan speaks, Pakistanis pay attention, not just because he can bring a crowd like the rocking show at Minar-e-Pakistan in October 2011, but because he commands respect and speaks in simple and broad terms about the things people want to hear about from their leaders.

A more recent example of his impact on policy is drones. The government of Pakistan’s official position that drones are “illegal, counterproductive and a violation of Pakistani sovereignty” is a policy response to the perceived (and the latest Pew survey shows, real) generic opposition to drone strikes in Pakistan. Who helped channel that opposition into a coherent political voice? Once again, it was Khan – and it was not after the October 2011 jalsa, but long before, that he spoke against them.

All this is not an argument in favour of voting for the PTI or its candidates. In fact, I am likely not to vote for the PTI because I am not convinced that my emotions for Khan, or the promise of his personal leadership are reason enough for me to put many of the same faces that we’ve seen travel from one party to another to another, back in the very assemblies in which they’ve been pillars of holding back reform. I am also weary of cults of personality, and it’s sometimes hard to tell how the PPP and the PTI differ in the aqeedat ratios followers afford their leaders.

But there is a more important reason why I don’t think it is time yet for Pakistan to have a PTI-led government. When the PTI does come to power, unlike the PML-N or the PPP, or the PML-Q, or the MQM, or the ANP, the PTI cannot afford to fail. The rest of them have failed before. That’s why Pakistan needs the PTI. So when the PTI comes to power, it actually has to deliver on every promise it has made, not because we must hold the party to a higher standard, but because the future political infrastructure of Pakistan, can ill-afford the disenchantment of the young PTI supporter.

PTI supporters are charged up and ready for a Naya Pakistan because they are interested in an entirely new, merit and evidence-based politics that isn’t biradari or dharra driven. Yet arguably, the majority of Pakistan – including its cities – continues to be driven to a large extent by those local, traditional social dynamics. A PTI government in 2013 would in effect be counter-intuitive to the Pakistan that is, in 2013.

Put more simply, long-term, sustainable transformational change is not top down, but bottom up. The politics of a society responds to the changes in a society. The PTI’s current argument is that a vote for the balla is a vote for change that will begin in Imran Khan’s office and flow down, like milk and honey, through our streets, across our living rooms and into the taxman’s books. This is not only logically incoherent, but also a proposition unprecedented in modern history. Change flows from society to the polity – not the other way around. When it is attempted the other way around, it is called social engineering. As we smart from 40,000 terror related deaths and the undying hatred of many Afghans, it is worth remembering that Gen Zia and President Reagan’s joint social engineering of Pakistan has had disastrous consequences (no doubt unintended) for this country.

The best thing for the PTI and for Pakistan on May 11 is a substantial but small share in the national and provincial assemblies. This would produce an unprecedented check and balance on traditional political powers in Pakistan, and expose many of the young and new leaders of the PTI to practical public policy and the business of running government.

Voters across the country have already benefited from the PTI’s presence on the national scene and these benefits will continue to accrue – one example is the Lahore Metro Bus System, which is by far the most impressive infrastructure investment in Pakistan since the M-1 motorway. Would this bus system have ever managed to emerge out of files and into reality as quickly (11 months), or as effectively (over 120, 000 commuters a day), as it did without the massive PTI show of strength in Lahore in October 2011? My sense is that it would not have.

Traditional political power in Pakistan is under threat of a wave of youthful energy and integrity in Pakistan. Today’s PTI is ill-equipped to deliver on the rhetorical promises it has made. Pakistan cannot afford to alienate this youthful energy. A little time in opposition will help weed out some of the traditional hangers-on in the PTI. A cleansed and more experienced PTI will be a much better candidate for future national and provincial government than the compelling but flawed PTI of 2013.

By Mosharraf Zaidi, The writer is an analyst and commentator.

Imran says he won’t die before making Quaid’s Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: The injured Chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Thursday said Allah Almighty will not let him die until he accomplishes the goal of making Quaid’s Pakistan and called upon the nation to reject the status quo on May 11.

Khan was addressing the PTI’s rally here at D-Chowk via video link lying on the bed of his room at Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital (SKMH) where he is under treatment for back and head wounds sustained after a fall from a makeshift lift during PTI’s Lahore rally on May 7.

Imran Khan called upon the nation to give his party a chance to transform Pakistan into a state as envisioned by the founder of the nation, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

Today’s public meeting marked the conclusion of PTI’s massive poll campaign for the May 11 general elections.

According to Geo’s correspondent, the number of people attending the PTI’s last rally of its ongoing campaign at D-Chowk was much greater than what was witnessed at the same venue in January during the demonstration led by Tehreek-e-Minjajul Quran leader Dr. Tahirul Qadri.

“Allah will not let me die until I accomplish the goal of making a new Pakistan; Quaid’s Pakistan,” Imran Khan maintained, calling upon the people to turn down those who have been doing the politics of status quo.

He recalled that he saw the dream of bringing about a change in Pakistan in 1996, believing one day Pakistani nation will rise and make it happen.

To the people of Karachi, Imran Khan asked: “Are you ready to bring about a change in your life; will you come out for change on May 11?” He told them that the parties with militant wings will never let the police department remain impartial and, therefore, the law and order situation will never improve.

The PTI chief, pointing to the people of interior Sindh, regretted that he had never seen poverty as much as he witnessed in Sindh and told them that they had a chance to break out of the clutches of landlords and chieftains by making a right decision in PTI's favor on May 11.

To the people of Balochistan, Imran Khan said give PTI a chance because it will bring the money to the grass roots level.

He said he knows that the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata have already made a decision (in favor of his party).
Lastly, he asked the people of Punjab what progress and development was made in the province by the party that was elected five times and enjoyed power for a period of 25 years.

“Why did they fail to reform sectors like health care, education and police,” he questioned, adding they even failed to evolve a local bodies system in the Punjab.

He told the Pakistani nation including Hindus, Christians, Sikhs and other minorities’ communities that the time has come to build the Quaid’s Pakistan and that now they can’t afford to let this opportunity go to waste. “Give us a chance to bring that change,” he reiterated.

Imran Khan told the PTI’s ‘volunteers of change’ to come out on the morning of May 11 and play the roles they have taken upon themselves.

He called out the people to cast their vote in PTI’s favor. “I admit we have made mistakes but I guarantee that the MNAs and MPAs of PTI will change themselves”.

“There is something that makes me believe that on the evening of May 11 we will be offering Nawafil of thanks,” the PTI Chief said, adding ‘We will lay the foundation of new Pakistan on May 11’.

At the end the huge crowd that keenly listened to every single word of their leader was asked to repeat a pledge of allegiance. And as they did, Imran Khan was shown on screen in his hospital bed wiping his eyes as tears rolled down his cheeks.
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