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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Four things Imran Khan did right at the Larkana rally

Imran Khan's rhetoric of change and his withering invective against the ruling PPP has struck the right chord with the Sindhi populace. PHOTO: NNI/FILE
With success of the massive public gathering in Larkana, Imran Khan has made a knock-on effect on Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).

Whilst everyone in the political arena was waiting for the outcome of this rally, many said it would be difficult for the cricketer-turned-politician to gain a foothold in Sindh – often considered the political backyard of the PPP; others were counting on his failure, hoping that this jalsa would be the cause of Imran’s fall.

However, on the contrary, Imran made a very strong statement; a show of strength, attracting a healthy crowd at the Larkana rally and, therefore, creating a serious stir in PPP’s heartland. One really has to admire his homework on the rally and how he related to the crowd, concerning issues that plague the masses of Sindh. The rally truly marked his first foray into Sindhi politics, where he talked about liberating Sindh with rudimentary reforms and actions, including a tirade on the ruling PPP.

But what were those prescient points that made his gathering a success?

Here is an assessment:

1. He struck the right chord with the Sindhi masses

Imran’s rhetoric of change and his withering invective against the ruling PPP has struck the right chord with the Sindhi populace. He emphasised on PPP’s failures to make reforms in the province.

In censuring the ruling PPP, he criticised saying that despite being in consecutive governing tenures in Sindh for the past 40 years the province lagged behind in almost every walk of life. Amid corruption, ill-governance and lack of public healthcare, the local populace is frustrated with the countless false promises made to them on Bhutto’s name.

Imran indicated that the PPP is no longer Bhutto’s party and is in fact a Zardari-clique, one that has no care for the sufferings of the masses and is only interested in looting and plundering. He also took the opportunity to unleash his tirade against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for his plutocratic rule and nepotism.

2. The division of Sindh

Imran wouldn’t have done so well, had he not addressed the issue of the division of Sindh during his rally – an issue very sensitive to many Sindhis. To his credit, he was very tactful, as he realised that the establishment of new provinces is not a public demand, especially in rural Sindh. The emotional attachment of the local population signifies that they consider Sindh their motherland and would never willingly allow its division.

Imran’s promise that he would never allow the division has raised his public perception and this stance could prove to be vital for his progress in the province.

3. The Kalabagh Dam

This has always been considered a contentious subject within Sindh. It is one which has only been met with contempt and fear, the fear that Sindh will be robbed of its water by other provinces, especially Punjab, and the drought, which has already gripped the province, could make things even worse.

Here too, Imran made the right call. He stated that he would never allow the construction of Kalabagh Dam without Sindh’s consent. This statement holds much importance because even past leaders from the PPP have avoided commenting on this issue leaving the people with no one to rely on.

4. Bad governance and corruption

Another issue rightly pointed, in his invective against the PPP, was governance and corruption. Quoting on the state of Larkana’s roads as a reminder of Mohenjo-Daro, Imran pointed out the sorry state of such a historic city.

He further stated that bad governance and corruption have reached epidemic proportions with the ruling PPP. Despite having large reservoirs of minerals and natural gas, the province is poverty stricken and has one of highest ratios of economic inequality. He added that Sindhis were not getting proper health facilities and jobs were not given on merit but on favouritism, evident in transfers and postings.

Imran didn’t just paint the right picture of himself and his party, but also showed the people that he could relate himself to issues concerning Sindh in a way that the people themselves do – a more Bhutto-esque way than Bhutto’s own prodigal grandson ever could. He pointed out the problems faced by the local population, promised to fix them from the grass-root level and censured the ruling of PPP making his rally a real success in Larkana.

It remains to be seen whether he can make sweeping victories in Sindh during the coming elections. But one thing is for certain: Imran Khan is now a worthy opponent knocking at PPP’s door.

Maqsood Ahmed Soomro
The writer is an English literature aficionado, who likes to write on politics. He tweets as @Maqsood_Soomro1 (twitter.com/@Maqsood_Soomro1)