The political landscape in Pakistan is a treacherous terrain which has been dominated by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). However, of late, a new aspirant, Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), are catching the eye of the public, and specifically the attention of the youth of the country.
The PTI had caught the imagination of the masses, including, to a degree, myself. With the country tired of the viscous cycle of corruption, turncoats and vested interests, the PTI appeared to be a breath of fresh air. Raising slogans of justice for all and an end to corruption, Imran Khan had successfully mobilised the one class in Pakistan which was truly revolutionary: the youth.
However, the PTI has of late gone off the tangent. For all the support it is being given, interestingly enough no one actually knows as to how the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf intends to govern the unwieldy state of Pakistan. Eloquently delivered speeches would have us believe that upon the PTI assuming power, the world will cease to curse the name of Pakistan, the Taliban will abruptly realise that fighting the state is not the answer, the religious fanatics will no longer feel their religion under threat, and peace will generally prevail throughout the land. However, no one from the PTI has actually bothered to tell the public as to how they intend to do all of this.
In fact, surprisingly, if queried, many supporters and benefactors of the PTI cite the governance model of the Shaukat Khanum Hospital as an example of how the country may be governed. However, despite the impressive manner in which the institute has been created and maintained, there can be little argument with the fact that unlike a cancer hospital, countries are best run on finances other than donations.
More importantly, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has yet to actually inform the public of its policies in terms of various key issues. It is common knowledge that all leaders, irrespective of affiliation and pedigree, promise revolutionary change, employment, security, increase in standards of living and general prosperity. The PTI is no different. However, one would expect this “revolutionary party” to at least attempt to lay bare its policies on key issues affecting Pakistan. For example, the PTI has stated that it will create a uniform educational system for the country. However, not once has the PTI chief bothered to state as to how the current educational system will be unified in the light of education being made a provincial subject, the issues it contemplates in attempting to do so, or the roadmap for any such change.
The PTI also claims that it will increase the education budget, but once again, it seems tight-lipped in terms of where it intends to divert funds from to allow for such an ambitious endeavour. On other important issues of economy, the public is still awaiting a clear-cut policy directive from the revolutionary minds of the PTI: generally stating that increasing the tax net is one of the tools to increase revenue generation is definitely helpful, but in no way does it adequately explains as to how the PTI intends to encourage business, foreign investment and infrastructural development, as well as training of technical staff for the purposes of advancements in a variety of fields.
Finally, it is somewhat ironic that the individuals billed to bring ‘“revolutionary change” are actually the biggest proponents of the status quo. Shah Mehmood Quereshi, the vice chairman of the party, is a Makhdoom and Pir who is as much a feudal as was Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. In addition to him, with the inclusion of Mian Azhar of the PML-Q, dozens of former PML-Q Nazims and members, Asghar Khan and likely fresh inductees such as Jahangir Tareen, the PTI appears to have sold “change” down the river to enter the power corridors of Pakistan. The skepticism in relation to the PTI’s ability to bring actual and meaningful change is further increased by the fact that Imran Khan is the life chairman of the PTI, just as Mian Nawaz Sharif and Mr Asif Ali Zardari are the undisputed leaders of their parties. Hence, one is left to ponder as to how much democratic change can be expected from a party which does not consider democratic principles to be important enough for its own party functioning?
In a nutshell, the PTI will face some tough questions in the future, and in its own defence, due to its catchy chants of revolutionary change, it will not be able to point a finger at its political opponents for offering no better alternative. In fact, any such comparison would be an open admission of the fact that the PTI is no different from its opponents other than in terms of the lack of opportunities that it has been given. If these tough questions are not answered, it may very well be the case that the PTI’s promises to bring true democracy and revolutionary change to Pakistan will prove to be as hollow as is the judicial doctrine of necessity in validating treasonous military coups. And how unfortunate would that be.
The writer is a Karachi-based lawyer.