Sunday October 02, 2022

Rallying for Pakistan

July 22, 2022

The crushing defeat the PML-N has suffered in the heart of their power base, Punjab, at the hands of the PTI is a miniscule reflection of the fact that times have changed – and it may well-nigh be impossible to reverse the tide. One could not imagine that so mammoth would be the extent of this setback and so telling its potential consequences for the political landscape of the country. The next few weeks may spell the nature and extent of the change which is now brewing.

This development was not totally unexpected. Ever since their loss in the last elections, there was virtually nothing on the roster of the opposition leaders except fighting for their reprieve from cases of corruption they were faced with. Calling the PTI government all kinds of names was only a cover-up for their clandestine efforts to secure relief from where it mattered. They were actively supported in this endeavour by outside forces desirous of planting compromised leadership in the country which can be manipulated because of their incorrigible penchant for corruption. So, a cabal of convicts and criminals came together in partnership with the foreign instigator and local collaborators to implement the regime change conspiracy.

The edifice they built for furtherance of democracy over a period of three years came crashing down and, in its place, one found a makeshift fabrication comprising parties which had nothing in common except their insatiable lust for more power and pelf. In their eagerness to save their skins from conviction, they were blinded by the changed mood of the people which had burgeoned in the aftermath of the exposure of their criminal indulgences.

Immediately after their take-over, the financial outlook went from bleak to bleaker, pushing the country to the verge of bankruptcy. The price index went soaring in compliance with the IMF diktat and poor people had to bear the brunt of the absence of anything even remotely resembling a credible and sustainable financial policy. The local currency kept losing its value and fell from Rs178 to below Rs226 for a US dollar within a short span of three months – the sharpest and steepest fall ever experienced in the history of the country.

In lieu of the Supreme Court judgment regarding disqualification of provincial legislators who had jumped the fence in exchange for lucrative inducements, and much later-day drama played out in the Lahore High Court (LHC), by-elections in 20 constituencies of Punjab were announced for July 17. This was the moment Imran Khan had been waiting for. He hit the election trail with the authority of a seasoned and tireless campaigner. He spoke to people from the core of his heart and struck a chord in days that would ordinarily take years to accomplish.

The response was unimaginably wholesome and indescribably passionate. No space was enough to accommodate the surging crowds that wanted to listen and applaud every word that he would speak. This was the bond that is tied in dreams. The people of the country saw it happening right in front of them as Khan went from strength to strength within a short span of about two weeks, jolting the heartland of PML-N support all across Punjab.

Imran Khan had truth on his side. He had conviction on his side. And he had enormous crowds and their indomitable passion on his side. The rest is history. Fifteen out of 20 for the PTI, four for PML-N and one independent: a scorecard that resembles a massacre more than an ordinary victory. The political annihilation also established a trend that the days of the criminal Sharif dynasty may be numbered, and they may not be able to rise from the ashes of this burn-out. Their reputation of being unbeatable within the ambit of their power base lies in tatters as a consequence of the battering they received in spite of manipulating the entire administrative resources to their advantage. On top of that, there was the Election Commission and its chairman obliging Raiwind. But the effort was literally swamped by the sheer number of people who turned up to vote for the PTI.

It is not just a victory for Khan and the PTI. It is a victory for the resurgence of a nation which has been languishing for years in the throes of a painful burden bequeathed upon them in the shape of extremely corrupt and compromised family oligarchies which were taking their turns at squandering away national assets. Their rule was interspersed with stints of military dictatorships which came with much verve and promise but delivered nothing more than granting immoral and illegal reprieve to criminals who had unleashed a spree of ceaseless loot and plunder in the country – something that they wanted Khan to agree to which he did not, thus adding to the list of his unpardonable crimes.

With the Punjab government likely to fall to the PTI today (July 22) when the provincial assembly votes to elect a new chief minister, the pressure on the besieged federal fabrication would mount phenomenally. They can either try to prolong their crippled hold on power which they would want to do in order to effectively escape the fear of prosecution in numerous cases of grave corruption, or they could announce early elections to let the electorate decide who they want to rule the country. With the hold of the prime minister reduced to a few sectors of Islamabad only, it would be grotesque if he labours to perpetuate his stay further in the annals of power, riding the crest of support he is receiving from a number of undemocratic forces in the country. A quick and clinical break from the illegal, unconstitutional and wobbly structure that has been raised in the last few months over the embers of democracy is the most prudent option that the rulers have to let the country regain its moorings to sail on.

This victory has established Khan as the most dominant and daring politician of the times. He has motivated the people to break the barriers of fear. Their voice is now resonating across divides and divisions. This caravan of hope is a powerful reiteration of Pakistan’s resolve to assert its freedom from domestic saboteurs and subservience to foreign diktat.

If the incumbent government remains locked in the quagmire of egos and self-preservation, the country could plunge into a spate of violence which would likely put it back by decades. Let us also not forget that people are charged and out there rallying for Pakistan and the prospect of them returning empty-handed is virtually eliminated.

The writer is a political and security strategist and the founder of the Regional Peace Institute in Islamabad. He tweets @RaoofHasan