At first, the tabdeeli-inspired Lahoris failed to understand what the noise made by the so-called Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) was all about
The Lahoris have a clear view on every issue in the world. If they savour siri paye, chanay pathooray, or qeemay walay naan, there’s no stopping them from relishing the tasty local cuisine, not even the high amounts of bad cholesterol in the food. But today, in political terms, they have reached a point where they find themselves at the crossroads; not knowing whether to cling to the promises of tabdeeli (change) or part ways with the unfulfilled promise of a “Naya Pakistan.”
That’s why, at first, the tabdeeli-inspired Lahoris failed to understand what the noise made by the so-called Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) was all about. What’s so wrong with our country or the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government? Why is the PDM unable to see where the country is headed?
A Lahori would vouch for the fact that before the July 2018 general elections the impression was that people were reeling from the effects of a bad economy, poor governance, high inflation and disappointing social indicators. An elected prime minister had exited not only because he had (allegedly) committed many acts of corruption but because he had the temerity to stand up to the very ‘protectors’ of the country, aka the ‘establishment.’
In that moment, when no light seemed to be beaming at the end of the tunnel, a ‘war-hardened leader’ emerged on the political horizon and came to our rescue riding on the popularity wave, thanks to the millions of disappointed and dejected people of Pakistan. His name was Imran Khan. Many Lahoris fell for him.
Things have taken a sharp turn since. Not long after the promises were made, hopes were shattered in quick succession. The “selected prime minister,” as he is often hatefully referred to by the PDM leaders, had made the promise of tabdeeli and of a country in which everyone would be held accountable, where the poorest of the poor would be able to eat to their fill and live a respectable life, where the salaried people would not have to worry about the school fees of their children, where a patient would not die because he or she could not afford treatment, where the businesses would thrive, and where employment opportunities would be aplenty.
The promises were to see the light of the day during the first 100 days of the PTI government. As days passed, the Lahoris began to realise that the promises were hollow, and the Punjab chief minister looked unlikely to deliver before the completion of his ‘on-job training.’
So, the ‘haters of change’ stooped to levels where they did not refrain from giving derogatory labels to the PTI loyalists. After all, whatever had an ATM machine got to do with a party sympathiser and supporter such as Jehangir Tareen?
The propaganda machine of the PDM keeps pointing towards the lofty, so-far-unfulfilled promises by the PTI leader. Interestingly, the people who had voted for the PTI were also largely shocked as the person who had idealised going to his office riding a bicycle, was seen flying in a helicopter.
Some Lahoris still have weapons in their arsenal, or so they think. The not-very-intelligent lot of the PDM does not realise that the promised first-100-days miracle was the height of the PTI leader’s commitment expressed in hyperbole, and wasn’t meant to be taken literally, they explain. In the same way, across-the-board accountability was just a warning to everyone, irrespective of party affiliation.
Look at the economy; our prime minister has taken every step possible to revive it. Leading from the front, he cleared the Prime Minister’s House of all milk-sufficient buffaloes and gas-guzzling luxury cars and urged the people to be self-sufficient in poultry products. Is this something to be ridiculed for? A Lahori wondered, still not quite losing faith in the PTI government. The PDM supporters do not seem impressed. The economy was already nose-diving even before Covid-19 struck, they say.
While the prime minister’s active and urgent response to the country’s economic ills should earn accolades from the PDM’s short-sighted and self-centred leadership, his vision about our foreign policy cannot be ignored either.
The supporters of PDM’s take: a person who promised ‘change’ and now happens to be the prime minister of Pakistan, remains hostage to the same old foreign policy ‘considerations’ when it comes to diplomacy.
The PTI supporters have a chink in their armour. If the haters of change, idealised by the innocent Lahoris in the shape of Maryam Nawaz and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, continue to raise their voice, it might reach more receptive ears and the people who understand the value of a constitution and meaning of civilian supremacy.
The PDM supporters are sure that if that voice rebounds in the speeches and rallies from their platform, inciting people to challenge the accepted narrative, the meaning of tabdeeli may finally be fully understood by the few remaining PTI-supporting Lahoris.
The author is a staff member. He tweets at @Syed_Ather_Ali