PTI’s rise after the rally of 30th October, 2011, a partial disillusionment with their politics, parting of a few loyalists such as Shirn Mazari, and Khan’s commitment to hold intra-party elections are events which should be seen in totality. Do these events predict the demise of Khan’s political career?
Most of the opinion makers do not see PTI making any formidable electoral gain in the upcoming elections. For many up till now PTI’s political performance is an apologetic tale of half-achieved goals; Khan’s politics, arguably, is imprecise, vague, and shoddy. Thanks to his patience he is still around. Political analysts see PTI a chip of the same old block- part of the greedy theater of power politics.
Some are of the view that the party is embroiled in in-house strife, and is gradually imploding. One need to pause before making a sweeping conclusion about a party and a man who made headlines all over the world, not long before, but now for some reasons have lost the support of his people.
The claims which Khan made in his Lahore rally were not unrealistic, and up till today he has not recanted from any one of those however the proposed methodology of executing ambitions is bit wanting in pragmatism. Besides, the arrival and departure of notable ‘electable’ has certainly damaged his party’s image and programme. But the question remains whether it deters Khan from pursuing his goals? Khan’s narrative on corruption is consistent, and a leader is not judged by the events and eventualities his decisions trigger but by the solidity of his purpose.
In fact, the events such as Khawja Asif’s immoral attack on the SKMH and the Supreme Court’s decision regarding Asghar Khan’s petition externalizes Khan’s commitment to take on the forces of status-quo.
The rule is simple; the leader should be honest. Will Pakistanis vote a man who is upright, pays his taxes, patronizes educational projects, and is a world class philanthropist? Are these accomplishments enough? Perhaps not. Given the Machiavellian tactics the two ruling parties are capable of Khan’s commitment to eradicate the institutional corruption seems a daunting task. Khan invited Nitish Kumar (the CM of the Indian state of Bihar) to interact with the PTI’s top leadership. He vows to eliminate big corruption in 90 days, a claim which in Nawaz Sharif’s view is a political jugglery. To whom one should listen? Who sounds more able and committed?
Pakistan’s power politics is decided in rural constituencies which operate like fiefdoms where money, land, and one’s clan ties play a vital role. Has Khan been able to break this nexus? At least, the younger generation from the villages of KP and Punjab is Khan’s attentive ideological audience, and these young people will make a huge difference in the coming elections.
Khan’s rally to Waziristan, though strongly criticized by his opponents, may make an impact in terms of electoral gains. He is the only politician who dared to ruffle the feathers, and lead his supporters and public towards the worn-torn areas. At least, the voters will think that there is a man who is capable of challenging the US’ hegemony in the region.
But to many political pundits Khan’s politics is a pack of contradictions and half-hearted attempts. However, in all fairness one asks where and when did he withdraw from his stance of making Pakistan a welfare state, and of freeing it from the economic dependency of the US? Even the much repetitive charge of him being backed by the ISI seems ridiculous since it is now proven that in the past other parties had hobnobbed with the military Generals. Meanwhile, Khan can capitalize on the Supreme Court more recent judgement. His party will benefit from the SC’s verdict of the door-to-door verification of the voters’ list in Karachi; the urban middle class of Karachi, young students, and a trickle of foreign-retuned elite see Imran as a hope.
Khan is also criticised for being harsh on PMLN, and for going soft on Zardari. This may be correct, but only politically. He is not in love with the PPP. Now that the coalition of PLMQ and PPP failed to deliver in the by-elections it is clear that the real battle will be between the PTI and PMLN, a fact which PLMN often spurned in the past.
Consequently, the much vaunted theory of the PTI splitting the vote bank of the PMLN is based on paranoia of the defeated. Khan, as it seems, instead of splitting the traditionally secure vote bank of the PMLN is more likely to ‘dent’ it.
PMLN is an incumbent party, and are using all resources to further their electoral campaign. The Supreme Court has already directed the president to abstain from political activities. Will the Punjab’s CM also listen to the SC? One should praise the CM for suddenly becoming over-concerned of the welfare of the youth- a pivotal point in the TI’s manifesto-and for building bridges and installing modern transportation system, but many young people ask if one should vote merely because the incumbent Punjab government is constructing roads and doling out machines. Can’t we have ideological, and more sublimer reasons to bring change through ballot?
The liberal sections of the society and a part of the media also have their reservations about Khan’s ideological stance. However, having a different view does not make anyone a religious or other sort of fanatic or fundamentalist. Talal Asad, the renowned anthropologist, once said that’ the continuing obtuseness of liberals [ is that they are] never consistently liberal’. This also reminds me of Khan’s ex-wife’s comment that he is ‘a cross between Gandhi and Guy Fawkes.’ The philanthropic side of Khan does not dovetail with the hypocritical face of Pakistani politics, but so far he has shown nerves and stayed in the political field. Sadly, his stance on war on terror is seen from the US’ lens. Simply because he has a different view does not make him a ‘Taliban Khan’. Similarly, Khan’s opinion on Baluchistan can be contested but he had a huge rally there, while other parties have so far only forged alliances with local lords.
Despite odds Khan took his party to intra-party elections. These elections are very unique because first time a lot of technology is used to determine members’ franchise. Other parties do not have the moral courage and heart to hold intra-party elections. The reason that many notable electables left PTI resides in the fact that they persuaded Khan to postpone elections.
Khan may be politically naive but he entered into politics neither for the money nor for the fame. He was surfeited with these much earlier. And, one should realize this fact before rejecting and discarding him. During the election campaign he will face more character assassination. Is not Khan a man more sinned than against sinning?
Khan’s critics and opponents have different standards of judging his politics. At least, they expect him not to be like a typical Pakistani politician. Khan has audience both at home and abroad who listen to him keenly therefore regardless of the narrative of suspicion on the more recent configurations of the PTI’s politics Khan is set to contest the upcoming elections.