Let’s begin by juxtaposing the pre and post-election political scenarios of Pakistan with an aim to weigh the after effects of the debut entry of Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) as a major game changer (or not) into the political scene of the country.
A relevant query in every mind is: whether PTI’s emergence as the second or third big political force and its dominance over a considerable political space has already brought about a meaningful change, either big or small, in the country’s monotonous political landscape; or does it hold any such potential?
Here is a not-too-distant 2008-2013 political flashback: In the centre, Pakistan People’s Party-led coalition, including PML-Q, ANP, MQM, PML-F (for a good part of the five-year term) and other parties and independents governed the country.
In provinces, PML-N, the pre-dominant party of the Punjab governed it; ANP ruled KPK; PPP joined hands with MQM and PML-F in Sindh and; a group of parties ruled Balochistan.
Perhaps, the above setting, with a few changes, holds true for all the governments that Pakistan witnessed in the past decades.
Come May 11 elections and the political Kaleidoscope projects a pattern that no mind in all its sanity could, would or should have thought probable a few months back. PML-N rules the roost in centre as well as Punjab. PTI almost wipes out ANP – one of the major partners of the last federal government and a biggest stakeholder of KPK. A huge change, hands down. But that’s just a beginning.
The PTI brought about a paradigm shift in the rigidly scornful view of domestic politics invariably held by the educated class, the upper middle class and the elite strata of society inhabiting the urban parts of the country. Refreshingly, for the first time since seventies, the people of Pakistan not only witnessed a number of massive political rallies each day in the run up to the historic polls but also ended up feeling closely connected and at the same time obligated to do their bit towards changing the fate of the nation as a whole. Never forget that it was PTI that staged the first such mega show at Minar-e-Pakistan on 30th October 2011.
The PTI emerged as a trend setter which blended its speeches with awe inspiring music and the magical result it produced, unsurprisingly, compelled PML-N to follow the suit.
The rousing poll campaigns backed by moving promos rekindled a collective hope among people whose flame they thought had been put out long ago, never to be ignited again. I could see the sparkle of that flame in people’s eyes on the polling day as they queued up in sweltering heat outside the polling stations.
The mood was festive, evoking flashbacks of my childhood memories of the mornings of Eid days when I walked to the mosque along with my father and male siblings in the streets of Karachi.
The staggering figures of voter turnout in May 11 ballot was a striking sign of the revival of the political culture we once had and, I, for one, firmly believe that it is nothing less than a revolution. That’s because it resurrected the confidence in people to dream again.
One should also not forget that PTI, breaking the status quo, conducted biggest intra-party elections – unprecedented in Pakistan’s 65-year long history.
It has emerged as the second biggest party of the ‘kingmaking’ province – Punjab. Similarly, the PTI has also carved out its place as the most legitimate and a formidable competitor to the yet invincible MQM in Karachi.
This is high time that MQM, which has so far basked in the glory of its unflinching ‘public mandate’, wake up to the daunting reality before they miss the train. Even before practically performing on the ground, the PTI has set the bar so high that now the future elections of Karachi will no longer be fought merely on the basis of ethnicity but purely on the basis of merit and performance.
Imran Khan in his latest video message vowed to make KPK a model province for the rest of the country and to play the role of a strong opposition. If he succeeded in delivering on these counts – and there is a big possibility that he will – then the founder of Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital will not only become a force to reckon with for the MQM in Karachi but also to all other stakeholders of the mainstream politics, particularly, the PML-N in the Punjab.
The Teen Talwar and other sit-downs staged voluntarily by the Karachiites against the alleged rigging is a historic development in itself, particularly, in the backdrop of the port city’s traditional politics. This, understandably, hasn’t sunk down well with the main political stakeholder of Pakistan’s commercial hub and the bewilderment in the reaction of its top leadership speaks volumes about the sudden change that has transpired as a result of the May 11 vote.
Have we already stepped into a ‘New Pakistan’? If not yet, then, in my opinion, the outcome of May 11 polls has certainly opened the door that leads to it.
Mazhar Bughio can be followed on Twitter @mazharbughio