Imran ready to bowl. This gentle breeze blowing in from North. Fragrant. Whiff of expectation in the air. Imran starts running. Head lunging forward, piercing gaze, body curved in a magnificent arch, shirt trailing, measured steps like a Tiger on the prowl. Approaches the wicket, launches into that spectacular leap, body taut and air borne. The ball released, jags, cuts in shattering the wickets. Silence in the air. 12 AM, May 12.
May 18. Did the ball cut enough? A debate rages in the media, drawing rooms on the success of Imran’s electoral campaign. Was it a failure because it did not turn out to be the status quo wrecking tsunami? Or it was almost what PTI had hoped it to be. A campaign to put them on the political map of Pakistan, morph PTI into a third political force of reckoning. Well the answer would depend on which side of the fence you are on. PML-N supporters do not have to strain their intellects to rationalize the massive Punjabi nod in their favor. The mandate speaks for itself. The onus of analysis lies on PTI and PPP to argue and defend.
I had argued in an earlier piece of mine, “Busting the myth of Zardari”, that the praise lavished on Zardari is misplaced and he is hardly the political genius as imagined by many of his ilk. He managed to survive for five years and was helped by two key factors. Army’s reluctance to step in and Zardari’s finely honed survival instinct. In fact survival was pretty much his only the strategy which took its due toll on governance and PPP itself. Election 2013 saw PPP being routed in Punjab. In all likelihood, PPP voter, disgruntled and disillusioned with party affairs and his own miserable existence, defected and voted for PML-N. PPP leaders may disagree and rattle off ideological underpinnings of a Jiyala, unwavering loyalty to Bhuttos as reasons to never contemplate breaking free. Well, not only the higher turnout sidestepped PPP but their own kin deserted them.
PML-N is a different story. Sharif had all but ceased to exist politically after their forced exile. 2008 elections split Punjab between them and PPP pretty evenly. 2013 elections saw them descend on Pakistan with a verdict cast in heaven. Their landslide victory in Punjab and Centre has surprised even the pundits. It seems PML-N benefitted much more from the higher turnout than PTI. I have no doubt in my mind that Imran Khan was the single most important factor in driving people to vote. Media only added to the fervor and whipped up the nation into a frenzy. We saw women, urban youth in hordes at the polling stations. Guess not all were PTI supporters and many who had been silent lovers of PML-N came out bitten by the voting bug.
Imran’s portents of a tsunami may have faltered but he has worked up enough urban froth to scare the status quo into better governance. He was able to politicize inert segments of society who had had a history of watching it all from the fence. Urban youth and women participation in the elections made them much more inclusive and representative. The emergence of PTI as a third force has broken the stranglehold of two-party system on Pakistan. This effectively means more choice for the people. This means more competition for the current rulers. This means credible replacements in the waiting. PTI emerged as the second biggest party at center and swept Khber Pakhtunkhwa. In Karachi it secured the highest number of votes polled after MQM. From nothing to all of this, PTI has come a long way. Tsunami it is not but a heartening and significant change in the right direction for sure. A couplet honoring the change in direction…
Why walk the beaten track
Why talk the sweetened crap
Let’s walk on the wild side
Let’s talk the taboos aside