One ought to give credit to Imran that his inspiring leadership has energized that middle class of the Pakistanis that had virtually given up any hope of making its presence felt in the macabre milieu of Pakistani politics
KARAMATULLAH K GHORI
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t was a very large gathering of people by any known standard of Pakistan, with tens of thousands of people—aficionados of Imran Khan—turning up in Islamabad on November 30 to heed his call to his followers to mark their commitment to a ‘New Pakistan.’
Yes, it wasn’t a million-strong crowd; it wasn’t even a hundred thousand. But what’s the big deal if it wasn’t a six-figure crowd? How does it give an excuse to the goons, or the mealy-mouthed factotums, of the Nawaz government to sneer at it?
A numbers game is for the bums who can’t look beyond their snooty noses. It really doesn’t matter whether there were fifty thousand or ten thousand people in attendance at Imran’s historic jalsa in Islamabad on that rather chilly evening of November 30.
Numbers don’t count; they pale into insignificance when matched against the quality of people in attendance. Imran’s followers represent the solid middle class of Pakistan—its intelligentsia and the cream of its youth—which, in any established democratic polity make up the backbone of democracy.
One ought to give credit to Imran that his inspiring leadership has energized that middle class of the Pakistanis that had virtually given up any hope of making its presence felt in the macabre milieu of Pakistani politics. Those, like this scribe, who watched the Islamabad jalsa live on their tele-screens would vouch to the refreshingly vibrant faces of its youthful audience.
What a pleasure it was to see those intelligent young faces exuding the incandescence of hope for a better Pakistan that Imran’s exponentially-improved articulation has given the name of a ‘New Pakistan.’ Their raw synergy lit up the venue and raised expectations of a real change in Pakistan’s moribund political culture to a level not experienced before.
And what a marked contrast it stood in against the illiterate crowds of the theatre of absurd assembled by Zardari and his imbecile son in Karachi, last month. That ludicrous exercise in hyper-bloated vanity of the ‘unholy father’ and his effeminate son was choreographed with the assistance of every damn thing that the corrupt Sindh government could muster to please its masters.
Busloads of simple folks were brought into Karachi to make its people believe that the age of Prince Bilawal had arrived. And yet it was dull-as-a- damp squib show that served none of its grand designs. The ‘unholy father’ couldn’t realise his dream of making the Karachi jalsa his strutting son’s coronation.
Imran’s chanting and singing crowd was equally different—in human quality and dignity—from the Gulloo Butts that the Junior of the Sharif Brothers—the phlegmatic and irascible Chief Minister of Punjab Shehbaz Sharif—has in his personal armory of goons to hold a captive audience in their thrall at PML-N public meetings. Better to leave it unsaid that the entire paraphernalia of Punjab establishment is pressed into service for such occasions.
Galvanising the youths of Pakistan is Imran Khan’s stellar achievement. He has to his credit for having given the generation of young and educated Pakistanis that sense of direction and purpose which had eluded them before Imran rose on the horizon of Pakistani politics. There couldn’t be a smarter move, and welcome development, in a country where 70 per cent of the populace is under 30.
The youths of Pakistan are the building blocks of the New Pakistan of Imran’s dreams. You can’t build that coveted Pakistan with the uneducated haris of Zardari or the Gulloo Butts of the Sharifs. A new and dynamic Pakistan ought to draw its life blood from the talent of educated and enlightened middle class youths ready to serve the nation and not themselves.
So it’s a straight fight between the votaries of change, as represented by Imran and his legions of young Pakistanis, and partisans of the status quo, epitomized by the likes of Nawaz Sharif and Zardari—the veritable vampires sucking the blood of the Pakistani people to lard their nests in money-friendly havens abroad.
Imran’s slogan of change has its work cut out, for him as well as for his aficionados.
The Islamabad conclave didn’t hear a new articulation from Imran. He harped on his set-piece of the massive plundering of Pakistan that both Nawaz and Zardari are brazenly guilty of. In that sense Imran’s rhetoric was old stuff without sparks.
But there was a new theme, nevertheless: his call to paralyse the nerve centres of Pakistan—Karachi, Lahore and Faisalabad. These three cities, between them, generate the lion’s share of Pakistani economy. Paralyse them and you can paralyse Pakistan. It’s as simple as that.
Imran’s Plan-C is obviously focused on attacking what the Nawaz regime has been—misleadingly, of course—touting as its crowning achievement. It boasts of reviving the moribund economy it’d inherited from Zardari’s kleptocracy. Nawaz and his minions have been beating their chests that Imran’s dharna is crippling their efforts to resuscitate the country’s economy—a false slogan, at best.
It’s a pertinent question to ask—although it may still be too early to ask—if Imran is aware of the sensitivity and enormity of the gauntlet he has thrown for himself on a course that’s already littered with umpteen traps?
The retrograde opposition to Imran and his movement has both PML-N and PPP as its key players. Both are entrenched in power: PML-N at the center and PPP in Sindh. Zardari’s hand-maiden PPP is in opposition to Nawaz but only in name. In real life, the two are hands-in-glove in an unholy alliance riveted on maintaining the status quo because it has served their corrupt regimes so well.
The focal points in Imran’s Plan C are Faisalabad, Lahore and Karachi—all in the clutches of these purveyors of a people-unfriendly cabal of corrupt feudal barons and their fellow-travellers. You can bet your money on it that a despotic Shehbaz Sharif—whose antics remind one of a frenzied Fuehrer Hitler—would tilt at all windmills to subvert Imran’s agitation in Lahore. His Gulloo Butts, unleashed against the PTI’s young and sophisticated followers, could wreak havoc and turn the situation to ugly extremes. If they could do it to Tahir-ul-Qadri’s aficionados they wouldn’t hesitate from repeating the deadly dose on PTI’s callow agitators.
And then there’s Karachi. Pakistan’s bread-earning metropolis has been hostage to the dual scourge of PPP and MQM for years. These two anti-people parties are addicted to power for the sake of enriching themselves at the expense of Karachi and its teeming millions. Both have a huge moral deficit and would stoop down to any level to ensure that Karachi stays ransomed to them and their greed for pelf and power.
MQM, in particular, is guilty of robbing those Karachiites who’d voted for PTI in last year’s elections of their mandate; there’s ample evidence of MQM goons stuffing ballot boxes to steal the people’s PTI mandate in their favor.
Imran must know that MQM and Zardari are the principal stake-holders of Karachi and would pull back from nothing to checkmate him. He ought to have a Plan D ready for Karachi, in particular, if his Plan C fails to make the impact he’d like to record.
In the wake of Imran’s well-publicized plans to take the battle to his adversaries’ strongholds, the Nawaz regime has shown some flexibility in its earlier stance of no-dialogue with PTI. But that could well be a tactical move to take the wind out of Imran’s sails.
There’s a fundamental dichotomy in the agendas of Imran and Nawaz. Imran is morally and viscerally committed to Change, in the strict sense of the term, from that ruthless system of exploitation that has served the country’s minuscule, but powerful, ruling elite at the expense of 98 % of the Pakistani people. Nawaz, at the opposite pole, is a major beneficiary of the system of spoils and would do all to keep it serving him and his class of jackals.
A clash between these polarized agendas is imminent. It’s only a matter of time. It’s also a reasonable conjecture that the longer it’s delayed the bloodier it would be—no hyperbole in that. Any dialogue in such a deeply polarised scenario would amount to nothing more than going through the motions, with almost zero hope of a mutually satisfactory outcome.
Tahir-ul-Qadri’s exit from active politics—temporary or doctored, only time will tell—may have given a faux sense of confidence to Nawaz and his minions. There’s a question mark already on Qadri’s illness; hard to say if it’s genuine or politically-doctored.
However, the Nawaz camp may think it has weakened Imran and given the government party a shot in its arm. So they feel they can be magnanimous from a position of strength. This false sense of power may doom the dialogue in its infancy, with the government sensing no urgency to accommodate PTI’s demands—a recipe for failure, for sure.
The flashpoint may, and can, be averted if only the arbiter in Pakistan’s tangled political calculus—its military brass—would intervene at the right time to play its traditional role of a referee to sort things out. But this time around the referee, for a change, will have to have no fringe agenda of his own.
That brings into play the question making the rounds on so many lips: what rushed the army chief, General Raheel Sharif, to Washington at this critical stage in the country’s politics? Doesn’t he have a clear sense of the battle lines drawn between the contending political players? Or is it that he has a sharper sense of it than most would believe and has gone upstairs—to the permanent Third Umpire of Pakistan—to get the green light from him to play the referee that so many want him to?
Take your pick of the options and wager on one—or more than one—if you will. What this pundit can tell you—without the benefit of a crystal ball—is that you wouldn’t be waiting long before knowing the fate of your bet.
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