By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi
A possible Prime Minister Imran Khan is perhaps the second
most discussed question in Pakistan, after Panamagate. Will he or won’t he?
Will the “Khan” breast the tape, or join the ranks of the
heart-achingly “also rans”? An Al Gore, an Asghar Khan, a Hillary Clinton!
Or will he, as he has done several times in the past,
overcome seemingly insurmountable odds and emerge victorious, despite the
challenges, and quite a few of his own creation, as his detractors and
It’s a tough question to answer, given the fickleness of
this mistress called “politics.”
So despite my biases, here’s hoping an objective current
perspective, also as fickle as the mistress of “politics!”
To try and figure out what’s going on, In addition to my
personal insights, I recently spoke to a couple of dozen people connected to Imran;
friend and foe, close associates and hard-core enemies, some still close, some
silently withdrawn to the sidelines. Some publicly angry, some sulking on the
sidelines and a few former die, hard friends, now his mortal political enemies.
And of course, I spoke to the Khan himself!
Part 1 -The Rise of PTI and Imran Khan
So this is the story of PTI from a “Tonga Party” in 1996, to
arguably becoming by 2017, Pakistan’s most popular party and Imran its most
popular political leader. Arguably, I say, because many would disagree! And with much
merit in their disagreements.
And it’s not a complete story but a story about things which
I think matter.No juicy tidbits of “clandestine one-night stands” or
“midnight meetings with the Army Brass.” Just plain old stuff!
So what did Imran tap into? Like Bhutto before him, he
tapped into a lot of things.
Imran tapped into a nation, sick and tired of corruption,
and desperate to get rid of a system which only benefited the privileged and
An anger which stemmed from decades of misrule, of military
coups gone wrong, of pretentious messiahs with holier than thou demeanors,
looting and plundering, victims of their own unbridled and insatiable greed for
power, wealth, and influence.
Imran tapped into a nation, sick and tired of corruption,
and desperate to get rid of a system which only benefited the privileged and
the rich. A system bereft of meritocracy, transparency, and accountability.
A system where the rich and powerful were and are able to
hijack a flimsy, tottering electoral process and in the name of “democracy”
hoist themselves into power. A system where all ruling groups, civil and
military, through deliberate acts of commission or incompetent omissions,
systematically destroyed institutions who could challenge them and stop their
loot and plunder or deposing them.
A system which allowed desperate people to think that a
military ruler, a dictator, an autocratic ruler would come and cleanse the
Augean stables. And each time they found that all these “Messiahs” had feet of
clay and all failed, leaving behind a system weaker than before!
But the key thing that he was able to tap into was the
nation’s desperation for a political leader who had integrity and was honest.
Someone they could trust! Whether today his rating on these attributes are as
high as it was earlier is something we’ll address later.
I think several factors contributed to Imran’s political
success to date.
He was and still is everything a traditional politician is
not. He has no political background, no father to son political legacy. He is
neither a feudal nor a rich businessman. Just a regular and a trifle
privileged, middle-class Zaman Pak/Aitchison College boy, who goes to Oxford,
lives the high life in the UK and becomes a cricketing icon. And finally,
catapults to super stardom in cricket-mad Pakistan by leading Pakistan to its
first 1992 World Cup Victory. The second win, yesterday with the sweet taste
still lingering, may perhaps be Divine portents in his favor!
But back to the past. His mother’s passing away a few years
earlier, prior to the 1992 World Cup Victory, sowed the seeds for what was to
come later: The Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital. And when he announced
the Cancer hospital, people flocked and gave away their life’s savings. Rich
and poor, rural and urban, young and old. This roaring success in social
philanthropy convinced him that he could make a difference in politics.
And so in 1996, he launched PTI, and for years, aimlessly
roamed the harsh and inhospitable wilderness of the baradari driven system
called Pakistani politics. Barely winning one seat in 2002. His own!
But it was the open electronic media, kind courtesy of Gen.
Musharraf that from 2002 onwards, gave him the visibility and lifeblood every
By 2007, riding the crest of his anti-drone campaign, the
Lawyers Movement against Gen. Musharraf, and the dedication of his supporters,
PTI now had nearly 70,000 members.
“For years we
didn’t have more than a thousand members and couldn’t even fund our expenses.
It was very tough going. But I kept going”! Imran said.
But then in 2008 the party, along with Jamaat-e-Islami,
boycotted the elections. The PPP were voted in by a shell-shocked nation riding
a wave of sympathy votes following Benazir Bhutto’s assassination. And Asif
Zardari, universally acknowledged as Pakistan’s most corrupt politician, became
And Imran continued his relentless call against corruption
and misgovernance, and on 30th October 2011, in his famous Lahore Jalsa, he and
the party came of age. It seemed as if the prodigal son had arrived.
Part 2 – Compromise
But success came at a price.
The party ideologues found new entrants from the existing
political order now occupying positions of power and authority and influence in
the party. Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Javed Hashmi and Jehangir Tareen, were some of
the big names who joined the party from the traditional lot of politicians.
Yet, such was the wave of unquestioned faith and trust in
Imran, that the support didn’t waiver, and by the time the 2013 elections came
around, he had captured the imagination and support of the vast majority of
middle-class urban Pakistanis.
Many of them had till very recently been silent and angry
observers of the political process.
And also, by this time, the party had attracted to its
ranks, large groups of highly educated professionals, retired public servants,
and senior members of the judiciary, senior retired bureaucrats and army
officers, many of very high ranks. Young and old, male and female, all flocked
to Imran and PTI. All finally convinced that in Imran and the party lay the
salvation of Pakistan.
But soon, for many of these new entrants disillusionment
with the world of politics and by implication with Imran and PTI, set in.
The vast majority of these people had never participated in
politics and were unfamiliar with the cut and thrust of politics. The vicious
infighting and groupings shocked them. They were appalled at the
disorganization and ill-discipline of a mass of people, all volunteers who were
not encumbered by the discipline of a structured corporate organization or the
workings of a government office and especially when people did not fear the consequences
of not following orders. And everyone wanted a piece of the pie. The new guard
or the quasi-new guard on the party now occupied the front seats and more
visible. Javed Hashmi, Jehangir Tareen, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Asad Umar, and
Aleem Khan vs the old order symbolized by Saifullah Niazi.
“Why”? I asked Imran.
“No one’s walked my political journey. No politician, no military
leader, no wadera, no nobody. I have made many mistakes and have learned a lot
from them”* he asserts, as I questioned him about the “questionable people
joining the party.” The Mustafa Khar’s, the Liaquat Jatoi’s, and the
Firdous Ashiq Awan’s etc (Nazar Gondal and Imtiaz Waraich hadn’t yet joined).
“I have seen nearly every possible aspect of politics in Pakistan. From
starting a party from scratch with no political background to breaking the hold
of an entrenched two-party system of the PML and the PPP. A feat quite
impossible, even in highly educated and democratically evolved societies in
Europe and North America. People say I don’t understand politics especially
constituency politics. What they forget is how I carved out my own constituency
in Mianwali, which is as close to the Wild West you can get in Pakistan.
Mianwali is a very difficult constituency because it is subdivided even below
the baradaris into small “dharras” who flock and vote together. I challenge any
of these so called politicians to go into a rural heartland with zero political
backgrounds and carve out a constituency for themselves.”
But, while that is all well and good and extremely laudable
and impressive, why was he now trucking with the same kind of people he was so
critical of – the traditional electables?
“Politics is a Marathon and you have to be in it for the long haul,
despite the many obstacles one comes across”, says Imran.
“Several types of people join politics. The traditional politicians,
from the rural heartlands, who have to participate or lose their power,
influence, and clout. Not all are corrupt. But for them, politics is about
survival. It’s not about public service but to remain relevant. In this
process, they use their power and influence to keep themselves in play,
continue to exercise their decades and or centuries hold over the rural
peasantry and deliver public service, not as a value but as a favor for their
constituents. This is symbolised in the traditional Thana Kutchery politics,
which is their lifeblood”*.
”Then is the lot which joins purely to make money through corrupt
means. People like Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari and others who hitch their
wagons to these politicians. It is this category which is destroying Pakistan.
The third join with the hope of changing the system. People like me and others
to take back Pakistan from the stranglehold of corrupt politicians, like Nawaz
Sharif and Zardari”.
”And this category, though very substantial, is unable to run the
Marathon. In my 21 years, I can barely count a handful who have managed to stay
the course. And they are all good people who came with sincere intentions and
made effective contributions. PTI and I owe them an immense debt of gratitude
for their support and insight. And I don’t blame them because they leave.”
“In all fairness to them, politics is a hard and harsh reality. And
even harsher is the political victimization that the governing clique imposes
on its political opponents. Not many can withstand the personal, professional
and financial victimization that you are put under. And, also, its a full-time
job. You can’t do it part time. And it’s also a strange Marathon. You can run
long and hard and suddenly find yourself having to start all over again. It’s
very tiring, very frustrating, very challenging and it drains one of hope and
patience and strength. So one has to be very resilient, very tough, mentally
and emotionally to keep going!”
”And then, of course, I hear people who sit on the sidelines and give
advice. People who have no idea of what politics is about. No idea of the
challenges of breaking into an entrenched system of political cronyism,
centuries-old feudal culture. I also thought I could do it by bringing in new
people, fresh faces. People who were not traditional politicians. But I
realized it wasn’t that easy. And over the years I realized that I have to
leverage the same system to come into power if I had to bring about change! But
many didn’t understand these realities. And many of my colleagues would bombard
me with free advice all the time, but when it came to implementing, very few
stand up. I tried my best and am continuing to do so. To bring in fresh and new
faces. But it’s a big challenge!”
Part 3 - Internal
Party Struggles and the 2013 Elections
By 2011, the party had mushroomed, literally overnight, and
its membership grew to the hundreds of thousands and then into the millions.
Everyone flocked to join the party. By 2012, membership stood at 2.3 million
voters.*“We were all taken by complete surprise and overwhelmed.”* says Imran.
So riding this new wave of unprecedented popularity and
support, Imran was convinced that a political party which didn’t hold open,
free and fair intra-party elections was not worthy of participating in the
political process and hence intra-party elections commenced in 2012.
These were a disaster and nearly destroyed the party!
An exercise supposed to finish in 3 months dragged on for
nearly a year and pitted party leaders and workers leaders against each other
in an internecine battle.
Jehangir Tareen, now a nominated Secretary General, was
involved in a free for all with Saifullah Niazi, the additional Secretary
General. Despite his best efforts, Saifullah Niazi was perhaps overwhelmed by a
party which had grown to mammoth proportions and now required a degree of
organizational skills he may have been lacking. But he was a diehard ideologue,
very close to Imran and opposed to the new entrants and the change taking
place. Factions and groups emerged. Everyone, smelling victory, desperately
vied for party office and by implication, party tickets. Ticket allocation was
a total disaster, done in haste and, in many cases, given to undeserving
Imran had learned a bitter lesson, but the party was fated
to repeat another fiasco a few years later and finally to the “tick box”
election held a few days back on June 12th, 2017. But despite this mess, the
“new urban voter” still stayed by him. The infighting was not as visible to the
average person. People from overseas came by the planeloads to vote in the 2013
elections. As did I with my two sons on a day trip from Dubai to vote and
return the next day! The party came through with 30 odd seats and the stench of
a stolen election and a consolation prize of being the largest party in KPK!
Imran, his party, and supporters were incensed!
They thought they had won the election. Or, at a minimum, if
not won, had been cheated out of 30 to 40 seats giving them a 60 to 70 seat
strength in parliament and maybe a coalition partner’s shot at the Center.
”We knocked every door: parliament, the election commission, the
courts, demanding a probe into electoral rigging in four constituencies as a
litmus test for the rest of the election process. We published a 2100 page
white paper on the rigging. A former member of the election commission
disclosed how poll rigging was carried out. Finally, the Supreme Court took
notice but dismissed our petition, citing not enough “proof beyond reasonable
doubt” of a systematic and planned rigging of the polls. And that is when we
decided that going to the people was the only answer”, says Imran
This then lead to the now famous or infamous, “Islamabad
Dharna”, depending on one’s sympathies or political affiliation, lasting 126
days from May 2014 to December 2014. For 126 days, the party was headline news
every day. It was the ultimate 9 ‘0’ clock news!
For many, the ‘Dharna” changed the landscape of Pakistani
politics and created an unprecedented level of awareness about the corruption
and misrule of Pakistan’s political masters. To others, it was a colossal waste
of time, money and resources and a desperate attempt by Imran to goad the Army
into deposing Nawaz and holding elections. Wherever one stands on the issue,
one thing everyone agrees. It was the single biggest and longest political
event, ever, in the history of Pakistan!
While it brought Imran some great political capital, it also
cast some dark shadows! Javed Hashmi’s allegations of back channels with the
Army brought up past visions of conspiracies with the Army to depose a legally
elected government. Javed Hashmi subsequently left the party in a huff, himself
under a cloud of allegations of having taken money in exchange for allocating
tickets in the 2013 elections. The Army Public School tragedy finally brought
it to an abrupt close.
I think the 2013 Election Campaign and the Dharna tested
Imran’s energies to the limit. It was a superhuman effort to keep going
non-stop for nearly 2 years and the tremendous toll it took on him, physically,
emotionally and mentally. And Jehangir Tareen seemed to be the perfect answer,
at least in Imran’s mind, to help him.
Hate him or love him, no one can deny that Jehangir Tareen
possesses incredible organizational ability and management competence.
From being called a “control freak”, to a Shahbaz Sharif
blue eyed boy and a mole planted in PTI to destroy the party, to Musharraf’s
most successful cabinet member to an “aastheen ka saanp”, Jehangir Tareen or
JKT, as he’s referred to in the party, has been called pretty much everything
in the book.
For Imran, he’s a godsend. Someone who takes care of the
day-to-day affairs of the party and frees him up to do what he does best.
Politicking. Jalsas. Talk shows. Meetings. Traveling across the country and by
God, the plane helps! But Imran also paid some serious political price in his
unwavering support of JKT, especially within his party, and outside as well.
Many, most, in fact, let’s be honest, every person I’ve spoken to, whether a
close Imran personal friend, senior party leader, close advisors, mid-level
leaders, members, supporters, detractors and of course mortal enemies, universally
say two things about JKT.
1) That he is incredibly bright, organized, has amazing
management skills and takes the load of Imran and takes care of all the
2) But as a consequence has leveraged his seeming
indispensability and 24/7 access to Imran to progressively acquire power and
influence within the party, create his own group of loyalists, and in the
process, ruthlessly crushing anyone and everyone who opposes him or stands in
For JKT, it’s either his way or the highway. Byzantine
politics at their best. Or so is a general perception! And in the process, he
has turned everybody off and is perhaps the most disliked person in the party,
followed closely by his sidekick, Aleem Khan!
And the other big fairly commonly held view is that JKT
would not get elected as the party’s Secretary General in an open, fair and
free party election. And this would, therefore, leave Imran without JKT. My
sense is, that in Imran’s view, JKT’s strength and benefits to the party and
Imran outweigh JKT’s challenges. I think he is fully aware of the mood about
JKT. So when I shared these concerns with him, and that he’s perhaps being
manipulated and used, his answer was emphatic.
“Absolute nonsense. I’ve never been used nor allowed myself to be used
by anybody in my life. While I consult everybody, but I take my own decisions.
My answer to these people who criticize me is to bring me a better person than
JKT or come and do the job better than he can. As I said before it’s easy to
criticize and offer free advice. But when it comes to taking responsibility
these same critics are nowhere to be seen”.
Closing off this section on JKT, I’d like to share another
side of this person. In a former life, with a couple of friends we had developed
a web based free education portal, something like the “Khan Academy” for K-12
in Pakistan, with the aim to provide video based learning content in English,
Urdu, Pashto, Baluchi and Sindhi, using the Pakistan Text Book board
curriculum. In our search for educationists to test our model, preferably in
rural environments, we came across Sami Mustafa, an eminent educationist. To our surprise we learned how JKT was regularly funding the entire cost of 84
government schools in Lodhran at an annual cost of Rs. 60 million (6 crores), managed and
administered by Sami and his team, perhaps the best secondary school educationist in the country
But back to PTI. In 2015 fresh intra-party elections were
announced, with Tasnim Noorani, the ex-Secretary Interior, as party election
commissioner. Tasnim Noorani, is an exemplary person, and worked diligently to
put in place a strong and robust framework. Working with a three-member
election commission, they attempted to use the latest technology to access the
entire party voter base. Voter lists were updated. But quickly dissent arose. The
technology, the commission recommended for voting became questionable. And
finally, after a lot of debate, discussion, and serious infighting, the
elections were canceled. This again cast a shadow on Imran’s own democratic
The question is. Did Imran actually compromise on his
democratic credentials or did he have valid reasons to support the dissolution?
There are two views within the party. One. That Tasnim
Noorani and the election commission may have overstepped their role, which was
limited to conducting elections. It was not to determine which positions should
be up for elections or for the direct nomination. The other, was that it was
their mandate to advice on both, “the what and the how” of these elections.
Tasnim Noorani resigned and Imran and PTI suffered another knock.
As an outsider, one can understand the reality of elections
being a hard nut to swallow especially when the results are contrary to desire.
Hence, perhaps an option for the party is to create nominated vs. elected roles
which gives Imran the flexibility and authority to nominate people like JKT,
and not create the perception that he’s compromising his principles. Easier
said than done, but an option to consider.
And finally, the June 2017 intra-party elections. These were
clearly, for want of a better word, “khana poori” to fulfill the Pakistan
Election Commission’s requirements of holding party elections and obtain the
party’s election symbol. So not much to discuss on that. It’s perhaps
“realpolitik” to an uncomfortable degree of compromise. But Imran hasn’t made
any bones about why they were held in the manner they were.
Part 4 - A bit of a
Revival and Panamagate
In April 2016, fate delivered Panamagate! Perhaps one of the
most important events in Pakistan.
It is being seen as an opportunity of a lifetime for
Pakistan to rid itself of a terrible lot of corrupt politicians and also bring
them to justice.
For the party and Imran, it is a godsend and given the
party, which had been a bit at sea since the Supreme Court decision rejecting
their election petition, a golden opportunity to go after Nawaz Sharif. For
Nawaz Sharif, it was and continues to be a never ending nightmare! His
reputation in tatters. His family exposed. Both within and outside the country!
And no place to hide!
To many, Imran’s continuous charges against Nawaz Sharif
stand justified. As one very senior party, PMLN insider said,
“Panamagate leaves no
doubt in anyone’s mind about the corruption of Nawaz Sharif and his family and
his cronies. They have used large scale infrastructure projects to take massive
kickbacks, and then through the kind courtesy and great skills of his Samdhi,
Consigliere Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, ensured that funds are siphoned off via
deeply hidden off-shore companies and then used to purchase properties and
businesses across the globe in the name of their children”.
For the uninitiated, a Consigliere is a position within the
leadership structure of Sicilian, Calabrian and American Mafia, popularized by
the novel The Godfather, and in Pakistan by Justice Khosa. This person is an
advisor or counselor to the Godfather with the additional responsibility of representing
the Godfather in important meetings both within the Godfather’s crime family
and with other crime families.
“This description fits Finance Minister Ishaq Dar perfectly”*, says the
senior PMLN leader. *“Finance Minister Ishaq Dar’s real job is to launder the
Nawaz billions, directly supported by another Nawaz crony, Saifur Rahman, who
ensures that massive projects are given to Nawaz Sharif’s business partners in
Qatar. The same “Prince” who authored the infamous Qatari letter. As well as
foot soldiers like the current National Bank President, Saeed Qureshi, and many
other “unsung and unknown foot soldiers” working for Don Nawaz.”
Not my words but of the PMLN leader, I spoke to.
“So why don’t you leave Nawaz?” I asked this PMLN leader. “I
will and so will many others, when the time is right.”
I pressed further, but this was all I could get out of him!
In summary, Panamagate has provided Imran the opportunity to
do what he does best. A clear target and objective to attack with the
single-minded determination and uncompromising ferocity of a Bull Terrier. And
whether we like him or hate him, the entire and single-handed credit for
keeping Panamagate alive and the center stage goes only to Imran Khan. And also
the credit of the unique sight of a Supreme Court-mandated Joint Investigation
team, summoning and questioning PM Nawaz, his two sons, his brother, CM Shahbaz
Sharif, his Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Saeed Qureshi, President of
Pakistan’s largest bank, National Bank, on charges of embezzlement, corruption,
money laundering, tax evasion and lying under oath.
Will Panamagate be Nawaz Sharif’s Waterloo or his Dunkirk?
Will it be Imran Khan’s finest hour or another failed attempt to bringing a
corrupt Prime Minister to book? This only time will tell! But Panamagate gave
the Imran and the party new vigor and a fresh lease of life
Part 5 - Electoral
Prospects – 2018
And now the question. Prime Minister Imran Khan?
For starters, he has to win the election which depends on
his electoral strategy to get the magic 172 seats for a majority at the Center
or as one party leader told me, about 120+ seats and some coalition partners to
be able to form a government at the center.
So what is Imran’s electoral strategy?
Will he continue with his previous strategy of trying to
bring new faces in both urban and rural seats and hope that a tidal wave of
support will get him the magic numbers? Or has he decided that the only way to
win is by;
Increasing his tally of seats from KPK, based on
the Party’s track record and also retain the Province.
Winning Punjab both at the center and province
through traditional electables in the rural constituencies and his new faces in
the big cities. Hence Khar and the PPP politicians who’ve joined!
Grabbing a dozen or so seats in Sindh. Some in
Karachi and some through electables in rural Sind. Hence Liaquat Jatoi
Riding the crest of his KPK success, getting
more seats in the Pashtun belt in Baluchistan and a few from the Baloch areas.
My sense is that he has opted for the latter strategy.
The success of this strategy, despite the use of electables,
also depends, in my opinion, on the public perception of the extent to which
Imran has compromised his pristine call for an end to corruption. The moral
high ground, to which millions flocked, starry-eyed and full of hope, and which
is now attracting elements of that same decrepit system. It also depends on the
perception of the damage the party suffered because of its internal electoral
Will JKT with all his qualities prove to be a millstone
around Imran’s neck?
Or will he prove people wrong and deliver Punjab to PTI
through people like the clearly unsavory Aleem Khan? And at what price? Has
Imran outsourced his party’s operational management to JKT and his group to
such an extent that he is now less accessible to the voices of the die-hard
party ideologues, the rank, and file, the backbenchers, the very people who
form the backbone and strength of any political party?
This approach has significant implications for activities
leading up to Election Day.
On that day it’s the ability of a party’s feet on street to
get the voters out and be ready to check rigging or poll fraud. Theoretically,
a party contesting all 272 seats requires a highly motivated and supercharged
electoral engine of millions on the ground. This according to Saifullah Niazi,
the now estranged PTI leader, and someone who has driven the length and breadth
of Pakistan with Imran and others. *“The party needs about 15 people per
polling station and given about 80,000 polling stations across Pakistan, we
would require 1.2 million dedicated, motivated party activists on the ground!*
“Why 15”? I asked.
“2 to 3 per polling booth. 2 to 3 to do last
minute canvassing and about 8 to 10 for “muscle” in case things get ugly! And
this is not counting those who are bringing people to the polling stations to
vote. It’s a massive exercise”, explained Saifullah Niazi, who, I have
a feeling, will be soon back in the party folds.
So the question is, given this need, to what extent has
Imran outsourced this effort to the newly joined “electables”, sidelining those
who have stood by him through thick and thin? And hopefully will still stick by
him when the going gets tough and the political nights turn cold, and the fairweathers
flock away, as is inevitably fated to happen in politics?
And how much damage has Imran and PTI’s purist ideology
suffered from the recent induction of PPP electables? And importantly, its
impact on the ballot box?
And the deduction, that despite the damage, this is,
perhaps, a considered and calculated risk of using the old guard to bring in
the new guard.
Will the charges of also owning an offshore company, Niazi
Enterprises, stick? Will the issues of Bani Gala purchase and foreign funding
And even if they don’t, will it affect people’s choice at
the polls and to what extent? And in the final analysis, his chances of winning
a majority or a significant number of seats depends on who gets tickets.
Does the Party (Imran) have a robust and rigorous enough
process to ensure that the most deserving candidate gets the ticket,
irrespective of which internal party group they belong? And deserving means candidates
with the greatest probability of winning, irrespective whether they belong to JKT’s
or Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s group. Both, desperately vying for the Punjab Chief
Minister’s slot, were PTI to win Punjab, and both trying to get their preferred
candidates, the party tickets. And in this process does the party have a
transparent process to ensure this doesn’t happen and the voice of the on
ground party “constituents” is heard, clearly, loudly and most importantly,
And then the biggest unsaid elephant in the room!
How does the army leadership view Imran? This is an
unfortunate but real part of our political environment. Do they see him as a
threat? Unmanageable or someone they can do business with? My personal opinion
is that the Army should have nothing, absolutely nothing to do with politics or
interfere and influence election results and outcomes. If anything at all, they
should ensure fair and free elections. Ensure that the election commission
stays on the straight and narrow. Support the Supreme Court, given the
Godfather-like Mafia’s stranglehold over the system, and ensure caretaker
governments are not stuffed with Nawaz, Shahbaz and Zardari cronies, who can
“rig and steal” the election.
Unfortunately many say, that ultimately and sadly, it all
depends on whether the establishment, which really means how the Army and in
this particular case, the Army Chief, favors, supports and casts his lot with!
Albeit with a wink and a nod, but enough to get the message across. A sad
reality but a reality! Perhaps, many say, the army wants compromised people in
power so they can influence them and continue to extend the boundaries of their
influence, much beyond their constitutionally mandated role and not be held
Whatever the reason, if the Army Chief, decides to cast his
lot with the old decrepit system and help Nawaz get re-elected, and if by some
miracle or “hidden hand” he escapes the JIT investigation, then let me say it
General Saheb, you will not have a country anymore. But a
land devastated by civil war and total anarchy. Because Nawaz and Zardari would
destroy what little is left of our institutions in their loot and plunder.
So choose wisely! And the choice is obvious! A nation ruled
by a Mafia-like Godfather or someone who has struggled for over 21 years for a
Part 6 - If
elected –The Challenges of Post-election Governance
But, and it’s a big but, winning the election is perhaps the
smaller of Imran’s two challenges.
Not that this will not be a challenge, but the bigger
question is whether he will be able to govern effectively and deliver on his
promises when and if he wins.
The answer to this lies somewhere between PTI’s governance
of KPK to prove beyond a “reasonable doubt” that the party and Imran can
deliver at the Federal level and whether he is still the same Imran of old.
Honest and uncompromising on issues of integrity!
And in both cases above, whether he has been successful in
controlling traditional politicians, symbolized by the likes of Pervez Khattak
and others and delivered significant value.
If the answer is, that despite all the challenges, he has
been able to deliver in KPK, then his claim, that with the right leadership on
top, he will be able to control all those, who misgovern, misrule and dip their
hands in the gravy train of corruption, rings true. Not only the new electables
joining him, but those who even today, stand clearly and seriously compromised,
especially in his inner circle, such as Aleem Khan!
And If he is still the same Imran, and despite all the
compromises he has made and the damage to his puritanism, then the probability
that he will deliver what he promised, perhaps not immediately in 90 days, as
he states, a trifle superficially and carelessly, but over the 5 years of PTI
rule, also rings true!
Then we can certainly hope that he will successfully bring
in a system of across the board accountability, meritocracy, and considerably
reduce the current levels of unbridled and galloping corruption, especially by
people holding positions of power at the highest offices of government!
Then we have hope that he will be able to build and
strengthen public institutions.
And perhaps most importantly deliver for the deprived and
poor people of Pakistan in three critical areas.
Education. Healthcare and Employment.
And pursue a foreign policy, based on our national
Interests, and not be beholden to personal relationships. Such as of a
Prime Minister with foreign rulers who gave him safe haven!
So that is why I submit that his much bigger challenge will
be post-election governance and his ability to control the many tainted people
who have become part of what they think is a “winning bandwagon.” Which may
just turn into a waterfall, if the JIT disqualifies Nawaz Sharif and the PMLN
crumbles, as it did in 1999 and as the PMLQ did in 2013, and starts an exodus
from PMLN to PTI. And then, of course, the huge challenges to work with the
same bureaucracy, especially at the Federal and Punjab, stuffed with Nawaz
Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif toadies!
He clearly has big challenges and I don’t have the answers.
But I do have a perspective.
In my opinion, Imran Khan is still the best bet and the best
option to lead Pakistan. This I say despite all that I’ve said above, of the
challenges he has and the compromises he has made and the serious risks in
adopting the electables electoral strategy.
In his mind, he believes that once in power, corruption by
people who joined his bandwagon will be addressed not as much by him directly,
as much by the independent accountability institutions he will create! And only
time will tell if an Aleem Khan or a Firdous Ashiq Awan will face the guillotine
of uncompromising accountability under Prime Minister Imran Khan’s watch!
I genuinely believe, Imran holds hope for Pakistan. Not a
guarantee but a much better hope than Nawaz and Zardari and what they
represent. And certainly much better hope than a military takeover. And so one
can see how the forces of status quo and vested interests are hammering away at
Imran’s biggest strength. His honesty. If they can break or even crack this
citadel, the blow could be lethal.
The lunacy of a man being questioned for “bringing money
into Pakistan” vs the outrageous loot and plunder of the corruption of Nawaz
Sharif, now out in the open via Panamagate, or that of Zardari, who decided
that running away is the better part of valour and sitting quietly in Dubai, is
I think, in the daily madness of the idiot box and pontificating
anchors and armchair analysts (I being one at the head of the line) we lose
sight of the big thing. And the big thing is the choice between Nawaz Sharif,
Zardari and Imran.
But the manner in which his actions are being dissected to
the minutest detail by people, sitting on the sidelines, never having walked
his walk, or talked his talk and nothing at stake, except a desire to criticize
people more accomplished than themselves and attempt to elevate themselves to their
And despite all this, he still manages to collect more money
for Shaukat Khanum every year. Because people still trust him. Which means his
honesty is unimpeachable!
We forget that Imran isn’t in politics for the money or
We forget that he sacrificed his personal life at the altar
of his politics!
We forget his philanthropy and his ability to create
institutions and then let professionals run them.
We forget that he, perhaps more than anybody else, knows his
limitations and challenges.
We forget that he came from nowhere 21 years ago to create,
arguably the most popular party in Pakistan and broke the back of an entrenched
We forget that despite seemingly insurmountable odds he has
And hence for the sake of this wretched country and its
dismal dark future, I think Pakistan deserves a chance under Imran!
And we hope that Imran doesn’t forget that people flocked to
him because of his honesty and incorruptibility, for his freshness and for the
change he brought to traditional politics.
We hope he doesn’t forget that people didn’t come to him to see the same
old corrupt, discredited faces adorning his stage!
In the words of George
Orwell in “Animal farm”
voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what
had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to
man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was
impossible to say which was which….”
Otherwise, as I’ve said many times before, it’s back to the
stench and vomit of the Sharifs and the Zardaris.
And worse, civil war and anarchy as their loot and plunder
destroy whatever little is left!
Call me an anarchist or an alarmist, but I’ve got a pretty
good track record for seeing these kinds of things.
And a piece of unsolicited advice for you, Imran.
Get a dozen or so, clean and non-controversial faces around
you. People whose reputations will balance the electables. And they don’t have
to be politicians. In fact, they shouldn’t be. But people with major
accomplishments and achievements, especially in addressing and helping reform
Pakistan’s broken institutions.
And other experts and specialists who can offer much to
reform the system. People who otherwise do not have the inclination or the
capacity or the temperament to be actively involved in political activities,
but have great practical expertise to offer. I’m out lest someone thinks
this is a personal plug. Too many skeletons and no expertise.
Please start being a government in waiting. Formulate public
policy and communicate it at two levels. By your party experts to other experts
in Pakistan. And in a much more simplified form to the common man, spelling out
the benefits to them and how it will impact and better their day to day lives.
And lastly and perhaps most importantly, reconnect with your
party rank and file.
Especially the silent majority and the back benchers, the
committed ideologues and the old guard, who still believe in you, and who have,
and will, always stand by you. For they will help you win the election. Create
a two way communication forum with them. Especially share and dialogue with
them along with your leadership team, openly and transparently, your ticket allocation
criteria, methodology and process. For it is they who will provide the most
authentic honest and candid feedback about the best candidate in each
constituency, above anyone’s selfish interests!
Nominating the right people is what will get you successfully
past the finish line.
Good luck. Mr. Prime Minister in Waiting! A lot depends on
what you say and do from now on!