The journey has only started for PTI

May 14, 2013 § 8 Comments

pti

The elections are mostly over and the final verdicts are pouring in, sealing a decisive victory for PML-N and sufficient seats to put PTI down as a significant opposition player. Where lion-bearers are very joyous, vowing to bring back the glory days of Pakistan, PTI supporters look utterly saddened and dejected.

However, now is not the time to pout or be sad. Now is also not the time to deny the fact that PTI did not get a sweeping majority. Rather, it is time to gracefully admit defeat, hail the 30+ odd seats that PTI has secured and learn a few critical lessons from the voting season.

What PTI achieved?

PTI has emerged as a political force to reckon with. At the same time, Imran Khan can be given the absolute credit for prompting the youth of this nation to become an active part of the political process. I was a part of the D-chowk jalsa on May 9; I actively engaged in political discussions with others of my age group – and the sheer hope and optimism they expressed and the renewed vigor of nationalism that twinkled in their eyes and in their conversations, was absolutely awe-inspiring.

This was the first time in Pakistan’s history that such a huge portion of youth has gone out on the streets, stood in lines for hours and cast their votes. This is also the first time in this country’s history that expat Pakistanis have flew back in such huge numbers to stamp the ballot paper.

Finally, PTI is currently the second-largest political party in Pakistan. The struggle that started 17 years ago, at the hands of a single man with no hopes but a rock-solid ambition, has now turned into a huge force. This is the time for celebration of a really good start, not that of disappointment.

What PTI needs to work on

However, it is also time for the party to look inwards and discern its short-comings. The chief among these is the fact that PTI has turned out to be a party that is primarily focused on the urban middle-class youth. This objection is true to a certain extent – the detachment of the party from rural pockets is what decisively turned the tables against it in Punjab. Then there’s also the issue that PTI didn’t really do any ground-level mobilization in Sindh or Baluchistan – both are critically important for this country and are becoming increasingly so. PTI needs to reach out to the population at large and go beyond urban dwellings.

Secondly, PTI must use the next five years to mature itself as well as its supporters. There are those amidst PTI who refuse to discern the critical importance of democracy and tend to undermine it at times. There are also such who tend to dwell on the negative, call the mandate of others a fraud or useless and similar other bold statements – PTI leadership needs to communicate to their young, hot-headed, yet politically active voters, that such ideas are terribly adverse to the democratic process in Pakistan at large.

Youth in Pakistan is here to stay and will form a majority of the population until 2052 or so. And this youth vote will become an increasingly dominant phenomenon in the coming years. Although this youth seems to have kicked into the political arena, it is undergoing disorientation. One can understand that to carry out a huge election campaign, you need to have a foe you can cite as a failure. So PTI’s criticism levelled towards PMLN was an election strategy.

But elections are over – a huge populace, comprising of the youth, is waiting for Khan to show them the way now. This path must not be that of hatred, intolerance or destructive criticism. It is high time for PTI to rally the youth around someone more grand and more inclusive – namely, nationalism. I have seen the hopes in the eyes of those who have been utterly disappointed in their country; I have seen the so-called mummy daddy kids stand on streets for hours, in blistering rain and under rains. This passion, this fervor must be used to fuel a nationalism and reinstate our pride in being Pakistanis.

The flawed argument in favor of reserved seats for women

December 18, 2012 § 11 Comments

Imran Khan recently kicked up yet another melee in Pakistan’s media when he declared that he would have women contest elections rather than enter the National Assembly on reserved seats. Before weighing the plausibility of the argument, many were quick to jump the bandwagon of unqualified criticism simply because it was Khan who said so.

For the uninformed, women in Pakistan’s National Assembly currently have 60 reserved seats. How exactly are these seats filled in? Well, since the seats are allocated to each political party based on their proportion in the legislature, the said political parties have the sole authority to figure out who will fills these seats.

The result is simply that the wives, daughters, sisters, relatives of the bigwigs of each political party smugly position themselves on these seats, clamouring out about women rights yet being utterly incompetent to launch the least effort to that end. Seats are allocated purely on political connections with nary a thought spared to any merit or qualification.

There are plenty who dished out a tab bit intelligent criticism to Khan’s proposition by stating that letting women contest elections is nearly impossible in a conservative country like Pakistan. The argument is quite valid and yet it is utterly inadequate to reach the conclusion that the reserved seats shouldn’t be tampered with.

In my view, yes women contesting elections still seems a remote possibility. However, things are on their way to change with ECP pushing for a greater number of party tickets given to woman candidates. Meanwhile, what we CAN do is to ensure that at least the women who find their way to NA on reserved seats merit some minimum qualification.

Just like I would never vote Hamza Shahbaz for being Shahbaz Sharif‘s son, I wouldn’t want a woman to represent Pakistani women simply because she is the wife of an eminent politician. Is that principally wrong? No. Is that too much to ask or somehow impossible? Absolutely not. So why the mindless ruckus then?

Rather than expending their energies in rabidly attempting to defend the reserved seats, I would suggest that the women rights activists can do a far better job if they tried to coordinate with the authorities and somehow devise some kind of minimum qualifications for the women who get to be appointed on the reserved seats. A proven record of working for women, some political insight into policy-making for the said gender – anything tangible that may make sense for a person who gets to be on one of those reserved seats. And I really don’t think that is too much to ask for.

Imran Khan – to vote for or not?

November 3, 2011 § 46 Comments

To vote:

• There’s no doubt in the fact that he has magnetized the youth, especially the urban youth, to abandon the comfort of their homes and move forward from mere words; Imran Khan brought them to the streets and no matter how or what he is, he at least unfolded a new chapter in our youth’s political activism which is a dire need today.

• On a neutral stand-point, Imran Khan is someone who hasn’t been tested yet. Despite all the talk about Imran Khan being the ‘suicide’ option, even worse than status quo, the fact remains that so far, Imran Khan has never been found involved in any corruption charges. And the feats he has achieved in the past, from leading Pakistan to a run for World Cup to establishing the hospital and a university, all these clearly tell that here is a man who wants a social change and who has tried to bring it as far as he could. So, after all give and take, Imran is still someone who one seeks out as a possibly better option. In short, his past record shows him a man who is honest and incorruptible.

• Imran Khan does not come from a political background or hasn’t been launched by one of the major political parties and then took his own stage. He’s self-made, in so far as his political achievements are concerned.

• Imran Khan is a face well-known internationally. He is a person who knows how to speak well, how to get his point across and how to adjust to different kinds of audiences. Just ask yourself, who would the world take more seriously when addressing at UN General AssemblyMian Nawaz Sharif, Asif Ali Zardari, Altaf Hussain (just saying) or Imran Khan? Plus, his British connections may let him sale relatively smoother in the rough waters of foreign diplomacy. That, of course is an assumption but a fair comparison lends it weight.

• Not only youth but a number of intellectuals, media personnel and a constituency of literate populace sides with him. While you will see men shipped from rural regions and ‘patwaris’ are the gatherings of both PPP and PML-N, the jalsa at Minar-e-Pakistan had people from all walks of life, most of the politically conscious, at least in comparison to the voters of PPP and PML-N.

• Thus far, Imran Khan hasn’t pitched in any ethnic-centric, region-centric or any other exclusive rhetoric. He claims to be fighting for elimination of corruption, all over Pakistan. Whatever the manifesto of PTI encompasses, it speaks for the entire Pakistan. And that is manifest in both the words and actions of PTI thus far.

• Imran Khan talked about women rights, about educating Pakistan and similar other objectives which pretty much constitute much of what’s wrong with Pakistan today.

Not to vote:

• The chief problem that I find with Imran Khan is his anti-US rhetoric and pro-Taliban stance. Of course he hasn’t openly supported Taliban like JI and others, he has never spoken against him. He speaks of talking to Taliban by ending war or terror and thus restoring peace but all this is a highly impractical as well as illogical. Taliban are not ready for talks, their Shriah-aimed ambitions are not regional but universal and they are not to be told to ‘give up’ their demands just like that. A recent proof to that can be found in the example of the fate Rabbani met in Afghanistan.

• Another great concern is about the personnel his party has been embracing. From Hamid Gul to Jamat-e-Islami rightists, his party has well catered to all sorts of members without disagreeing with their ideology. PTI has also been indiscriminate towards accepting such politicians who have abandoned other ships or were kicked out, some of them even on corruption charges. So whereas yes, Imran Khan comes clean on the issue of corruption, his party seems to be taking a somewhat relaxed stance towards it.

• The worst, of all things leveled against Imran Khan, is his alleged involvement with the deep state or what we know as military establishment. There has been talk of agencies supporting his cause and Imran’s tacit approval of army’s actions since he never talked against the army or it’s exploitations in Pakistan. And this allegation gains much currency when one sees that right now, PTI is only hurting PML-N’s vote-bank, the only party in the political arena who aims to bring army to accountability. Naturally, the logical path for army is to support Kaptaan and that is understandable – but Kaptaan’s support for army is what perplexes many since corruption simply can never be eliminated from Pakistan until army, too, is brought under accountability.

• Recently, PTI arranged a demonstration in Peshawar where it blocked roads to barr NATO tankers from going across. According to media reports, the demonstration was attended by a number of extremist right-wing parties. Also, on the way back, Imran stopped by at the Maulana Sami-ul-Haq’s seminary, the great madressah which has the ‘honor’ of having first launched Taliban who were students there. This is not to hand-pick a single example and lambaste PTI over it – rather, this is simply a proof to the aforementioned assertion that Imran Khan seems to sport pro-Taliban sentiments – now whether these sentiments arise purely out of his anti-US strategy or are these a result of some military minds working to shape PTI’s orientation, one cannot say. But those are the facts.

While that pretty much sums the chief features of both sides of the mirror, let me add that I haven’t absolutely ticked off Imran Khan. He has made his presence known and he may well have a political future, perhaps a significant one. What makes me wonder is that in recent days, in fact within a week of his jalsa, a number of intellectuals have been won over by him – they are optimistic, liberal, humanists and they see a hope in him. My sole hope with Imran Khan, however, is that the mistakes he has made thus far and the errors he has committed in the estimation and ideology of the Taliban and other right-wingers is a result of his naiveté and political immaturity, further bolstered by the ‘patronage’ of JI hawks and exploited (?) by the military establishment. One can only hope that once the liberal coterie abandons its distanced criticism and joins the flock, Imran Khan may have a chance of bettering his views and consequently, his policies. I, personally, think he will be the last man to concede to the implementation of Shriah.

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