By Nauman Sadiq
The predicament of Imran Khan’s fanboys has been somewhat like the pubescent girl who falls head over heels in love with a promiscuous playboy; and when her family and friends try to knock some sense into her by telling her that your sweetheart is cheating on you, instead of heeding to their well-meaning advice, she thinks they are jealous of her love life.
No wonder playboys like John F. Kennedy and Imran Khan turn out to be popular and revered leaders because they understand the elementary psychology of the masses. The puerile multitude doesn’t understand that grown-up politics is about following democratic principles and institution-building rather than putting the destiny of one’s nation in the hands of cavalier messiahs.
In order to assess the prospects of Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) as a political institution, we need to study its composition. With the benefit of hindsight, it seems the worst decision Nawaz Sharif took in his political career after returning from exile in November 2007 was his refusal to accept Musharraf-allied Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) defectors back into the folds of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). After that show of moral uprightness in the essentially unprincipled realpolitik, the PML-Q turncoats joined PTI in droves and gave birth to a third nation-wide political force in Pakistan after PML-N and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).
If we take a cursory look at the PTI’s membership, it is a hotchpotch of electable politicians from various political parties, but most of all from the former stalwarts of the PML-Q. Here is a list of a few names who were previously the acolytes of Musharraf and are now the ‘untainted’ leaders of PTI which has launched a nation-wide crusade against corruption in Pakistan: Jahangir Tareen, a billionaire businessman who was formerly a minister in Musharraf’s cabinet; Khurshid Mehmood Qasuri, who was Musharraf’s foreign minister; Sheikh Rasheed, although he is not officially a PTI leader but he has become closer to Imran Khan than any other leader except Imran Khan’s virtual sidekick, Jahangir Tareen; and Shah Mehmood Qureshi, a former stalwart of Pakistan People’s Party who served as a foreign minister during the Zardari administration until he was forced to resign after the Raymond Davis affair in 2011, to name a few.
Allow me to scribble a tongue-in-cheek rant here on Imran Khan’s ‘Naya Pakistan Revolution’: This struggle for revolution isn’t the first of its kind in Pakistan and it won’t be the last. The first such revolution took place back in 1953 against the unjust status quo of Liaquat Ali Khan and Khawaja Nazimuddin’s Muslim League. The revolutionary heroes of yore, Ghulam Muhammad, Iskander Mirza and Ayub Khan, laid the foundations of the dictatorship of proletariat in Pakistan. The first such dictatorship of proletariat lasted from 1958 to 1971, and its outcome was the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Bengalis and the separation of East Pakistan.
The second such revolution occurred against the elected dictatorship of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1977 and the revolutionary messiah, Zia-ul-Haq, ruled Pakistan from 1977 to 1988 with an iron hand. After sufficiently consolidating the gains of the revolution in Pakistan, he also exported the revolution throughout the Af-Pak region. The immediate outcome of the revolution was the destabilization of the whole region. It spawned many tadpole revolutionaries whose names we now hear in the news every day, such as the Taliban, the TTP and Lashkar-e-Taiba.
The last such revolution took place against the monopoly capitalism and corrupt cronyism of Benazir Bhutto’s People’s Party and Nawaz Sharif’s Muslim League in 1999. However, unlike the Stalinists of Zia, Musharraf was a Trotskyite. He joined forces with the neo-Trotskyites of the US like Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld and an internecine struggle ensued which claimed the lives of tens of thousands of Stalinists and Trotskyites in Pakistan alone, not to mention the millions of peasants who were displaced by this conflict in Pakistan’s tribal areas. No offense to the new revolutionaries such as Imran Khan, Jahangir Tareen and Sheikh Rasheed, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.
On a serious note, however, another reason why Imran Khan is desperate now to destabilize the central government is that despite forming the provincial government and ruling Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) for five years, he has no tangible achievements to show. Criticizing the government from opposition benches and making electoral promises is always easy, but showing visible improvement in the affairs of the province which one administers is a hard sell.
The electoral promises of cracking down on corruption and doing away with bureaucratic red-tape might earn him a few brownie points in front of his immature audience, but to treat the malady of corruption, we must first accurately identify the root causes of corruption. Corruption and economy are inter-linked. The governments of prosperous countries can afford to pay adequate salaries to their public servants; and if public servants are paid well, then they don’t have the incentive to be corrupt.
There are two types of corruption: need-based corruption and greed-based corruption. Need-based corruption is the kind of corruption in which a poor police constable, who has a large family to support, earns a meager salary; he then augments his salary by taking bribes to make ends meet. I am not justifying his crime, but only describing the factual position.
After establishing the fact that corruption and economy are inter-linked, we need to ask Imran Khan what is his economic vision to improve Pakistan’s economy, and on what basis does he claim to improve the economy on a nation-wide scale when he failed to make any visible improvement in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa during the PTI’s five-year rule in the province? All I am trying to say is the magic wand of savior-type messiahs cannot solve our problems overnight; reforming Pakistan would be a long-term process which would need, more than anything, adherence to democratic principles and institution-building.
Finally, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) are the grownup political parties in Pakistan. They learned their lesson from the politics of confrontation during the 1990s that the security establishment employs the Machiavellian divide-and-conquer tactic of hobnobbing with weaker political parties against stronger political forces in order to disrupt the democratic process and maintain the establishment’s stranglehold on its traditional domain, the security and foreign policy of Pakistan. The new entrant in Pakistan’s political landscape, Imran Khan’s PTI, will also learn this lesson after paying the price of colluding with the establishment, but by then, it might be too late.