The birth of the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) was more mocked at than celebrated. A legendary Pakistani cricketer who captained the Pakistani team on its way to world championship; Imran Khan announced his entry into politics. Conventional politicians did not take Khan or his party seriously and he was either ignored or ridiculed for having notions and ideas that were far from the realities of Pakistan’s messed up political culture.
There was nothing conventional about Imran Khan’s politics or his party. It was reasonably assumed that these educated, new faces and minds that had never been seen on the political landscape would soon fade away into the oblivion of irrelevance. Owing to his global stature as a remarkable sportsman and a successful philanthropist, Khan managed to remain noted and relevant while his party constantly failed to find a similar spot. He was regularly and consistently advised on how a Pakistani voter does not vote for the ‘unknown’ and the unorthodox and how biradri, political affiliation and financial status are pivotal in a voter’s decision making process. He was advised on how the path to Parliament in Pakistan begins with homage and promised subservience to the real power wielders. Khan understood these dynamics yet refused to succumb to them for his fight was against these very fundamentals of the prevalent political system; the status quo.
Khan is against the allocation of development funds to legislators; conventional politics requires just that and voila, it’s in the offing. The list goes on
He hoped that with time he could make the general populace aware of their rights and wake them up to the realities of a true democracy. He hoped that one day his people would vote for able, clean and educated candidates and Khan would lead the thus elected Parliament and bring Pakistan out of the dark depths of corruption, nepotism and incompetence into a new era of prosperity. Khan knew, for a better part of his political life, that he alone cannot pull this country out of its quagmire; that he needed likeminded and able team members to pull off this seemingly impossible feat.
One after another electoral failure could not weaken Khan’s resolve and he remained steadfast for more than a decade, consistently trying to talk some sense into the voters and consistently failing at that. And then came compromise.
Khan realised his struggle was not bearing fruit, that he was swimming against the stream and the current was getting stronger every day. He varied his approach; coming down a notch from believing that he as the head of a clean, able and educated team could do wonders for Pakistan to believing that he as the head of any team could achieve the same goal. This became the ever growing hole in Khan’s rock solid wall of principles, ideals and unconventional politics; the status quo found a way in.
Homage was paid, subservience was promised and premiership of Pakistan, which used to be the means, now became an end for Imran Khan. Khan, still with the best of intentions for Pakistan, abandoned the dream of working with his own team and instead accepted the impossible task of working alone. PTI’s doors were opened and conventional politicians, electables and notables began pouring in. Quickly squeezing out the old guard, these new members of Khan’s team took the center stage. I believe Khan knew that opening a floodgate of compromises will cost him and make his uphill path steeper and steeper. “Can’t be done” isn’t a phrase Khan believes in.
To win the crown Khan had to fight all the forces of status quo fighting against PTI. Now with the crown on his head he also has to deal with similar forces within PTI. From PTI against all parties, it’s now Khan against all. Imran Khan wanted police reforms in Punjab and Nasir Durrani was his man; conventional politics does not want change and thus Durrani had to leave and reforms have to wait. Imran Khan wanted an efficient local government system as per the constitutional mandate; conventional politics does not want power and funds to devolve and thus Punjab is yet to see a new local government system, devolution of power and a consequent true democracy. Imran Khan is against the allocation of development funds to legislators; conventional politics requires just that and voila, it’s in the offing. The list goes on.
For those who believe in Imran Khan, these obstacles alone are not enough to make them lose hope; not yet. But in ‘Khan vs. all’ they need to see Khan winning and not being knocked out. Khan needs to throw some punches and he needs to do it now. Those who voted for PTI voted for Imran Khan, they voted for change. They kept on believing in Khan despite the compromises, shifts and turns. They convinced themselves, just as Khan did, that even alone Khan can do what he intends. Now he must, for this may well be our only shot.
The writer is a practicing lawyer with a Masters Degree from University of Warwick, an ex-Member Provincial Assembly of the Punjab (2008-2013)
The article was originally published by Daily Times.