Is PPP responsible for the Imran Khan Obsession? – by Salma Jafar

Imran Khan’s arrival at the much fraught political landscape of Pakistan should be a wakeup call to the slumbering and complacent PPP. But PPP will win the senate election with MQM support and all will be fine. PPP will stay in government and staying in government is all PPP is about! No need to address the real issues of bad governance, of poor economy, of minorities, of Balochistan, of basic and fundamental human rights of the people. Because despite these issues we won elections in AJK and in GB and by-elections in southern Punjab; the trends are in our favor we will win again and we will adjust seats and we have wooed Q League and we don’t tire wooing MQM, we also have a religious fundo on our side and the Pashtuns of KP are so obliged for the identity we gave them that they will not let us down! The GHQ is not unhappy with us and US; well we have a love and hate relationship; nothing to worry. We will get a second term the unaddressed issues are not so important than a second term and life goes on.

The 8 million children out of school are not the problem they can go to madrassahs instead and become militants or beg on streets, we will not meet the MDGs by 2015 but that is rationalized because “due to  terrorism” we can’t fully spend the under allocated health and education budgets. We keep getting upgraded on the list of corrupt countries and on dismal social indicators but corruption and social indicators are not the real issues; the real issue is the “threat of militancy” and that we will curb by force; not by any social reform as after all people become militants out of fun not because they are deprived. Polio cases in Pakistan can be the highest and more mothers and new borns can die here but people don’t know how bad it is in Africa…

This is the PPP escapist fairy tale but factually not; this is not what PPP is about, PPP is about the dreams of common man as that is how it was born; it was born as a result of massive support by the poor youth and common man of Pakistan against a dictatorship, PPP is the party that has rendered great sacrifices for the people of Pakistan, PPP stands for an ideology of equality and social justice, PPP stands for Pakistan.

BUT there is no dictatorship in Pakistan now; so why do people want a change and what is it that they want to see changed? How can the slumbering MNAs and ministers of PPP shove away the reality of Khan as the alternate promise; the change which infact PPP had promised to bring. But apparently the vision of its leaders has been lost in the slumber and contentment of keeping a govt, a term for which they were elected, as harps the Prime Minister far too often. Khan nowhere is near to the stature of Bhutto or BB so that comparative debate though feels good but is practically useless. The truth is that he is being considered as an alternate to the present leadership and this is what needs to be taken seriously. Khan might not have the political acumen but he enjoys public support and for any democrat this should be enough to take him seriously. Whether that support is from the urbans, the fundos or whoever; it can be criticized but cannot be undermined.

Will the common man who aimlessly stood outside of the Minar –e-Pakistan watching the concert-cum-Julssa continue to be a mere spectator? or will it, in times to come, join the momentum Khan has created amongst the educated Urban youth of Pakistan? And to be fair we cannot scoff at the educated youth for being educated (by calling them fake liberals) a). because we have always criticized the middle class apathy towards politics and b). because these skilled youth are the change agents for the future of this country and where they go in terms of their political allegiance is significant even if it doesn’t change much of the vote bank in Khan’s favor. But why are these youth in particular thronging at the Khan Julssas? For PPP this should be a time for reflection. The interior Minister as always bluffs ‘it’s between PTI and N’ what he fails to forsee is the extent, to which this movement can go, and he is mistaken if we thinks Khan will leave his newly found popularity at a Julssa and that it will be a mere snarl between PTI and PML-N. Because Imran Khan like any other politician is in politics to attain power, nobody is in politics to preach; he will go to any length to get it. If he doesn’t have the candidates; he will do it by forming alliances with his old friends like Musharaf and with Jamaitis… what a tragedy that will be for Pakistan as there will be a Change but for the worst. BB who was sure that Islamic militant sympathizers were behind the strike on her life would not be more upset to see Khan their proxy win the hearts and minds of the people of Pakistan and perhaps also come into power most likely with the help of other rightist groups. But who is to be blamed but BBs own party which is not living up to her and her fathers’ legacy.

Khan is a depressing alternative for representing the militant’s ideology (invisible to the youth) to a great extent. He can very well lead and misuse the unknowing youth to the obliteration of the secular mindset and towards a largely Shariatized country; from his perspective a caliphate state indeed! Unfortunately Khan’s mixed bag of ideology is only understood by his critics; therefore bashing him doesn’t help as his followers are as ardent supporters of his as were the supporters of Bhuttos. Hard to accept but this is true! It’s blind faith in Khan. Khan without a road map himself is representing that change for the youth. We can write article after article on Khan’s links with the army and ISI and support from the militant groups but we can’t deny that people who flocked at Minare Pakistan were Pakistanis; mostly youth who believe in one thing that is ‘Change for Pakistan’ and who believe only Khan to bring that change for their beloved country.

Why Pakistanis are pinning for change within less than four years?…when they got a democratic rule after ages of oppression …and why when they voted PPP in despite having lost the dynamic leadersip of BB. Why have they forgotten so soon the sacrifice BB made? why can’t they relate to PPPs political ideology anymore? Why are they so angry? The answer lies in what PPP has failed to offer to Pakistanis?

Khan talks about changing the system, whereas PPP is clinging to and defending the system that is rotten to the core. Khan talks about freedom from “American slavery” whereas PPP is happy being shackled by the US antagonizing pressure (who can forget the President’s prompt article in Washington Post last May on Abbotabad scenario). Khan promised the army will be in barracks and not killing innocent civilians, whereas PPP sleeps in the same bed with the Army; becoming a party to killing of Baloch, Punjabis, Shias. It reconciles and reconciles very ardently but only with those who shares power with it like MQM. Khan promises a just society whereas PPP has failed on many accounts to provide social justice to people…the poor have become poorer, the education and health budgets have decreased; the promise to solve energy crisis within a year has not come true, why should the people if at all believe PPP anymore? It has not even satisfied the ordinary worker of PPP by ensuring justice to its slain leader.

But Khan we will argue is still a depressing choice because despite the change he promises, he does not have a how-to-do strategy; then look at the PPP manifesto; it has All. But the leadership has shelved that manifesto which BB Shaheed had so restlessly developed. So why should people even care about Manifestos and so what if Khan doesn’t have a better one!

A glimpse from PPP manifesto, and it is for the readers to decide what has been delivered and what can be delivered in the remaining one year:

To the people of Pakistan we make the following Promises:

  1. We Promise to rid Pakistan of violence, bigotry and terror
  2. We Promise the youth of Pakistan gainful employment, hope and opportunity
  3. We Promise to lower inflation
  4. We Promise to provide quality education and health care, and clean drinking water, to the masses
  5. We Promise to bring progress to the doorstep of the workers, farmers and small businesses
  6. We Promise to protect and support the disadvantaged and the vulnerable
  7. We Promise to make Pakistan a business friendly country
  8. We Promise to give high priority to empowerment of women and ensure theirequal rights
  1. We Promise to put Pakistan on a sustainable high growth path
  2. We Promise to ensure sound macro-economic policies
  3. We Promise to ensure a strong Defence
  4. We Promise to ensure that energy shortages are eliminated
  5. We Promise to protect the Environment
  6. We Promise to ensure a world class irrigation system and sound use of scarce water
  7. We Promise to enhance Provincial Autonomy
  8. We Promise to put in place a citizen-centric government
  9. Finally, We Promise Good Governance

Four years in power and party leaders still defend their non performance as inherited problems from the Mush regime, my question to them is didn’t Bhutto inherit a truncated and traumatized Pakistan? The humiliated Pakistani soldiers, an empty treasury, a tottering economy, an ubiquitous sense of desolation; but he picked up all the small pieces with a vision and with the help of a team the shattered Pakistan was rebuilt. Whereas in 2008 the present government found itself totally ill-prepared and clueless in addressing the challenges and the country went on a endless roller coaster from one crisis to the other. Although Khan emphasizes that corruption is the key problem in reality it is incompetence which is the key problem. I do think it is possible for PPP to find people who are reasonably competent amongst Pakistanis to help lead the nation to a better future. Because successful leaders like Mahathir Mohammad and Suharto also faced serious allegations of corruption and abuse of power but delivered remarkably to their people.

On another note is the image of PPP. In this modern era the parties website has been only updated to the extent that there are articles on the demise of Begum Nusrat Bhutto. Compared to the very vibrant and interactive website of PTI; the PPP demonstrates itself as a very conservative party just dragging along. Why is the People’s Students Federation the life line of Bhuttos Peoples Party dysfunctional? One wonders what do all these parliamentarians and office holders of PPP do; they have turned the entire party into an unavailing drag; sadly so as once it was a vigorous spirited platform for youth, artists, academics, professionals, writers and others. PPPs media policy is in the hands of conservatives too; why would a young man and woman support PPP when it is represented by people like either Fouzia Wahab or Firdous Ashiq Awan; nothing personal but they lack charisma and they offer viewers nothing but the old and depleted rhetoric. This is vital when the leaders themselves don’t communicate with the people like Khan himself does. Why young men and women of Pakistan will care for a President who never speaks to them who doesn’t care to reach out to the youth (even if security protocol he doesn’t use the media), why embrace a party whose visible faces are Rehman Malik and Baber Awan and others too who I won’t mention but they are simply off-putting. During BBs two incomplete govts political opponents and elements within Islamist parties and the military worked hard to destabilize her but the PPP as an organisation remained intact with a strong power base. But now it is the other way round PPP has managed to maneuver its way and has held the govt but is failing on account of keeping its power base with the people of Pakistan.

How long will PPP bank upon the laurels of its slain leaders if it doesn’t deliver, if it doesn’t deliver on Bhutto’s vision and it doesn’t deliver on BBs vision then politicians like Khan can take the same vision and sell it to the people. After all Khan referred to Bhutto as the Leader in his Lahore Jalssa at the very start of his speech, undeniably his well thought out target are the Bhutto supporters. He will sell the same vision and make it into the hearts of the people because the actual party has failed the people and people have a choice but to turn to Khan and elude that he’s not Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

They argue it took Khan 15 years to Arrive, infact it took Khan only 2 to 3 years as it is only after the people’s disappointment with PPP.



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