If ever, you have the misfortune to witness a battle of wits between the confused and the confounded, the only party that will emerge as the loser will be you - the frustrated. It is this frustration that has led to the penning of this article and, hopefully, PTI critics and, more importantly, PTI supporters are reading it. When we talk about Imran Khan, Dr Arif Alvi, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, or Asad Umer, to name a few, there is no doubt about their ability to handle questions and answer them satisfactorily, it is the relatively less known spokespersons cadre that leaves a lot to be desired. My contention is, if you are not prepared to answer political questions like they should be answered, you should not step up as a PTI representative on the national television and PTI leadership should take note. I recently watched a programme where two panels were discussing the recent SC verdict of the PM’s contempt of court case, one pro-resignation and the other simply pro-PPP and I was thoroughly disappointed with how the PTI representative handled the questions. What is even more annoying is that the critics beat the same drum each time, which in itself should be a good thing for PTI supporters considering they can anticipate the questions and come well prepared in advance. Why it doesn’t actually come to pass is beyond me. You just cannot answer all questions with a rehearsed rhetoric of “we represent the youth”, “we’ll bring change” or “the tsunami cannot be stopped.” It is time to pull up your socks and grab the bull by the horn.
The tediously repetitive questions usually start with “you’re inducting the same faces, how can you claim to be a party representing change - same faces mean same practices.” Then the critics move on to “how do you propose to win votes when PPP has won seats in the recent by-elections in even those areas it had never won in before”, and from there it goes on to personal attacks of “Imran Khan is arrogant, dictatorial or simply contradictory” and last but not the least is the broken record of “no actual mandate, no policy on any issue and an alleged hand-in-glove relation with the more extreme elements in our society”. All these questions have been answered more times than I can count by any number of individuals from Fauzia Kasuri to Imran Khan himself. One can only hope that short-term amnesia is not a common malady. Hopefully, each time the same issues rear their heads a written response will be easier to remember.
It is beyond me that why anyone can have a problem with seasoned politicians joining PTI, if they conform to the party’s mandate and are sincere to its objectives. The ‘defector’ label is pure bogus, when Imran Khan quoted the example of Quaid-i-Azam switching parties in light of emerging differences to answer Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s induction in PTI; he was met with incredulous affront for comparing the latter with the former. The fact that he was comparing actions and not individuals simply eluded the rational mind of the critics. Since we will not be importing a whole new population to replace the existing one, then what is the problem with the same politicians, who can actually do some good under a strong honest leadership and a transparent system? Pick up any politician of your choice with the most tainted history of corruption and lawlessness, have him declare everything, let justice be done and have him bear the consequences of all his actions and after that if he wants to become a reformed productive member of society, no one should have a problem with even him so what is this hoopla about relatively respected politicians like Javed Hashmi or Shah Mehmood Qureshi. The emphasis should be on developing a strong system where no one is above the law not on insisting on unrealistic criteria to justify the habit of being disagreeable.
I was recently talking with this lady from the impoverished lower class of our society on her understanding of the political change happening in Pakistan and what it means for her and her family. In response to who she wants to vote for she simply said PPP only because her family is entitled to Rs 3,000 every month from the Benazir Income Support Programme and that makes all the difference for her family’s survival or starvation. She was not concerned with party mandates or the morality of people she would vote for; she was only concerned with how she can provide food and shelter for her children, her family. Any party that intends to break this mindset has to infiltrate right down to the grassroots to assure people like this woman that her vote will mean the difference between whether she and her children will remain dependent on these Rs 3,000 forever or a chance to become part of a system where all basic necessities of life like healthcare, education and justice are rightfully provided to each individual irrespective of their station in life. Since recent polls show that 67 percent of Pakistani youth support Imran Khan and his party, PTI should mobilise this faction to reach the population living on the fringes of our society. Considering that almost 65 percent of the total population of Pakistan is 30 years or below, PTI has an incredible resource it can utilise effectively to mobilise an effective voter bank.
As for personal attacks they are not even worth responding to. Actions speak much louder than words; Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital and NUML speak volumes about the character of Imran Khan, at least those facets of his character which are relevant in this case. If the case of supporting extreme factions is based on his constant opposition to participating in the war on terror or drone attacks, then he represents the majority of Pakistanis and should be hailed for doing so.
Then we have the pseudo intellectuals, who label anything pro-PTI or pro-Imran as blind worship of a dangerously extreme and unrealistic philosophy, yet their prejudices are intellectually rational. For my part, I do not want to engage in a debate, if you think Imran Khan is lacking then please bid farewell to a cushioned life, join the rigours of politics, prove yourself better than him and you will have my vote; without bias and without criticism.
n The writer is a freelance columnist.