A folktale in the villages of Punjab goes as follows: a jackal passing a village accidentally ran through a garment dyer’s workshop and got covered with blue dye. When the jackal reached the jungle, it looked all blue. Other animals had never seen anything like it and were curious to know what kind of animal it was and where it came from. The jackal realised the importance of his changed appearance and said its name was “Neel Kant”, and it was a rare and unique species of animal found only in remote jungles of a far-off place. Several days passed and the self-proclaimed “Neel Kant” jackal enjoyed its importance. Then one day it rained and “Neel Kant’s” blue colour washed away. The jackal’s real identity was exposed and the other animals realised that it was just one of the many jackals running around with the same common jackal mentality. So, “Neel Kant” was exposed and its myth was destroyed. The moral of this story is that changed appearances or manufactured identities only serve its purpose in a very limited sense. Falsehood is eventually unmasked and the result is loss of personal integrity, respect and self-esteem.
It occurred to me that the above tale and its moral serve as a perfect analogy to the political conduct of some of our traditional politicians. Those political actors, who are endlessly engaged in constructing their personal identities to conform to expedience and opportunism: they manipulate every possible chance for personal optimal advantages, irrespective of any ethical-moral or even commonly-accepted norms of political behaviour. Those politicians subscribe to no specific political ideology, doctrine or set of political principles - their driving force is to grab political power with the end result of personal gains, maintenance of the decade-old political status quo, and the preservation of the decadent political culture that has served their interests irrevocably.
Against this backdrop, the recent exodus of some of the politicians from Imran Khan’s PTI is a point of focus. In TheNation of September 12, a story, entitled Embarrassment for PTI, opined the following: “But now the PTI leadership is facing a new embarrassment. Those who had joined the party in the recent past have started going back. For example, Sardar Tufail has rejoined the PML-Q and been given ticket for himself and his son. The Bhinders of Gujranwala, who had left the PML-Q to join the PTI, have parted company with Imran and joined hands with the PML-N. These departures amount to a serious setback for the PTI.”
The question is: is the flight of those politicians (called the unwanted “skylabs”) from the PTI truly a setback to Imran’s party? I don’t believe so! In the first place, those politicians and some others who might leave the PTI in the near future have been “adulterated” elements and their political intentions and modus operandi have been exposed. So much the better for the PTI’s future political agenda and strategic political management doctrine.
The mindset of the politicians leaving the PTI now can be illustrated by a simple mathematical formula: TP2 = F x I x EP = CPPD. TP2 stands for Traditional Political Power, which equals Monetary Funds times Political Influence bought times Economic Power equals Cessation of Pakistan’s Political Development for an indefinite future.
Imagine how Pakistan’s traditional politicians with a mindset of backwardness in political-ethical consciousness can join hands with a progressive political party, which in its manifesto pledges that “public developmental funds” will not be given to the elected members of the Assemblies! (The elected members’ sole responsibility will be legislation amounting to hard work and determination to serve national interests.) Does not the PTI’s strategic political management doctrine defeat the very purpose of those who have, since Pakistan’s inception, considered politics a means to the end of amassing wealth and personal power?
I imagine that those leaving the PTI had thought of a “marriage of convenience” with Imran’s party and its rising popularity with the masses - and at the same time they were confident that they would be able to manipulate their positions all the way to the top of the party’s hierarchy. However, they have figured out now that that would not be possible: the facts are that they have been defeated in the plans, goals and aims that they had set for themselves. Their departure from the PTI is an admission of the failure of being unable to exploit its leadership. So much the better!
But there could be another explanation for abandoning the PTI now: Machiavelli, the early 16th century Florentine statesmen and writer on government, advocated expediency, craftiness, duplicity and deceit as principles and methods of political conduct to remain in firm control of political power. The question is: is it possible that the traditional political actors, who joined and then abandoned the PTI, might have employed Machiavellian tactics to tarnish its leadership’s image? After all, joining the party earlier and withdrawing from it now can raise possible questions about the PTI and most specifically, about Imran’s political capabilities. Was it a pre-planned and organised undertaking and a political project conceived by Imran’s opponents to strike a blow just before the elections?
I deem it possible - it is because the progressive political forces of change (such as the PTI) and the traditional political parties are in a final battle for survival in this country. The rightwing conservative and reactionary element that includes nearly all politicians, who have been in power, consider the coming elections as a war between the two opposing ideologies - and the PTI is a clear threat to their power bases. Consequently, they consider “all is fair” in a state of war.
What are the masses - the deciding factor in the coming elections - likely to do? It is anybody’s guess. Politics has complicated and complex dimensions - more so, in societies that are unstable and where the majority suffers from innumerable deprivations. It is hard to make a definite and certain guess. But the masses’ political awareness can go a long way in changing the destiny of this nation. Without a dedicated and determined political leadership that is aware of the critical nature of national issues, and committed to change with knowledge, understanding, coherence and responsibility, there can be little doubt that we, as a nation, cannot go forward. The question is: can the masses identify the forces of change, vote for it and put it in political control of Pakistan? The days of the jackals are numbered now. So it seems - more power to the masses!
The writer is UAE-based academic policy analyst, conflict resolution expert and the author of several books on Pakistan and foreign policy issues. He holds a doctorate and a masters degree from Columbia University in New York.