"He who is the most slow in making a promise is the most faithful in the performance of it."
– Jean Jacques Rousseau
The political atmosphere of the country is heating up and it is expected to reach its climax somewhere near the upcoming general elections. Presently, the man stealing the show is Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf’s (PTI) Chairman, Imran Khan, whose bandwagon is now carrying all and sundry without much hassle. This has raised questions about the commitments made by him to the people of Pakistan.
PTI can now boast of people who were part and parcel of the mainstream political parties, like Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), besides a sizeable number of Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) stalwarts who were closely associated with dictator Pervez Musharraf. The party is gaining momentum since the time it organised a successful public meeting in Lahore, which is considered to be PML-N’s citadel. Recently, it has managed to organise a successful public meeting in Karachi, creating further ripples in the political climate of the country. While it cannot be predicted with certainty how the Tehrik will fare in the next general elections, but one thing is for sure: That the youth are expected to come out in sizeable numbers and vote for the candidates contesting the elections under the party’s banner.
At present, while support for it may be surging in the urban areas, there is not much backing in the rural areas - a factor that will play a decisive role in the elections! Therefore, when Imran claims that he will convert Pakistan into an Islamic welfare State, and put an end to corruption within 90 days, many people remain sceptical about his statements.
Next, the Tehrik’s Chief maintained that he would introduce E-governance in Pakistan. This also seems to be against real odds, because nearly 90 percent of the country’s population is not E-literate, while nearly 80 percent has never used a computer in their lives.
Another promise made by Imran in Karachi is that he would introduce an efficient tax system that will improve the current structure, thereby filling up the coffers of the government. According to him, it will allow Pakistan to become self-sufficient so that there is no need to obtain loans from any quarter for developmental projects. However, these and other promises made by him were severely criticised by the leaders of other political parties, who described them as political gimmicks that will not be enough to sway an entire electorate in PTI’s favour.
The Tehrik was first criticised by Jamaat-i-Islami Chief, Syed Munawar Hasan, who blasted the method it followed to shore up political support for itself. He rightly opined that all the "turncoats" who were joining it will not be able to bring about any real change, what to talk about a revolution, which will be according to the peoples aspirations.
The PML-N, too, believes that those who are joining PTI are opportunists and have no support among the people. Therefore, no real change will be possible, if Imran emerges as a political force after the elections. It severely criticised the Tehrik’s tactics and dismissed the current level of support that is being commanded by it, as an attempt by the non-democratic forces to cobble up another king's party. While this may not be entirely true, the fact remains that many political players, who had supported Musharraf in his heydays, are now joining PTI that may hurt its prospects in the long run.
On the other hand, the PPP is bracing up for desertions from its ranks; it is formulating a policy that will allow it to smother the damage that may come its way, as some of its important members may join Imran.
The coming days and weeks will be decisive in defining how the parties will emerge and how well will be their preparation for the ballot box. The PPP may face more damage than it expects, if it does not swiftly put in place corrective measures to bring back its dedicated workers to the front by pulling them out of their present state of indifference. At the moment, they are totally dissatisfied with their leadership and if this continues, then the party’s fortunes may nosedive in the elections.
As far as PML-N is concerned, reportedly, it is working on a strategy that will allow it not only to redress the grievances of party workers, but will also create opportunities for them to come out and contest as a robust unit.
On the contrary, the prospect of religious political parties will hinge on, if they are able to reunite and create a block on the pattern of MMA. Otherwise, if they try to contest the elections as independent units, or without entering into productive political alliance with one of the mainstream political parties, it will not be possible for them to create any impact.
In the light of the emerging scenario, the only plausible direction for all the political parties would be to present before the people workable solutions to the challenges facing the nation and hold out promises they can fulfil. Otherwise, till the Election Day, the entire situation may change that may not augur well for the political parties.
If Imran Khan continues to make tall promises and is unable to fulfil them, the speed with which the people are now joining his party will see an accelerated speed where they will leave it. Also, both the PPP and the PML-N, who face the handicap of incumbency, will have to show by deeds and not words what they have done to improve the lives of the people. This is going to be no easy task, because there are multiple challenges facing the State, which cannot be overcome by the scarce resources that are available. Management and governance need to be improved dramatically and, more specifically, the issue of energy requires urgent remedial measures; otherwise, it will not be difficult to predict the fate of major political parties. The time may have come when governments, both federal and provincial, cannot ignore the issues of poverty and unemployment that have seriously retarded the growth patterns in all vital sectors of the economy.
As time moves on, the only thing that can be predicted with certainty is that efforts will be made by the federal and provincial governments to improve the life of the masses, because they realise that in case it is not done, they would be better off by not participating in the elections. The people will definitely judge them on their actions and no promises will satisfy them.
The writer has been associated with various newspapers as editor and columnist. At present, he hosts a political programme on Pakistan Television.