Saturday, April 27, 2013

Political awareness in Pakistan and PTI

Dr. Omar Khan,



Political awareness; and PTI

Out of many harmful legacies of 11 years long Zia era non party elections of 1985 were probably the most damaging. His declared motive was to help pious people get elected but actually he wanted to break the power of politicians, political parties and political institutions. This created a political class which wasn’t associated with any party or had any political stand on economy, foreign policy or anything and focused on small matters Zia and his coterie weren’t interested in. Local problems like streets and sewer along with divisive factors like Baraderie and sect gained in importance. Moneyed people and businessmen jumped in the empty playing field and invested heavily bribing voters who understood the futility of these elections and decided to grab whatever was offered. To make a workable govt of these nonpolitical politicians  Zia opened the national coffers to oblige, rather buy these elected representatives and open horse trading and auctions of elected reps became an acceptable norm. Corruption was successfully installed and elected reps after investing heavily in elections expected returns and returns they got making them pliable to the Generals while discrediting politics. Zia had achieved his goal,


It wasn’t always this bad in Pakistan rather Pakistan had a dream start with elections. It took 24 years to hold the first general elections and the results were amazing. Despite repeated derogatory allegations of lack of awareness, Pakistani voters elected the most liberal and progressive parties totally rejecting the extremists and backward looking political parties despite enormous help from the military dominated govt. The 1970 general elections were the only ones in which tribal/baraderi considerations were practically finished. These were the only elections in which young, educated middle class people not belonging to any dominant clan got elected. These results were shocking to the power hungry generals who refused to accept the people’s verdict and broke the country into two. Those times look so far and Zia effectively back rolled this progress.


All these tumultuous events on our political horizon maligned the word politics very badly. Honest, hardworking and educated Pakistanis considered politics a dirty profession/pastime which dignified people stayed away from. Unfortunately it doesn’t matter how much anyone avoids politics because it follows everyone affecting all aspect of life. Political parties had specific faces to offer with lack of education and scruples too evident. Grace and dignity was near nonexistent among the political class and in Pakistani parlance politics assumed the meaning of treachery while politician became synonymous of slick. Nonpolitical claimants of power helped in this transition for their own motives. Ultimately politics, the most important aspect of a nation state became absolutely devoid of talented and capable people with values and ethics. Naturally this put Pakistan on a retrogressive course with all the undesirable image possible in the world.


In this scenario when Imran Khan jumped into politics he became a target of ridicule for the veterans because he wanted to change the established rules. Resignation, passivity and fatalism were dominant in our society and conventional wisdom dictated that nothing will change here and everything will stay the same. In the 1997 elections most of the political workers belonged to a very certain personality type with certain vocabulary and demeanor. One look of a discerning eye explained what most political workers were looking for and more often that not it was monetary benefit. In addition to greed, strange favors were also expected like help in police cases or approach to influential quarters. If a certain candidate admitted his inability to provide these favors he was ridiculed for his naïveté. This was the political scene of Pakistan laboriously created to ensure crooks entry to assemblies who would be pliable enough. No wonder our assemblies were full of people of very dubious past.


All this looks so far away now as everything has changed. The middle classes and the highly educated now form the backbone of political workers class. They have certainly added a more than certain amount of dignity in politics. Average age has also gone down substantially and young, energetic and idealistic workers are seen working tirelessly. Youth, apart from other benefits still harbors some ideals, this society kills so effectively upon facing the reality at later age. These workers are hardly demanding and thanklessly donating themselves or raising money through their own resources.


Educated middle classes now make a substantial part of political rallies actively participating in canvassing.


The biggest surprise development has been the participation of women in Pakistani politics. Now we see highly educated women of all ages and classes, fully aware politically, attending rallies and actively participating in the political process. The 50% Pakistanis sidelined for too long are enjoying their rights and fulfilling their duties.


Whole of South Asia along with Pakistan are suffering from dynastic politics and certain families are considered privileged or loyal classes. PPP, the biggest political party of Pakistan’s leadership transferred on a deceased leader’s will to an underage child making the party look like a personal property. By holding true intraparty elections Imran Khan and PTI has effectively controlled if not outright finished nepotism and dynastic politics. The ticket refusal to cousin and brother in law confirmed the dawn of new era. Other parties who were comfortable with the old dynastic politics are getting pressurized by their workers and would have to hold fair intraparty elections whether they like it or not.


After going through turbulent decades and seeing no hope with the system that put them in these problems the educated classes have decided to take their future in their own hands. A crop of pseudo intellectuals had been preaching wait for a messiah to solve their problems but this policy has finally become obsolete. Talented Pakistanis of an earlier generation used to dream about migrating to another country as an escape but that option has become nearly outdated.  They have finally realized it is their life, their country and their future that is at stake and they can’t afford to leave it to politicians of questionable talent, class and scruples. Too much is at stake to avoid it.


This is finally putting the mother of all institutions, the political class and politics, in right hands. At last the ill effects of dark Zia era are subsiding. Politics has shed its stigma and is no more a socially unacceptable field. We see educated, successful and polished people in our political horizon. Pakistani women and youth are the most active and enlightened in the Islamic world. Pakistan is getting in right hands heading in the right direction. We have all the reasons to be optimistic about its future.


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