Research Analyst, Spearhead Research
Zoon Ahmad Khan,
Research Analyst, Spearhead Research
On Sunday night did we witness the making of a National Leader? With an estimated turnout of over 200,000 people, the PTI’s support system has inflated at a pace faster than even they had anticipated. With the Party members being bombarded with questions regarding policy making, the main allegations generated towards the yet ‘amateur’ party is ‘How’? How does Khan, with his idealistic talk of no corruption within 5 years, plan on implementing these too good to be true promises? And the noble critic expresses fear. Fear of the unknown: does Khan have what it’ll take to keep the fragile social and economic fabric in a more or less war-torn Pakistan? Does he possess the pragmatism given his idealism in the past? And more importantly: is this a one man show? The tragedy with Pakistan is that we have given up on change, we don’t believe in the political parties of the day and the cynical boast their cynicism, because it is the simple mind that gets swayed with emotions. Khan’s biggest fans are blamed for loving the man and not understanding his shortcomings.
Khan might be the most inexperienced, but isn’t the accusation against ‘politicians’ of being Corrupt or Corrupted a consequence of the actions of the experienced? Don’t politics and power over time corrupt? Then why is experience even I criterion when Corruption is one of our biggest problems?
Passing sweeping statements about the party, either for or against will do no good.
In the past we have seen the politics of emotions running this nation. It is time to be critical. Amongst the youth, supporting PTI is considered fashionable, and those who don’t are assumed, by them, to be ignorant. For the noble critic, Khan is as foolish as most of his ‘fans’. Emotions need to be set aside and tolerance towards criticism needs to be practiced.
Charisma is not enough. Principles without execution are meaningless. Experience must not be the sole criterion. And an understanding of the apparatus that will translate his philosophy into action is vital. Imran Khan has set-off and unleashed an atmosphere of euphoria of positive political change amongst the non-political youth of Pakistan. He has promised the depressed and dejected people of Pakistan, what they have long desired: Justice. He has shown them a future of Pakistan that all true Pakistanis want to see and experience in their lifetimes.
Ten years of terror based internal conflict within the country, ruthlessly corrupt and inept leadership has almost completely extinguished the flame of hope from the hearts and minds of all. Khan has offered them a new hope and most people are ready to believe him and take his word based on his honest reputation and his accomplishments in the form of winning the cricket world cup, building an amazing cancer treatment hospital and a state-of-the-art university. Imran Khan has shown time and again that with will, good intent and determination anything is possible. The question is can extremely complex current problems of Pakistan be rectified with just good reputation, strong will and determination?
Pakistan faces problems on multiple fronts and all of these problems are “now” interlinked. None of the issues being faced by Pakistan stand isolated. To solve or even to begin to solve Pakistan’s issues we need to find one end of this entangled thread, come up with multiple strategies that can work simultaneously as time is short. Such a colossal task requires clear thinking, well defined policies and a team of experts to carry out these plans in a systematic manner using minimum time and minimal resources. This means we need to move away from Imran Khan the-political-hero mindset and look towards a highly competent, functional and efficient PTI, a political party that must be able to deliver what their party head promises. At the same time we need PTI to have a political head who can listen to his advisors from within the party as well as outside the party and take reasonable advice while formulating policies and plans (something that a majority of our leaders lack). The ‘I’ factor is predominantly a part of Khan’s political career, and the allegations of a one man show are hence not entirely in vain.
It is imperative that Imran Khan comes up with a strong, stable and doable plan to repair what’s been broken, build what needs to be built and eliminate what needs to be eliminated. Military and strategic decisions and planning must be done by consulting the military leadership. Just saying that drone strikes must be stopped can have many severe and negative consequences; solutions must be developed after much deliberation and not just spoken about on a political rally stage. It’s a good thing that Khan has raised the topic of drone strikes but what if Peace Talks do not work? What is plan B? These are questions that need to be asked. Blind support is naïve; honesty alone cannot solve our problems.
The sagacity of PTI’s vision mirrors the aspirations and hopes of millions of Pakistanis trapped in a vicious cycle of immiseration and mass deaths. With promises of rehabilitation, justice and redress Khan has finally arrived on the political scene stronger than he has ever been. While rallying and rhetoric go hand in hand, it’s the strategies behind ideologues that replicate thought into action and for all intents and purposes furnish the meat on these skeletal constructs of ideas. The PTI modi operandi for lending practicality to their vision is an issue the Party has been much criticized for. Mr. Omar Sarfaraz Cheema in a telephonic interview with us informed us about a PTI committee consisting of technocrats, bureaucrats and politicians who are currently in the process of devising a three pronged politically astute and technically sound viable point based clear cut strategy which they will unveil as a response to Party critics in a few weeks time. However the PTI stance on the following issues can give us a fair idea of what to expect from their detailed tactical report.
A legacy we cling to for dear life, land holdings and feudalism are two bulls PTI will not directly take by the horns; while it plans to monitor state owned land and distribute cultivable land to landless farmers, computerize land records and expedite pending cases of land ceiling disputes; PTI hasn’t so far exhibited Bhutto’s socialist streak in matters like these and thus alienated Punjab’s strong Left. Khan’s homage to Baloch Sardars at the rally somewhat reinforced fears of yet another era of feudalism and PTI must address these concerns directly in its detailed report.
Amidst allegations of Khan’s ties with Ret. General Hamid Gul, Ejaz Chaudhry’s affinity for Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP aka LeJ) and Khan’s constant diatribe against military operations in sensitive areas, critics believe Khans defense strategy lacks pragmatism and is more of a political gimmick. His line on how to deal with the quagmire that will be created when PTI steps back from the War on Terror and drone strikes end include the following options:
- Political solutions, inviting TTP leaders to negotiate a settlement, incorporate them into representative bodies if possible.
- Give Balochis their due rights and request Baloch Sardars to put an end to the chaos however they deem right.
- Isolate terrorists and carry out counter insurgencies, only if no innocent lives will be lost.
While removing support for America’s War on Terror and ending drone strikes completely are policies that most Pakistanis would support, is PTI ready to deal with the backlash that will follow? If drone strikes end, it allows TTP time and space to regroup, calls for a more boots on the ground strategy where Pak Army casualties will create strained relations between the barracks and the state. Giving Baloch Sardars monopoly over violence in their area is a strategy that sends a chill down ones spine, their baggage and history of dealing with RAW is an issue PTI must not naively ignore for mere political expediency. The last Baloch insurgency took place in 2005 and the people are still reeling from it, replacing one brand of oppressors with another may not be the right way to embrace our Balochi brothers.
Mere political solutions while an attractive idea; supported by (according to Mr. Osama Cheema) 93% of Think Tanks around the world, however the last time we tried that Mullah Sufi Mohammad went back on his word and increased the scale of violence in the area so much that the military operation was welcomed by Swati’s themselves. Considering all this PTI must have a hardnosed strategy on how to sell this solution when it has suffered a history of failure when dealing with terrorists. Isolating terrorists and hunting them down is relatively a more practical option, especially if TTP knows that the ruling Party isn’t above fighting fire with fire.
Khan has also been criticized for not really taking a stance on the core issue of fundamentalism mushrooming in the region. The impression that he is willing to tolerate fundamentalism and extremism in the country should be put to rest as soon as possible. Instead of ‘outsourcing’ violence to the Baloch Sardars, PTI could do the same with the War on Terror, that is, for Pakistan to take control of drone strike operations in the country and use its intelligence agency and military to take complete authority and responsibility for rooting out these perpetrators.
Presidents Discretionary Powers:
The current government and the one before were strongly criticized for their rampant misuse of Presidents Discretionary Powers. Political Appointees in key posts that demanded technical expertise, powers of ending tenures on whim and pardoning whoever they pleased, were responsible for much of the corruption that leeched the country dry these past fifteen years. PTI’s official stance, as elaborated on by Mr. Cheema, is to do away with this latent tool of oppression wielded by dictators garbed in sheep skin. This is a stand PTI must be congratulated on taking. On the issue of tenure security, PTI suggests shortening key officials tenures but providing tenure assurance at the same time.
Economic Policy and the Energy Crisis:
PTI believes that is high time the west starts viewing us as equals not subordinates, and to make this possible we need to stop begging the US for more aid. This policy when announced in Khans speech at the rally created waves among various circles, most of which smirked at the tall claims he made. Khan explains that once we achieve a tax collection rate equal to India’s, that is 18%, our country will be able to declare solvency and where 60% of our revenue goes into debt servicing, we can pay them off once politicians’ undeclared assets are seized. All easier said than done, Mr. Cheema clarified the important misconception of condemning foreign aid altogether by explaining the real problem lies not with the aid we receive, it’s with conditional aid that hinders development altogether leaving the country more destitute than ever. This economic policy might just hold more merit with Khans detractors after all.
Furthermore the prospect of alternate sources of energy must be looked into; PTI strongly believes that the current power generation set up has the capacity to deal with the energy crisis if only utilized properly.
Taking a closer look at the policies that PTI intends on implementing puts us in a better position to stand by or against this Political Party. The generation that has witnessed and experienced broken promises in the past is more skeptical, but the fine line between skepticism and cynicism needs to be drawn. Criticism on a policy level should be encouraged. With Khan’s emergence in politics we see a widespread politicization of the younger generation that has remained indifferent or annoyed by political debate. If this mobilization is to be truly rewarding these ‘young’ voters must engage in constructive debate and spread awareness about the reforms that PTI intends on bringing. Only then can this ‘awakening’ be political in nature, and not merely a consequence of annoyance by the corrupt establishment. Khan’s ability to mobilize and his reputation, hard work and excellent leadership as Pakistan Cricket Team Captain alone as arguments in favor of PTI can do no justice to the party or the people who stand by him. To bring real change we need to start asking real questions. The tune of the Pied Piper’s pipe has indeed allured a following that is swaying to its melody. Whether or not the Piper leads them to the Promised Land is yet to be seen. What will help in the meantime though is fleshing out PTI’s ideology and translating it into feasible strategy.
Spearhead Analyses are the result of a collaborative effort and not attributable to a single individual.
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