THE chief of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Imran Khan, is scheduled to unveil his map for the future at a public meeting in Bahawalpur today. The announcement is being anxiously awaited against the backdrop of reported discussion within the party over which course it should follow from here onwards. In simple terms, the PTI is divided between the moderates who have the patience and will to work gradually within the existing system and the more radical elements who want to strive for forcing sudden change at the risk of severely endangering the system.
These are the two extremes Mr Khan has been shuttling between. One moment he presses for an investigation into vote fraud by the available apparatus and the next he threatens to join Dr Tahirul Qadri. If the PTI is not too bothered about learning from its own experience in public protest so far, maybe there is a case for it to have a close look at the Pakistan Awami Tehreek’s example: how Dr Qadri has been unable to sustain action that would indicate mobility. The drive — led either by Mr Khan or by Dr Qadri or by the two of them jointly — cannot go in fits and starts. There has to be decisive progress aimed at well-defined targets that are fully understood by and acceptable to the masses whose favour is being sought. There is more frustration than purpose to the two moves so far.
Imran Khan has reasons to be upset. He is within his rights to ask for a probe into alleged poll rigging. The delay in addressing his demands betrays problems in the system of governance that lacks an ability to effectively respond to discontent and complaints. Also, there is not too much room for disagreement over him questioning the arrogance with which the current rulers work. The big question, however, relates to the sensitive issue of just how far he can take his agitation and what serious repercussions his acts could entail, for his party and for the country at large. Mr Khan warns he could be ultimately forced to dissolve the provincial assembly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where his party is in power. If this is a statement made in total disregard for the disastrous effects such a dissolution could have on the whole of Pakistan, it seems also to be based on an overestimation of what gains the PTI, now a political party with proven public support, could make in the ensuing chaos. The people want change but, oft bitten, they will be wary of being plunged into yet another period of uncertainty. The PTI leader will persist with his demand for poll-fraud investigation, but if he is to emerge as the alternative he must devote some of his energies to turning his Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government into a model ready to be replicated all across the country.
Published in Dawn, June 27th, 2014