Dawn News

A plausible path to power

In the modern age of the 24-7 news cycle, one-liner facebook statuses and 140 character tweets, news stories have a short life expectancy. News breaks, gets covered, gets discussed and is beaten to death, all within a matter of hours. Viewed in that context, the PTI rally in Lahore has clearly bucked the trend. Just as the turnout at the rally was beyond expectations, the longevity of the story around it has also beat expectations. In an age where a day is an eternity, this story lasted well over two weeks.

As discussion and analysis of the rally tapers off and dust settles on the most successful rally in modern Pakistani political history, attention turns to PTI’s electoral prospects. As PTI tries to convert its street power into parliamentary power, the external challenges it faces are three-fold: firstly, it lacks what are referred to as “electable candidates”, secondly, it has to contend with a dubious electoral system and thirdly, it is likely to face opposition from a state machinery keen on arresting PTI’s meteoric rise.

PTI’s primary internal challenge is inexperience which may lead to poor decision making. It should follow three guiding principles to protect itself from ill-advised decisions. Firstly, it must resist the temptation to support any unconstitutional move. Secondly, it must jealously guard its hard-earned anti-status-quo mantle by rejecting any one who is joined at the hip with the status-quo. Thirdly, it must never ever, under any circumstances boycott the elections. If PTI follows these guidelines and takes measured steps to address its external challenges, it has a plausible path to power. Lets dive into this path now.

The PPP seems singularly focused on the Senate elections to be held in March 2012 and is keen to capitalise on the numerical majority it possesses in the current Senatorial electoral college. After winning the Senate elections, PPP will have nothing to gain from the existing setup and in a bid to ease the pressure on the government is likely to announce general elections a few months ahead of the slated date of February 2013. For the sake of discussion, let’s put down October 2012 as the approximate date for the next general election.

PPP is currently not visible in grassroots politics and seems to have left an open field to its opponents. This could be an implicit admission of its shortcomings on the governance front, but is more likely an indication of complacency vis-à-vis its prospects come election time. PML(Q) exuded similar confidence prior to the 2008 elections and Pervez Elahi was lining up for the PM slot. What happened to PML(Q) is now part of political folklore. The fact of the matter is that PPP is in for a rude awakening when the people go to the polls next time. It is undeniable, however, that the incumbent government enjoys certain administrative advantages during elections. Owing to these advantages and a dwindling but loyal vote bank, PPP is likely to retain a significant parliamentary presence.

PML(N) is also eyeing the Senate elections amid fears of being marginalised in the upper house. It could resign en-masse from the parliament and try to force early general elections in a bid to delay the senate elections. To avoid looking petty and power-hungry, they will try to give their actions a populist makeover. Unfortunately for them, the people have wisened up and will see through their maneuverings. PML(N) will fall flat in its efforts to remain relevant and support for it will erode further. In the October 2012 election, it is likely to ally with PML(Q) and retain pockets of support in rural Punjab, but nothing to match its current strength.

By coalescing the disaffected masses around it, PTI has clearly established itself as a viable third option. PTI needs to keep at it and deliver more of the same. If it avoids the pitfalls mentioned earlier, PTI will deliver a strong performance in the October 2012 elections. Passing on compromised electables will cost PTI some seats but will solidify its anti-status-quo credentials. Riding on strong performances in Punjab, KP and Fata, PTI will emerge as the single largest party in the parliament. With help from Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Mahmood Achakzai in Sindh and Balochistan respectively, PTI will eke out a few seats in these provinces, allowing it to stake the claim of being a truly national party. It will not have enough seats to form the government though, and true to form, it will not compromise with parties it has consistently lambasted and will take its place on the opposition benches. The result will be a hung parliament with the single largest party in opposition.

Meanwhile, in the “Greater National Interest”, the other political parties will begin negotiations to form a coalition government. Frantic wheeling and dealing between PPP, PML(N), PML(Q) and the other usual suspects will precede the formation of a weak government marred with infighting and squabbling over division of the spoils of war. The masses will deem their mandate muffled and their voice subdued. The government might hobble along for a few months, but when time for presidential elections comes around in October 2013, matters will come to a head. Asif Zardari, being the incumbent, will naturally be PPP’s candidate. PML(N) and PML(Q), having already paid dearly for being soft on Zardari, will not support him. Unable to break the deadlock over who gets to be president, the carefully cobbled-together coalition government will fall. At that point there will be no constitutional way out of the impasse except fresh elections, perhaps to be held at the end of 2013.

With its political edifice crumbling right before its eyes, the rulers-that-be will be unable to exercise any influence over the outcome of these elections.

Fed up with the state of affairs, a seriously ticked off electorate will then unleash the tsunami that has become a household word today and usher in a PTI government with a bhaari (heavy) mandate rivaling PML(N)’s super-majority from 1997.

Wishful thinking, you might say. Umeed pai duniya qaim hai, (hope springs eternal) would be my response.


Irfan Waheed is an engineer working in Austin, Texas. He can be reached at irfanwaheed@msn.com

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Irfan Waheed is an engineer working in Austin, Texas. He can be reached at irfanwaheed@msn.com

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (24) Closed

Fayaz Ahmad Khwaja
Dec 05, 2011 04:14pm
Assalamoalaikom! Yeah that's true His Highnes Imran Khan will face many difficulties in the upcoming general elections but what we expect from His Highnes Imran Khan is that, he should never surrender to the opposition and the change which he is claiming will not come within a year or two but slowly this will start and will take deep roots and will grow very soon for the good sake of Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Pakistan Zinda Abad Islam Painda Abad And long live H H Imran Khan that's our's prayers always with H H Imran Khan for the Sake of Pakistan.
Dec 05, 2011 04:52pm
you should come pakistan and lead the "Sonami" for the better future of country????
Javed Khan
Dec 05, 2011 04:56pm
Wishful thinking may not be true, people are sick and tired of these old faces from all these parties coming on daily talk shows and querl among themselves. They have absolutely done nothing about the numerous problems faced by the people. They are professional politicians and see politics as means of earning. They have brought misery in the lives of common people. People used to pray for Army to take over and correct things. Now they see a ray of light, hope in the form of Imran Khan, PTI. PTI will not only gain in FATA, K-P, Punjab but you will also see a dent in MQM vote bank and win seats in their strong hold. PTI will inshallah get a landslide victory. All overseas Pakistanis are supporting and praying for him. The OverSeas Pakistanis can not forget the ill advised Freez on its foreign Currency accounts in Pakistan by the PML-N leader. Javed Khan Jeddah, KSA
Dec 05, 2011 04:59pm
Quiet plausible and realistic future course predicted by writer. Pakistan is a place where any thing can happen unexpectedly.
Dec 05, 2011 05:04pm
Your politicians in Pakistan are no different from those in the Indian sub continent.Self vested interests over national patriotism is their aim.Most of your people fall for their speeches and mannerism and overlook problems facing the nation.Hopefully this time sanity and down to earth reasoning may bring forth real dedicated leaders to stabalise the country. I feel you people have suffered enough.
Malik PhD
Dec 05, 2011 05:15pm
It is wishful thinking to see a change, but anything can happen. My own gut feeling is PTI are in infancy still and could take a while to blossom. Politics is a dirty game and one can witness the immaturity of PTI on TV channels during media trials. PPP and PML-N guys have been able to take apart the inexperienced TPI guys on issues like assets and corruption where the general consus seems to be "corruption is not a new phenomenon why waste ones breath on it"
Shafi Jatoi
Dec 05, 2011 06:10pm
I am sorry Irfan but PTI will not bring any change if and when it comes to power. Imran Khan as an individual is second only to Abdul Sattar Edhi. However, PTI has allowed certain members to join it's ranks that have been rejected by the status quo. These are the same people involved in all the activities that IK stands against. I am not advocating for any party (PTI included) because history and all the previous mistakes seem to be repeating themselves.
Dec 05, 2011 06:30pm
There's many a slip Between the cup and lip
Overseas Pakistani
Dec 05, 2011 08:47pm
May Allah protect our only hope, give him peaceful life and success he deserves to make our country a true Islamic state.
Dec 05, 2011 09:47pm
Most people in Pakistan want a change and Imran's offered them a choice. I also want him to run the show. At this stage, though, it seems that he's stuck on assets of the elite ruling classes. This is not issue for 90% of the population. They've got far more serious issues in their lives and whilst we all know the problems, someone has got to come up with solutions, not just carry on with the same words on every channel. So far PTI has not come up with anything of substance and soon it'll be a buch of old "have beens", guys who have been with all parties and either been kicked out or not given the desired privilages and posts. With this crew what changes is PTI going to make?
Dec 05, 2011 10:03pm
Pakistan needs honest leaders, who pay taxes, & do not take money out of Pakistan, i hope he is one of new kids, we need him
Hamid Abbasi
Dec 06, 2011 12:03am
A well poised analysis nearing "wishful thinking" yet plausible provided Imran Khan is spared of "His Highness"title.This is where we spoil a politician in making.Hamid Abbasi
Amjad Wyne
Dec 06, 2011 12:17am
"With its political edifice crumbling right before its eyes, the rulers-that-be will be unable to exercise any influence over the outcome of these elections". That would be true if politicians earned peoples' votes. In a setup where politicians buy or intimidate voters, this amounts to wishful thinking.
Nasah (USA)
Dec 06, 2011 12:28am
Proof of the pudding will be in the eating -- not banging the pots and pans. We will believe it when we see it in the elections.
Shanawar Hashmi
Dec 06, 2011 05:26am
I am an overseas Pakistani and along with hundreds of others, I'll be attending the PTI convention in Vancouver BC this Thursday, Inshallah. The PTI Karachi Jalsa on Dec 25th will be another huge blow to the ruling elites and give way to the strong current of the Tsunami, Inshallah.
Dec 06, 2011 07:47am
I am a PTI supporter and an Imran Khan fan but what's with "His Highness" mantra. Are you for real?
Usman Ahmad
Dec 06, 2011 08:48am
I live in USA. I know majority of the Pakistanis will vote for Imran Khan in the upcoming election because he is honest, devoted, educated and has a vision. PAKISTAN ZINDABAD
Dec 06, 2011 09:55am
Dec 06, 2011 12:14pm
Quite thoughtful. I believe that majority of Pakistanis have already made up there mind. Afterall we might be un predictable but we are not insane. Like others, I am also seriously worried about the future of our kids and youth in Pakistan. This time we cannot get it wrong. This could be our only chance before many more decades pass away. Either it is Imran or it is Imran. We do not have any other choice.
Dec 06, 2011 12:16pm
Imran is the only plausible choice Pakistanis have. Pakistanis must give him one chance, why not when corrupt to the core parties like PMLN and PPP have ruled us many times.
J. Khan
Dec 06, 2011 03:35pm
@farooq. The solution to many of the country problems is precisely what Imran has said. If everyone, starting with the public office holders and politicians, declares his / her assets then I am 100% sure that our annual budget would be in surplus. Corruption would also be minimised if not eliminated, if the Benaami practice is abolished. You would see a "Changed Pakistan", if that happens.
Imran khan
Dec 07, 2011 05:01am
Imran alone can not do it. He needs all of us. One thing for sure. He is the only shining of what ever left of Pakistan now. I agree he should be exteremely careful who gives the PTI ticket. But one needs to understand. He needs to have sincere and brave pakistani join PTI and help him establish the sincere government 1st time in the history of pakistan. So you want change in pakistan? Come forward and tell Imran what you can do for pakistan?
Kashif Nawaz Shaikh
Dec 07, 2011 05:44pm
I being a supporter of change, think that IK needs to move forward from the assets issue now and concentrate on more significant issues like inflation and unemployment and concentrate on getting some very good stats and research on these figures. In addition He needs to have a team who can propse resolving these issues which He can implement and market.
Naved Haqqi
Dec 07, 2011 10:43pm
We as a nation have a tendency of investing in personalities rather than institutions. Probably that is one reason why army, an institution, and a very stable one for that matter, keeps coming back after each of these personalities fail. Mr. Khan may be a viable solution, but a very temporary one. Ad-hocism is what this nation rests its political philosophies on. Can he change the political culture, especially when the feudal and industrialist heirs are in line and being prepared to carry on the status quo? Can he create a political institution that can stand against the military? Very difficult to digest. But then, like the author said 'ummeed pey duniya qayem hey'.