THOSE who claim to be working for change and who insist on being the alternative must aim high. And this is the impression the PTI’s election manifesto creates as the party renews the search for a welfare state according to its interpretation of the ideals set by the Quaid and Allama Iqbal. The party promises to work towards a uniform system of education, says it will transfer power to the grassroots within three months of being elected and overcome the crippling electricity shortage within three years. The PTI vows to create jobs, to establish Pakistan’s relations with the outside world on the basis of mutual respect and to ensure parliamentary oversight of the defence budget. It says it will pursue an indigenously evolved policy on the war on militancy and reiterates the stance of its chief on dialogue as the preferred means to engage with the militants. Among the more contentious issues, the manifesto pledges to impose a 15pc agriculture tax on landholdings exceeding 50 acres.
Launching the manifesto on Tuesday, Imran Khan must have felt the need to assure the people about his party’s and, more importantly, his own ability to deliver on these high promises. He sought to invoke examples of what he has achieved — the cancer hospital — comparing these with the failure of the PTI’s main opponents to build institutions. This may be an effective tactic given the evidence which indicates that a large number of Pakistanis are looking to establish new norms to save the system from dying. Still, while the manifesto gives a compact guideline for PTI workers to take to the voters, it will provide fodder to sceptics who have seen similar documents in the past leading to nothing significant. The agenda essentially requires not simply coming to power but doing so with a huge popular mandate. Take the promise of a uniform education system: for this to happen Imran Khan will have to live up to his prediction of sweeping the polls clean and proper.