Life of the party?

Published June 22, 2024

THE launch of Awaam Pakistan, a party led by former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and former finance minister Miftah Ismail, is a welcome development to our political landscape. Pakistan’s politics have long been dominated by dynastic parties, though that changed after the emergence of the PTI in the 1990s. The new party at present appears to be a mix of experts and professionals, with a handful of political names. But the challenges it faces will be the same confronted by others before it — especially today when citizens are crushed by inflation and the space for dissent, the cornerstone of any democracy, is rapidly shrinking.

The real test for the party will be whether it can offer something new. In its first promotional video, it features citizens asking why they face hardship amidst an economic and unemployment crisis. But its founders should remember that many political parties emerge and then fizzle out. It takes many years to establish sound credentials and become a political force. For instance, it took years for Imran Khan to build the PTI. For two decades, it was a non-starter. And then it came to prominence, allegedly with the support of undemocratic forces. How will Awaam Pakistan be different? What is its pull factor? The PTI relied on, with great success, the magnetism of Mr Khan — but he too, by his own admission, had to invite ‘electables’ and political bigwigs not necessarily aligned with his vision into the party. Will Awaam Pakistan break through personality- and family-dominated politics? Can it attract good politicians from other parties? Its mantra of ‘change via system delivery’ is noble but hardly different from what every other party promises including more jobs, an improved economy, less corruption, etc. Pakistan currently faces grave challenges: a weak economy, few jobs, resurgent terrorism, and a defective education and health infrastructure. Time will tell if Awaam Pakistan holds appeal for the public, or will fade away.

Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2024

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