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Collateral benefits

Published Jan 06, 2013 12:30am


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IN failure, there can be success. Sometimes.

Imran Khan has failed in his central objective: he is no longer a genuine contender for power and the PTI has not become the third force it once threatened to be in the heady days after the Lahore rally 14 months ago.

But Khan has already delivered. He has, arguably, already fulfilled the political potential he genuinely had.


Khan never seriously threatened to capture political power because in his decade and a half in the political wilderness he never really matured as a politician.

Khan’s star turn arrived a year and change ago because the status quo options had fallen precipitously in the public standing.

In a deeply flawed system with deeply flawed incumbents, the incumbents were always going to suffer a dip in their public appeal mid-term.

Because it’s been repeated so often and so religiously, everyone knows that by now.

And because Khan aimed for the stars, falling short of the stars means he’s been dismissed or derided.

But to do that is to miss Khan’s original, true potential: to alarm the status quo into lifting its game.

In that, Khan has half succeeded.

For Khan and his followers, there is little solace in the fact that of the principal existing players — PPP and PML-N — they have shaken one of those players into doing their job better.

Khan’s purpose, after all, is not just for the people to be better served by their representatives, but for him to serve the people better.

For everyone else, though, Khan is potential realised, at least on the PML-N front.

Panicked and in disarray, the PML-N leadership got down to a mid-term regeneration and revival. The PML-N reached out to the grassroots. It started listening to what the people wanted.

As luck would have it, the outreach coincided with NFC money pouring into the provincial coffers. Flush with cash, the PML-N went on a spending binge.

Laptops may be a waste of precious rupees; the project-oriented spending is probably not the wisest use of development money; vanity projects like the rapid bus service in Lahore are far from a sure thing; pouring concrete here, there and everywhere isn’t environmentally or aesthetically pleasing — but compared to the decrepitude of Balochistan and the profligacy and wastefulness of KP and Sindh?

Alarmed and shaken by the PTI, the PML-N and the Punjab government got their act together. If you happen to live in Punjab, that’s a good thing.

And much as it may disappoint Khan that it isn’t him doing it, isn’t the central point of Khan’s message that a better kind of politics and governance is possible?

Both the PML-N and the PTI will be loath to admit it — for opposite, though equally obvious, reasons — but the revival in Punjab is down to the PTI.

The PPP, that has been a different story for a different reason: the PTI’s rise was little threat to Zardari’s view of the electoral map.

In interior Sindh, PTI has no hope. In south Punjab, the likes of Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Javed Hashmi and Jahangir Tarin don’t seriously undermine the PPP’s push. Urban and north and central Punjab, Zardari has all but abandoned anyway.

No threat to the base,

no action required. Khan’s anti-corruption, anti-incumbency, anti-West message just didn’t have the kind of resonance with the PPP voter the PPP leadership cares about to jolt the leadership into responding.

The point to this extended digression on Khan and his impact? Pressure works. Often in ways it is not conjured up for.

Which brings us to Qadri, the latest orchestrated bolt of lightning to hit the political landscape.

If Qadri succeeds in delaying elections, everyone loses. Everyone, that is, except those who will have one hand at the helm and the other in the till during an extended caretaker set-up.

But assume Qadri fails in his explicit objective — could he still end up doing some good, despite his manifestly malign intentions?

Since the Senate elections last March and the fifth budget of this government last June, what has been the point to this government plodding on?

There is no point; no goal left other than a civilian-led transition. But Zardari has fended off that moment because it’s hard to let go when you don’t have to.

Drift, ineptitude, hanging on for the sake of hanging on, clinging on to suckle at the teats of the state a little while longer – none of that has anything to do with furthering the democratic project.

If anything, the democratic project needs to be aired out some. If anything, the democratic project needs to be rescued from the maws of the democrats.

An election would surely be no catharsis, but it would at least rejuvenate the system some.

People will wave their flags; politicians will shout their slogans; voters will pause to think about what they want from their leaders and who best can deliver; candidates will scramble to tweak their message — the form of democracy may get some more substance.

The best, and possibly only, thing Zardari could have done for democracy the past six months is pull the trigger on a general election.

But he hasn’t done it. Enter Qadri.

Like Khan, Qadri can fail, and yet succeed — maybe not from a personal perspective, but from the standpoint of inadvertent, and system-wide, good.

A few hundred thousand people in Islamabad, on the back of the showing in Lahore and Karachi, will amount to real pressure, particularly given the suspicions about who is behind Qadri.

If it causes Zardari to buckle and call the election — like the one-two punch of the Nawaz-led long march and Kayani pressure did to restore the CJ in March ’09 — then praise to Allah and let’s get on with the business of an election and consign Qadri to where he belongs: a footnote in history.

The country needs an election, deserves an election and should get an election. Now. Zardari hasn’t given the country what it needs and deserves because there’s been no real pressure on him. Until now.

Malign, then, as Qadri and his backers’ true intentions may be, perhaps a little bit of success by the Qadri juggernaut wouldn’t be so bad for Project Democracy.

But only a little success. For if Zardari doesn’t buckle, let’s hope he can wriggle away.

The writer is a member of staff.

Twitter: @cyalm


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

Comments (17) Closed

raika45 Jan 06, 2013 02:25pm
Oh boy Pakistan ! Are you in trouble or what.An avalanche of parties and yet non showing the way to a good future with sustained results.Some 40 over years lurching from one end to the other looking for salvation.No offence meant, but I really feel for your country and those looking for peace and progress rather than what they are undergoing now with power cuts, lack of fuel and the random killing of innocents by the terrorists under their various names and a government totally at a loss.
Mustafa Razavi Jan 06, 2013 11:16am
Observer; " Pakistan needs open, transparent, pluralistic, democratic, and reasonably secular society and government." You cannot dictate that a society be democratic and secular at the same time because once a country is democratic the people choose if they want to be secular or not. If the don't want secularism, imposing it on them is dictatorship.
I. Ahmed Jan 06, 2013 07:29am
Imran Khan's failure, PML-Q spineless performance and their failure to make inroads into PML-N base in Punjab has led Zardari Inc. to come up with a masterstroke - bring Qadri into the fold to counter the threat of PML-N gaining majority in the next general elections. The pundits believe Qadri is a pawn of establishment, and it works well for PPP. It is evident that PPP has used their side-kicks MQM and PML-Q (historical supporters of 'hidden establishment') to make Qadri look bigger than life. The visit of Malik to London and helter-skelter in Punjab of PPP members to cajole the PML-Q was a complete sham. Elections will be held, the announcement will be delayed to the point where PML-N will have no choice but to agree to PPP nominees of a care-taker set-up. Then the masterstroke will come in full force. To beat PML-N in Punjab, PTI and Qadri will help PPP win the marginal seats and maintain the majority at center. The result of this will be continued chaos, incompetency, corruption and nepotism. That the people of Pakistan have accepted as a norm anyways. Democracy is dead, long live Democracy!!!!!
observer Jan 06, 2013 02:27pm
You need to analyze political history of Pakistan by studying a few good authors on the subject. I hope you come to realize who the players are and how they framed mindset of public by manipulating elections, media, and foreign policy.
Nasah (USA) Jan 06, 2013 04:18pm
Please be patient -- Zardari will have election on time just for the sake of being the first to 'complete' 5 years of the civilian government to pass it on to 'another' elected civilian government -- if for nothing else.
umar Jan 06, 2013 08:20am
sir u r good at analysing international affairs but politics specially of punjab are different. pmln has delivered nothing. there are no jobs for the jobless even not on some sifarish or rishwat. that seriously hurt the people. now they are embrassing electables to get the seats. their hold or fort is certainly lahore because of hometown of mian brothers and large kashmiri braderi. same matters in gujranwala and in some constituencies of fsd and rawalpindi. youth and a sizeable is with pti with pmlq still having strong electables. pmln's strategy nothing else than the propoganda to inspire the urban 30+ vote bank and getting electables to get the rural vote bank. they are uptil now successful but ofcourse now betterment in governance. all the betterment is for lahore and no where else. these are my humble suggestions. thnx
Sohail Sheikh Jan 06, 2013 08:53am
Once again the writer proves his deeply ingrained bias against Khan and PTI. He somehow naively believes that the devastation caused by the ruling party with the collusion of the main opposition party will go unnoticed by the voters and come the election time all will be forgotten. No sir, not this time. The writer either does not understand the ground realities or prefers not to acknowledge it. Election outcome will prove how wrong his thinking and analysis is.
Mustafa Razavi Jan 06, 2013 10:12pm
The question that you have to answer is if the majority of a nation wants a religious government, who has the right to tell them that they can't?. If you are simply saying that you don't want a religious government, that is your opinion and it is fine with me, but I hope you would respect the majority opinion regardless of whether it agrees with you or not. Religious government or secular government, both need the approval at the ballot box. I see both extremes of the spectrum very willing to jam their opinion down people's throats.
Mustafa Razavi Jan 06, 2013 09:51pm
Ah, "I need to analyze", that is a euphemism I need to agree with your analysis, that doesn't sound very democratic.
Mustafa Razavi Jan 06, 2013 09:52pm
Just like Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto did in 1977.
Amir Saeed Jan 06, 2013 09:09pm
As far as I can remember he has never written about international politics
Amir Saeed Jan 06, 2013 09:07pm
Take heart brother. The demise of the PTI.???? We will see inshallah! The mess Shahbaz Sahrif has made of Lahore? People dying of Cough syrup which they need after all the pollution his ill-thought 'development projects' have kicked up while Shahbaz himself helf the health portfolio? What upping their game is the writer talking about? People like NFP and CA would love to see IK fail. Because every success is an insult to mediocrity. We will see inhallaha!
Yawar Arif Jan 06, 2013 11:13am
Well written, Love your political insights.
Mohammed Jan 06, 2013 01:10pm
Lets rejoice in the demise of the PTI and celebrate the success of people who have brought the countries to its knees(PPP and PML). This writer real cares for the poor of the country.
BRR Jan 06, 2013 04:17am
An interesting take on the unintended effects of the knights in shining armor who, like a meteor, rise up to shine for a few minutes before crashing and burning.
observer Jan 06, 2013 04:53am
Democracy is not a project. It must stay or we can even lose the country. Pakistan needs open, transparent, pluralistic, democratic, and reasonably secular society and government. Enough of oppressive, propaganda based, security state minded system that has failed to deliver. I am sure all stakeholders realize that. If Pakistan fails to bring about drastic changes to its policies and replace the 1950s policies with those that are need of today, survival of country may be difficult as a soverign country.
Expat (usa) Jan 08, 2013 02:09pm
Years from now, new generation will know that AAZ presented himself poor man's candidate and richman's friend. No one will care that he completed 5 years term as president.