Will He Do That?

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 28 Jul 2018 12:08:36

Islamabad, July 26 (PTI): ... “After a 22-year-long struggle, the Almighty God has finally given me the chance to implement the manifesto I had dreamed up over two decades ago ...”, Imran Khan, 65, said in his first public address after the polls. He promised to make Pakistan’s institutions stronger under which everyone will be held accountable. “First, I will be subjected to accountability, then my ministers, and so on. Today, we are behind (other countries) because there is a separate system for those in power and a separate one for the ordinary citizens.” He then promised to end the VIP culture and convert the existing PM House into an educational institution ... .

THIS is not the language the Pakistanis are used to hearing. For the past seventy-plus years, all they have heard and known is a great socio-economic divide between the elite and the common people in the streets. Every time a new ruler came, all that the Pakistanis heard was a political rhetoric whose meaning they knew very well -- that the elite in Pakistan will keep having all the fur and fun while the common people would languish under oppressive and corrupt administration. At least, Mr. Imran Khan spoke a different language. Only time will tell how much he will succeed in the next five years.

However, Mr. Imran Khan seems to have begun well by using a language of comprehension and compassion. He has tried to assert that he would demolish the VIP culture, as part of which he would convert the Prime Minister House into an educational institution and Governors’ Houses and official hill resorts into hotels and make money to be used eventually for the welfare of the suffering masses. For Pakistan, this language is new and different from the political rut and rhetoric. Some time will have to pass before the people understand the actual meaning of the new lingo.

The first foray of Mr. Imran Khan into politics was 22 years ago, as per his own submission. In those days in his early forties, after having lost his mother to cancer, and after having created a world class cancer hospital (and later one more, as well as a world class university where a huge percentage of poor people get international degrees), he saw and dreamed, designed a political agenda that took him over two decades of time to bring to this level of fruition. For at least now, he appears to recall those early struggles in an awkward Pakistani politics, and remind the people of his sincerity. Even though his integrity may not be suspect, the average Pakistanis in the street would take a terribly interminable time to start actually believing Mr. Imran Khan’s word.

For the common Pakistani people, such a language is unheard of, such an approach unknown. And after the electoral din in which he participated giving raucous slogans, shouting speeches into people’s ears, making unfounded dirty charges that did not spare even Indian Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi, Mr. Imran Khan is now using all of a sudden a sober language whose meaning will sink into the overall Pakistani psyche only after quite some time. Of course, he is aware of the general credibility gap that prevails in Pakistan. Yet, the Khan is using an altogether different language appealing to people’s non-political soft emotions, at times melodramatic, at times melancholic, and at times mesmeric. Despite all this, Mr. Imran Khan is bound to find it difficult to convince the common people of his good intentions. True, the people have given his party -- the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf -- as many as 119 seats, more than double the number than that of the Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz Sharif, and thrice as much as that of the Pakistan People’s Party. Terror mastermind Hafiz Saeed could not get any single of his candidates to be elected. This distribution of spoils, too, has its interpretation.

One of the most popular interpretations is that Mr. Imran Khan has been the Army’s stooge and therefore got all the help from the military powers that be so that they get back in the driver’s seat. Only time will tell what actually happens on the ground. Most unfortunately, the Pakistani Army has often taken an undue pride in being in thoughtless control. It has often allowed other countries to manipulate Pakistan for their respective goals. If the same story is going to continue, then Pakistan would never, never, never come up in the global esteem as well as its own process of recovery from various ills. Yes, Pakistan did see some democratic interludes. But even in those periods, the Army kept dominating the public discourse -- or in other words, demolishing sensible public discourse.

If this is going to continue during the Imran Khan era, then Pakistan’s misfortune will have no bounds. Mr. Khan did talk in a sad tone about Pakistan getting referred to as a sponsor of terror. Let us hope that this sadness of his is genuine. Given the fact that all of Hafiz Saeed’s candidates got wiped out in the elections, there may be some hope in the evolving narrative of Pakistan’s domestic politics. Yet, it is difficult to assert that this interpretation has some substance or not.

For the naive, the new development in Pakistan may offer a good portend. But for those who have observed Pakistan keenly over decades, this is only a time to wait and watch before jumping to any specific conclusion about some good tiding. This is so because Pakistan has been one State that does not have history of its own beyond, say, about ninety years since Sir Syed Ahmed Khan first propounded the two-nation theory. Such a State does not become a nation in a true sense all of a sudden just because somebody wills it. That process can happen only in democracy in modern times. The issue now is: Can Mr. Imran Khan provide that interlude? Will he be allowed to achieve that?