PTI and Civil Military Establishment in Pakistan
By Fayyaz Baqir
Pakistan Tehreek–i-Insaf (PTI) has been labeled as the latest horse entered in the power race by Pakistan’s Civil and Military establishment. It is said that it is a desperate move to retain the faith of masses in an obsolete and rotten political system based on dynastic politics and corruption. PTI has been accused by its political rivals of selling the old wine in new bottle. We need to review this statement on the basis of political demands, outreach strategy and leadership style of PTI.
In my view Pakistan’s establishment includes Pakistan Army, national intelligence agencies, all mainstream political parties, representatives of corporate businesses and media. They have one common objective; to keep all the power with the elite. It seems that PTI has not deviated an inch from this vision. Let me state and evaluate PTI’s political demands and style of work one by one. Imran Khan’s measures to introduce justice in Pakistani politics can broadly be placed in four categories: i) Ending corruption in 3 months after coming to power, inducting clean politicians in his party and enforcing political accountability ii) Ending dynastic politics, ending culture of sycophancy, creating jobs on merit for youth and ending class system in education iii) Increasing productivity, attracting massive investment in Pakistan and ushering in an era of prosperity, self reliance and national pride iv) Pursuing independent foreign policy. He has also introduced designer political campaign, corporate glamour, media magic and personality cult as ingredients of his “new” brand of politics. It is a political campaign based on high entertainment, rhetorical and cultish content.
For the sake of clarity we need to examine these political demands and style of work one by one. Corruption stands on the top of PTI political agenda from day 1. From the statements made by Imran Khan it appears as if he has never had a clue on how to deal with this malaise. After 15 years long struggle he has come up with knee jerk solutions for this ill. It shows his level of understanding, preparedness and sincerity about his claims. In his public gathering in Lahore he announced to computerize land records and hold elections for the post of Station House Officers (SHO) to end corruption and in his Karachi meeting he claimed to end corruption in 3 months after coming to power. For one thing computerization of land records all over Pakistan and holding elections of police officers is not possible in 3 months. Secondly extortion by police and patwari (revenue clerk) is much smaller in scale compared to commissions and kick backs received in most lucrative deals made by the higher ups behind closed doors with multi-national corporations and unethical transaction carried out by them through manipulation of prices, taxes and duties. While corruption of first type is considered dirty, people engaged in corruption of second type are considered “clean” and have been received with open arms by PTI.
It is pertinent to point out that ending corruption without documentation of the economy falls in the realm of impossible. Computerization of land records is only a small fragment of this. During Musharraf regime army was called in to document the economy. All sections of our economy from corner store retailers to corporate businessmen were up in arms against the documentation drive. After one year’s futile efforts army give in and the move was called off. Our businesses and citizens have very low level of trust in the government and have serious reservations about our regressive taxation system and extortionist elite. It is a serious issue and without mobilization and engagement of citizens, confidence building measures and series of reforms in public sector corruption cannot be eliminated. World’s largest democracy India is still struggling to handle this menace. The point is that Mr. Khan should not make half baked promises. People who idealize him will be highly disappointed if he cannot keep his promises and his highly charged political campaign will backfire.
He has declared his intent to end the culture of sycophancy, yet we don’t know of any team groomed by him to lead PTI. The whole party revolves around his personality. Personality cult and dynastic politics have taken roots in our political culture because political parties do not hold elections. PTI is no different from other parties in this regard. His only recipe for all the ills faced by Pakistan is strength of his character. On the one hand he claims to be a person of strong character and on the other hand he demands premiership in return for his noble character. In his entire political scheme team leadership and strength of masses do not figure in at all. If he wants to end dynastic politics he must hold party elections. While Mr. Nawaz Sharif replaced public service in politics with commercialization Mr. Khan is taking it to the realm of corporatization. Making allotment of party tickets hostage to parliamentary board will not weaken the hold of elitist candidates in electoral politics. PTI has been invaded by filthy rich. Parliamentary board will only strengthen the hands of this super rich class in politics. PTI can check power of filthy rich by holding primaries for selecting candidates. Otherwise allotment of tickets will be an exercise by the rich, to the rich for the rich.
His plans to attract massive investment in Pakistan are based on well thought out ideas and his views about creating jobs on merit for youth and ending class system in education seem plausible. Increasing productivity is also possible with the measures announced by Imran Khan in Karachi. His plans to pursue independent foreign policy have included his stand to end drone attacks and hold dialogue with Taliban. He has kept quiet on our relations with other regional powers and given contradictory statements on our relations with India. He has also introduced designer political campaign, corporate glamour, media magic and personality cult as ingredients of his “new” brand of politics. It is a political campaign based on high entertainment, rhetorical and cultish content. It has turned politics into a super market consumer item rather than a means of mobilizing people’s power to initiate the change at grass roots level. His charisma can turn the things in any direction. Outcome of his efforts will depend on his understanding of the concept of Islamic welfare state and his trust in the masses as real agents of change.