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The single-most unpardonable sin of PTI remains ‘division’ of the Country and society
Last week we had argued that return of PTI and Imran Khan would be a ‘reinforcement of failure’ until the Party takes serious structural, organisational and cultural changes to enhance its governance abilities for a polarised Pakistan. That agitational politics has no scope, and filibustering without solid/actionable plans and ‘things to do’ is suicidal if not futile. Hands-on capable governance only will salvage our beleaguered country, rather than scapegoating the Military for the numerous failures of PTI when in power.
When emotions subside, the Party rank, file and supporters would realise the damage they have directly and/or indirectly (and mostly intentionally) inflicted upon the body and soul of Pakistan, through their incessant, uncalled for and malicious propaganda against their own Army as an institution, for the ‘ostensible’ fault of a few. However, even that ‘fault’ is questionable given the overt and not so discreet support rendered by the Military to PTI, by facilitating it into power; guiding it all along; and its course correction through various crises. And that support continues today in different forms in the larger national interest. The saga of the recent botched long march as mentioned last week is a case in point.
The single-most unpardonable sin of PTI remains ‘division’ of the Country and society into the ever expanding political gulf, actively aided and abetted by Party leadership. This multi-faceted polarisation will take serious effort, time and energy to heal.
Misunderstanding of the Military culture has historically repeatedly landed many politicians in Pakistan into trouble, as serious-minded Pakistanis would know. And IK is no exception. What is politically kosher (i.e. U-turns and licking the spit) is militarily considered weakness. Political flexibility and expediency are construed as betrayal. Hence it would need a lot of hard work on part of IK and the Miltablishment to mend fences. Sincere efforts are underway. Personal egos unfortunately mar the cordiality of national interest. It should not, but it sadly does.
That said, PTI at its own is capable of digging its grave; emotions, thundering speeches and starry-eyed adulation and personality-worship notwithstanding. Able to see the Party from inside, one is surprised at the lack of reason and sagacity in its political discourse. Even Party legislators are in hara-kiri mode. Repeated pointation of lack of political organisation and less than capable handling of the situation without any institutional framework draws blank looks. When inquired about Party future post-Imran era, there are no cogent answers, as there are none.
In all fairness and having studied political parties and movements, PTI at best remains a ‘movement’ per se and movements are leader-dependent for their existence. They die when the leader is gone. Insider account reveals lots of bickering, grouping, mistrust and fissiparous predilections, that are kept under the rug by IK. The defection of a sizeable number of legislators during the vote of no confidence saga is illustrative. More are willing to jump the ship, once ‘signaled’.
So, for those like me who hoped for the 3rd option to be a saviour for Pakistan; those hopes seem dashed, unless serious corrective effort is taken quickly, and that seems unlikely. PTI leadership and cadre is still consumed in rhetorical battles of no consequence. Speeches are devoid of strategy, planning and way forward. They do not inspire, do not instill hope and do not channelise the wave of popular energy towards ‘constructive’ outcomes, other than destructive pressurising for small gains.
Since PTI has no post-Imran strategic blueprint (and he is not immortal, physically and politically); the Tehreek is still not a political party; there is no alternative leadership, capable and backed by consensus; and PTI after IK seems to have a fructuous future, unless miracles happen.
Consequently, Pakistan is faced with the stark choice of either going back to the ‘corrupt’ cabal of capables (perceptively) who continue to govern and mount challenges with or without ‘external’ support; revert to a ‘national’ government; be run by technocrats (let’s see the outcome of Sri Lankan uprising) till the time the powers-that-be can develop ‘another’ political option; or see another martial law.
Elections most likely would produce a hung parliament, contrary to political predictions about PTI making a clean sweep. Converting agitating youthful mass into votes is a tough ask. Even if PTI does (hypothetically) so, it will be more of the same, when again in power. Most likely, it would be endemic confrontation and/or a civilian dictator at logger heads with other stakeholders including the Military leadership for any ‘invented’ reason(s).
Contrary to the perception about Military, most veterans are ‘beginning to realise’ the gravity of division in their ranks, encouraged by PTI through careless rhetoric and clever manipulation. Why else would Army as an institution be held responsible for the actions of a few, whose side of the story is not known for obvious reasons, as they do not have the benefit of a container?
Therefore, in a post-PTI/post-elections scenario in near future, with Martial Law out for obvious reasons, the remaining choices with the movers and shakers are a ‘national unity’ government, or an interim government by ‘technocrats’ till the time some ‘other’ palatable political option is cobbled together. The present set-up cannot be considered a national government minus the PTI, given the manner of its coming, its dismal performance and total procrastination to the IMF diktat.
So, in not-too-distant future, the powers-that-be need to ponder about having an interim set-up of technocrats, probably as the only available option, till the time the economy is stabilised, and some other political option is developed. The unfortunate experimentation seems to continue.
The argument concerning hand-off approach by Miltablishment and Military’s culpability for not allowing maturation of political process/cadre is a non-starter. Every time the Military decides to go back to the barracks, it is pulled back to the centre-stage for arbitration, defusing tensions, saving the federation and or cobbling up a political option, etc. Military will remain dominant, as argued repeatedly, till the time our garam-masala induced political battles revolve around self, dynastic and/or party interests. Watching the political process mature may result in losing the country, for which it is nurtured. That is the unfortunate imperative of our political reality. No blaming and shaming can obscure this.
Hoping against hope, PTI would still be suggested a blueprint of governance next week.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 14th, 2022.
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