The purple mantle

PTI’s machinations will not benefit the party in any way

 

There is a tug of war going on between PML-N and PTI with both vying to swing peoples’ support in their favour. The PML-N in a desperate attempt to woo the masses has announced a further decrease of Rs9.66 in oil prices. According to a news report, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has also announced reduction in the prices of high octane by Rs10.18, kerosene by Rs4, high speed diesel by Rs7.12 and light diesel oil by Rs5.39. Plus, of course, his love for mega projects is reflected in the launch of the Hazara Motorway project.

Is it because of the disenchantment with ongoing governance, the flagrant violation of law, increasing inflation etc that is attracting more and more people to the PTI bandwagon or is it the promise of change offered by the Kaptaan?

Imtiaz Gul, writing on the PTI phenomenon in a local daily, writes, “What does Imran Khan want — is it just power or a revolution? This question kept resonating at a recent conference in the UK. Most vocal among the enquirers were at least five foreign diplomats who are familiar with Pakistan because of their assignments in Islamabad. They all sounded sympathetic to the narrative that Khan peddles today i.e., rule of law, accountability, and peoples’ empowerment through district governments and autonomous national institutions. But they clearly differed with the PTI methodology (ouster of the government through sit-ins). Lots of critics at home, too, have had a similar contention with the PTI and its leadership, which have been oscillating between legitimate aspirations (mentioned above) and paradoxical approaches to fulfill those aspirations.”(Published December 3, 2014)

I cannot disagree with the point raised here by Gul.

The Kaptaan’s base demand was a recount of results at four constituencies with verification of votes with fingerprints. According to a local daily, “Protesters in Karachi and Lahore have been demonstrating since May 12 against the results of the General Elections. The protesters allege that rigging took place and polling at some stations was purposely delayed.”(May 15, 2013)

To their credit, PTI has tried to resolve the issue legally before taking to the streets. Longdharnas have been an outcome of the countrywide protests. These protests have delivered the message forcefully that people want a change for the better at every level. The fact that this has forced the government’s hand in reducing costs of petrol, diesel etc substantially cannot be denied. However, having taken this excellent measure the government must focus on ensuring a corresponding reduction in prices of goods and commodities to maximise the impact of the reduction on a broad based consumer level. Without this necessary follow up, the full impact will not trickle down to the common man.

Coming back to the Kaptaan, whereas the Representation of Peoples Act offers provisions to contest election results, what he has done is to call in question the whole election process. Ideally, this should lead to electoral reforms. This may not happen immediately but it has a good chance of happening now with better transparency as compared to before.

The question is what exactly are the dharnas achieving on an ongoing basis? Quoting Rasul Bakhs Rais from Pique Magazine, “Khan’s protest will land the country in confusion and chaos.” He said it was the legal duty of tribunals to dispose of petitions at the earliest. Mr Rais said that the PTI and all political parties should go for electoral reforms instead of long marches, something for which a parliamentary committee has also been constituted. (August 1, 2014)

On one point, I agree with Rais. Chaos is the ending note of massive ongoing dharnas. The life of a common person is disrupted, economy has taken a nosedive and investors have run away, presuming there were takers in the first place.

Both Sri Lankan President and the Chinese Head of State have cancelled their visits because of the sit-ins. The Chinese President’s visit in particular was a setback leading to non-creation of many defence and economic agreements/pacts that were on the anvil. According to a report, “The government has so far estimated overall losses to the economy at Rs547 billion. Out of the total, Rs228 billion have been estimated on account of 4.3% depreciation in the value of Pakistani rupee against the US dollar. Another Rs319 billion was estimated due to decline witnessed in the stock market. However, the Karachi Stock Exchange has now entered the recovery mode on the back of reports suggesting that the contesting parties have agreed to resolve the issue through dialogue.” It goes on to state, “Pakistan has been negotiating a deal to acquire four submarines besides purchasing two squadrons of JF-17 Thunder multi-role aircraft, which is the joint production of Pakistan and China. Additionally, agreements were expected to be signed for 14 power sector projects that would have the potential to generate 10,400 megawatts of electricity with active Chinese assistance. At a time of a severe power crisis, the deals are priceless.”(Published September 8, 2014)

Protest, yes. But through media, social media, court cases etc. The point the Kaptaanwanted to make has been scored. Time has come to score another point. This time by focusing on good governance in KP, by improving institutions and their workings in KP, by providing speedy justice to the people there and with time making KP a model for other provinces to follow. But going on with the sit-ins will lead to two things: a) Repeating a message too often loses impact and b) If the message conveyed causes a cascading negative effect, it sets people to question the strategy. It may also bring into question the motive leading to a continued pursuit of a strategy obviously damaging to the larger economic interests of Pakistan. This, I am sure, the Kaptaan would not want.

My sincere advice as a bystander to the PTI leadership is: You have done a fine job driving your point home. Now get to work in KP. Build upon the good will created, do not work to bring it down.

The purple mantle can wait.

The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ She can be contacted at: yasmeenali62@gmail.com and tweets at @yasmeen_9.

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Comments

  • Tahir  On January 16, 2015 at 4:34 pm

    I agree with your analysis but one big question is : even after so many losses as claimed by the govt and all the confusion created by the Dharnas and with all the popularity of the demands, there has been no results – neither from political side nor from judiciary – so where are we heading. One more question – so many people were killed in Lahore and only one poor person Gullu Butt has been punished. Govt and judicial system in this case has responded well by punishing a poor (lawaris, so to say) person and protecting all the mighty and the powerful. Well done.

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