Political outcomes, just like economic returns, are governed by the law of diminishing returns. Successive application of an input adds more and more units of output but not indefinitely. There is a point beyond which diminishing returns set in. It seems Imran Khan has reached that point. His was a single-input approach driven by the anti-corruption campaign. The slogan ‘Go Nawaz, go’ was designed to focus on what was perceived to be the most corrupt family rule. Predictably, the point of maximum return would be the exit of Nawaz. Dharna after dharna, jalsa after jalsa and, finally, court battle after court battle, there was a single-minded pursuit of this objective. Nawaz met his Waterloo on 28 July 2017. This is when diminishing returns set in for Imran Khan.
Suddenly there was nothing to do, as is the wont of one-point campaigners. The battle against corruption had been won, but before the Great War — the general elections. In the process, Imran ran out of ammunition. With his main weapon, the fight against corruption, now the property of the courts, offence offered no returns. There was no preparation for defence. When the questions of corruption were raised in his own backyard, Imran either kept quiet or let others offer lame excuses, forgetting what was done to the K-P Ehtisab Commissioner or to Election Commissioner in the party elections. It was pathetic to see the IK brigade at pains to explain that the use of official helicopter by IK was kosher and by others a corrupt practice. Nominating son to replace father and making campaign speeches by Tareen are OK with IK, but not by others. When it came to delivery in the child abuse cases, it turned out that the much-publicised K-P police were clueless until help arrived from Shehbaz Sharif’s ‘daakias’. His aides threw statistics and philosophised in response to simple questions asked by the media. It was just like a bureaucrat failing in his duty, with the difference that the latter never loses composure. There is no explanation of why jangla bus is bad in Punjab and good in K-P. Nor is there any understanding of the country’s energy policy and the kilowatt difference between the federal and provincial domains. The naivety in assuming that a billion trees could not be counted was appalling. In education, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government spent three years in learning what Punjab did in the very first year, despite the same teacher, ie, British DFID. The health sector has not even begun to heal. The list goes on. So does apologetics.
While the IK brigade, trained only for offence, is having to defend, it has brought upon itself the worst scenario of a ruling party roaring across the length and breadth of the country as if it were the opposition. IK has to carry the burden of incumbency in an election year. The hand-picked party organisation looks up to him to lead, unable as it is to organically change in response to a fast changing environment. He is lost and seeking solace in the world of metaphysics. He does not realise that the marriages of popular leaders are not a personal matter. The PTI does not have the resilience of a mass party. The middle class and youthful composition of the members and supporters raise the spectre of disillusionment. With a genetic imprint of the leader on the party, it is the leader who has to change. This, in the case of IK, is asking for the moon.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 9th, 2018.