As expected, the victory speech of Imran Khan has generated immense positive response from all the quarters — still there are some old critics who are despising it as the “routine stuff” from any new incumbent — and it has suddenly changed the whole mood of the post-election scenario. It has brought soberness and calmness to the highly-ecstatic and charged festivities of the PTI besides making its rivals to switch to a little low-profile mode. He seems to be in a reconciliatory mood at the moment. Obviously two years of confrontational politics has also exhausted him physically and mentally, and he eagerly wants to start his innings without much distraction. He deserves an easy run at the start of his long-awaited stint, but he must not forget that his revengeful opponents will try to keep alive and replicate his confrontational politics as long as he stays at the helm of affairs. He must not expect any mercy from the rival camp. Now, after thrashing the MQM and the PPP in Karachi, from Lyari to Malir, he has suddenly beefed up his rival camp that was until now confined to the PML-N only. The charges of “rigged and engineered” election are whirling at full speed in the air and the Shehbaz-Fazlur Rahman duo is looking for all the possibilities to create disruption by using the platform of an All Parties Conference.
The reservations being expressed by all the major political parties about the election process, particularly about the vote counting procedures, need independent inquiry at all levels. Imran Khan, in his victory speech, has wisely and generously offered transparent investigations into all the complaints regarding electoral irregularities. This is a right approach. But the fact is that the opposition parties do not have enough stamina and grit to launch an agitation at the moment to cause any palpable disturbance in the transfer of power to the PTI. After two years of constant agitation and wrangling in the political theatre, a kind of fatigue has enveloped the public mind and any call for protest is not likely to gather a positive response — even the die-hard supporters of the PML-N and other parties will refrain from making too much noise at this stage when the establishment and the judiciary are not in a mood to allow any disturbance. The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) seems to be content with its current tally of seats and it is more concerned about retaining its government in Sindh, therefore, it will also not go along with the MMA and the PML-N “too far” in this protest against the election rigging. Ironically, the public in general is divided into two broad groups — the first group consists of Imran Khan’s supporters who are in a state of ecstasy over his electoral success, and the second group belongs to anti-Imran Khan elements who have apparently accepted his victory as a bitter reality and they are mentally ready to give him a “chance” now. So, there is a general consensus among the majority of the Pakistanis that “let’s give a chance to Imran this time”. Against this backdrop, the politics of agitation is not expected to gain any momentum in the coming days.
Indubitably, Pakistan witnessed one of the muddiest and most horrid election campaign in the recent history. Foul language and despicable exchange of personal taunts was the most aching feature of the election campaign and even Imran Khan could not restrain himself from involving himself in many such below-the-belt scoffs against his rivals. However, Bilawal Bhutto was the only exception who did not indulge in any kind of blame game and personal attacks. Instead, his main focus remained on promoting his party manifesto — a sign of his political maturity. Bilawal Bhutto, who probably ran the most mature and sober election campaign, will also avoid the confrontational politics for quite some time. Imran Khan, although unintentionally, has injected toxic elements in the culture of his PTI and this has been exhibited blatantly during his election campaign. This bitterness and disrespect to the opponents has seeped into the culture of the PTI and Imran Khan will have to work consciously to expunge this factor gradually from his party.
Now the biggest challenge for Imran Khan is how to live up to the high expectations of his supporters who have voted him to power in the hope to see the emergence of a “Naya Pakistan” — a progressive Pakistan free from corruption and injustice. From the very first day in politics, Imran Khan has been campaigning for his one-point agenda — eradication of corruption from the country. He has single-handedly worked on this campaign against the widespread corruption in society, particularly in politics. He has been very consistent and resolute on his anti-corruption campaign throughout his political career. Factually speaking, the voters have responded to him primarily on the basis of his sincere anti-corruption slogans. The level of expectations is very high and Imran Khan will have to execute his anti-corruption drive diligently and with utmost impartiality. There are many people within his close circle who have dubious reputation with regard to their involvement in corruption, and there will be immense pressure on Imran Khan to cleanse his party from such elements that have the potential to damage him in the coming days. A plethora of internal and external challenges — including a debilitating economy, cross-border terrorism, souring relations with neighbouring countries, social development at the grassroots level, a chronic energy crisis and sluggish industrial growth — is hovering around Imran Khan’s ascension to power and he will have to tread very carefully while executing his ambitious party manifesto. Unlike his predecessors, Imran Khan will be appraised very minutely by his detractors — as well as his supporters — and his each move will be scrutinised at micro level.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 28th, 2018.
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