The ‘new’ is synonymous with broad and deep reforms in critical areas of governance, social and economic policies and provision of services to the people, including fair and speedy justice. The idea of change has two sides to it. One, it shows dissatisfaction with the way things have been in the past — the problems, the failures and institutional decay. Pakistan’s problems are too many, too deep-rooted and structural in nature. They have accumulated over a long time because of political expediency, personal interests and lack of will and imagination of previous military and political governments.
Imran Khan and the PTI, in my view, represent the popular and grassroots level narrative of plunder by the ruling elites, misappropriation of public resources by the two political dynasties and concentration of political power in few individuals that have controlled the party politics in the past few decades. The reason Imran Khan’s first speech to the nation won ordinary people’s hearts is that he spoke what has been on their minds. The social and political movements against the ruling oligarchies succeed when the challengers are able to do an objective analysis of the causes of failure and offer, doable and realistic solutions.
Khan’s understanding of the problems of Pakistan is reflective of his close observation, intimate experience and interaction with ordinary people. This is the most authentic way of gaining political knowledge of a society that successful leaders master, articulate and express in a simple language that people understand. In this regard, Khan was at his best in engaging the nation in a conversational style. He was pure, natural, sincere and deeply touched by the problems that we have faced. In about 90 minutes, he placed before the nation, a long list of challenges that have largely gone unaddressed, or partially attended to. Khan has done the diagnosis part of the issues the best before and during the election campaign.
Second, most important and difficult part of ‘change’ is translating a vision into reality. All human societies, no matter how deep-rooted their problems are, can change for the better, and they have in many parts of the world. Khan presented evidence from history with frequent references to the state of Madina and the West. While societies might differ in the character of the people and in variables of time and space, the principles of collective success — achieving progress or creating good and just society are universal.
It is a test and challenge of a leadership how it sets the priorities right and how it effectively utilises the principles and policies that have produced educated societies, scientific communities and economic development. Chief among them is, rule of law, a point that Kaptaan has emphasised for two decades and also in his maiden speech. Why is it so important a principle? It ensures human dignity, equality, fairness and accountability. It is not just in Pakistan, but in every post-colonial state where corrupt regimes, first and foremost, destroyed the rule-of-law principle. They couldn’t amass illegal wealth and privileges or defend their rule without doing so. Bringing the rule-of-law principle will be the beginning of reforms.
Change is possible but not that easy. It has to be brought about through rusted and corrupted government institutions that have traditionally worked hard in preserving the vested interests. All reformist leaders embarking upon a path of reform and reconstruction have faced resistance, and one must expect it coming in many forms. The challenges we face will test Khan’s political will, tenacity and leadership skills.
What gives optimism about success this time around is the popular support IK enjoys. His integrity, deep commitment to public good and sincerity are beyond any doubt. More importantly, his vision of new Pakistan has popular resonance.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 22nd, 2018.