The burden of change

Published: September 5, 2018
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The writer is a professor of political science at LUMS, Lahore. His recent book is Imagining Pakistan: Modernism, State and the Politics of Islamic Revival (Lexington Books, 2017)

The writer is a professor of political science at LUMS, Lahore. His recent book is Imagining Pakistan: Modernism, State and the Politics of Islamic Revival (Lexington Books, 2017)

Change is something positive, desirable and liberating from bad times and bad past to a better one. The outcome of all changes everywhere is progress — the quality and degree of change accomplished. There is another way of understanding the phenomenon of change, and that is how humans and societies have become modern in laws, institutions, economies; and how their material and subjective wellbeing has improved. Since there is lot of talk about change because this is what has shaped the struggle of the PTI and finally its political success, we need to understand two questions. First, why people rebel against old regimes or vote for new political forces? Second, how change happens, and what can be the engines that can drive the drive for change with a greater speed?

There is so much historical and sociological literature that talks about why men rebel and why people reject old parties and bring in new one. I am writing these lines with the assumption that a new party, new leadership with new ideas has finally emerged successful in the politics of Pakistan. However, this is not the assumption that a larger section of political analysts and commentators in the media take as valid. Their assertion is, ‘nothing has changed’ and ‘nothing will change’. They argue how Imran Khan can change Pakistan by enlisting the support of ‘electable’ dynastic political class.

Many of these arm-chair media ‘intellectuals’ have a flawed understanding of the feudal-agrarian class structure of Pakistan. They believe it has not changed, and it cannot change until we bring about land reforms, like India did by taking away lands and distributing it among the landless peasants. This is also the view of the old-fashioned, ideological socialists. The fact is that in the past seven decades, lot of changes have taken place in the agrarian economy — land and power relations at the grassroots level in rural society of Pakistan, which include fragmentation of land, the rise of mercantile bourgeoisie and rural middle class. Also, we see a discerning shift in the power of the urban centres that is likely to grow more.

The social and political competition among the dynastic political families has overtime empowered the common man, forcing them to bring development, and never taking the voters for granted. The national reach of the media and 11 general elections along with the local bodies’ polls have gradually created a space for political parties. If the dynastic political class could be so confident of its ‘secure’ social base of power, why would then they be scurrying for tickets — nomination — of more popular parties. It is the wave of the PTI and Imran Khan that has given a big margin of victory to the PTI candidates. The emergence of a credible leader and a reformist party is a big change, away from the dominant dynastic parties of old times.

This also puts a big burden on the Kaptaan and his party. People, having been deceived many times by the demagogic leaders, become sceptical of every well-intentioned, and honest leadership. This is the sentiment that prevails in Pakistan today. The problem with change is that it is path-dependent and generally incremental, while the public at large would like to see visible changes on the ground — a strategy that Mian Nawaz Sharif had for his re-election. However, the best contribution to change is finding that true path to progress, which involves allocating right resources, selecting right people for tasks and establishing clear responsibilities.

Reforming governance, education, health services, law and justice can produce immediate, visible effects on the lives of people. The real challenge is quality, speed, and kind of political goods that have to be delivered effectively.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 5th, 2018.

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Reader Comments (1)

  • Afzaal Ansari
    Sep 7, 2018 - 8:53AM

    I agreed, the people would not again deceived from the demagogic leaders as previously deceived. Now the PTI have to do according to their optics and public rejuvenated constructive hopes for its survival. It should make the incisive, efficacious instantaneous decisions as per slogan of the PTI. Recommend

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