Opinion on the PTI jalsa: More hope and less substance

Published: March 24, 2013
PTI Chairman Imran Khan during a rally in Lahore. PHOTO: ABID NAWAZ/EXPRESS

PTI Chairman Imran Khan during a rally in Lahore. PHOTO: ABID NAWAZ/EXPRESS


The only things new about what Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi called “new politics” was the palpable hope for change among a significant proportion of the participants and the politicisation of the otherwise apolitical urban middle classes. Beyond that, the PTI rally of March 23 was politics as usual.

To its credit, the PTI has convinced many college-educated youngsters, both male and female, to see politics as a reality of everyday existence. A Lahore-based group of youngsters, who said they were in event management, and teenagers sporting ‘Khan Army’ t-shirts were amongst the many new entrants to the voting population, most of who seem likely to cast ballots for the PTI. They rationalise their choice by saying that they want change, which for them equates to little more than Imran Khan coming to power.

These and others in the urban, upper-middle classes, united in their hatred of the ‘corrupt and fake degree holder’ politician, have found in the PTI a reason not to back undemocratic governments of ‘morally upright’ dictators and ‘educated’ technocrats. This is perhaps the most significant achievement of the PTI’s new politics.

But how far this will go in changing things for the working poor, for whom politics has always been a reality of everyday existence, remains open to debate.

The politics as usual for the working poor is apparent in the hollowness of the PTI’s ‘change’ rhetoric and the nature of politics that backs the rhetoric. Besides the cursory references to food prices and the minimum wage, the set of promises the PTI chairman made with reference to the change his party stands for lacked substance. The slogans and references in most other PTI leaders’ speeches were loaded with national fervour and anti-corruption themes, both closely associated with the middle classes and their politics. Add to that Javed Hashmi’s narrowing of Pakistani politics to whatever passes for change in Lahore, and by extension Punjab, and one is left with few ingredients for a recipe for change in the everyday affairs of the working poor.

The reform agenda espoused in the party’s various policy documents will not break the nexus between the local elites and state officials, let alone strip the elite of its historically privileged position.

If the fiscal management reforms in these documents come through, the patronage-based service delivery for the working poor will at best become a little more efficient. They will, however, continue to access what the state and the market has to offer through these elites, whose presence in the PTI will be less relevant to their efficacy as a patron than their identity as the social and economic elite.

To their credit, the average working poor in attendance at the rally appeared well aware of this fact. The daily-wager from Sargodha and the Mansehra-born teenager working as a cook in a DHA home were clear about balancing the hope espoused in the PTI’s change rhetoric. They would split their votes between the PTI (NA) and the PML-N candidates (PA). While the PML-N “works just fine” for the Punjab, the PTI, they hoped, would strike its magic wand and change things from the top, without compromising on the local politics of service delivery in Bhera or the informal economy supporting them in Lahore.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 24th, 2013. 

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Reader Comments (52)

  • Shehzad
    Mar 24, 2013 - 11:45AM

    Is this an article or a news, to me this is more of a personal view article, why are you so obsessed with Imran, Tribune news is reputable and it should keep their standard, the readers you have is not your property so please do not be bias in news what you are meant for. Thank you


  • Beatle
    Mar 24, 2013 - 12:21PM

    Lacking neutrality and favouritism have become standards of jounalism of time, which has made it difficult to differentiate between news item and opinion. Everyone has right of own opinion, but it has to be kept aside while preparing news item, Or avail Opinion forums.


  • Usman
    Mar 24, 2013 - 12:36PM

    Dude, it was a Jalsa, a public meeting, not a lecture on economics and policy making. You want to know PTI’s policies, go to their website, all the detail is there. What exactly are you complaining about there? This is politics, and PTI is a movement based party, not a party that is based on buying votes, feudal influence, or muk muka, a movement thrives on slogans, fervour, and an ideology.
    True we haven’t seen a movement since 1947 but now we have one, so get used to it.


  • PakArmySoldier
    Mar 24, 2013 - 12:48PM

    People don’t expect policy proposals at a Jalsa. For that, please refer to the policy manifesto available on their website. To expect a policy proposal at a Jalsa is extremely disingenuous.


  • Ayesha
    Mar 24, 2013 - 12:56PM

    i dont know imran khans stance on quota system , will he prefer 100 % merit ? no i dont think so.


  • SWA
    Mar 24, 2013 - 1:04PM

    Sad to see people jumping the bandwagon selling pessimism. Why judge a newcomer you havent tried? First look at the historical performance and errors of the ones you have tried and look at the remaining options. Middle class seems to have been dismissed in this article as having worthy of no weight whatsoever. And writer seems to be espousing for a revolution outright. Lets start one bit at a time please. Change can be in steps. Dont have to resort to the guillotine right from the start.


  • Falcon
    Mar 24, 2013 - 1:10PM

    @author – If I remember it correctly, the day after Oct. 30 rally in 2011, ET published that PTI rally can hardly be considered a success in electoral terms other than rhetoric. 17 months later, your op-eds consider PTI to be a key player in national politics. My point is you guys have a penchant for picking up PTI and splitting hair. Forget IK, even if you were addressing a crowd exceeding 100,000 with completely different backgrounds and education levels, you will try to keep the speech principal and meta-policy focused. And that is precisely what PTI did. On top of it, there was an unexpected rain because of which manifesto could not be formally delivered. Lastly, to your bit on ‘efficacy of service delivery’, it can not be improved without de-politicizing institutions, plain and simple. And at this point, nobody in the country is talking about building revamping institutional structures so that they become self-sustaining except PTI. There is no doubt room for improvement, but compared to other parties, PTI is doing a much better job.


  • Fanta
    Mar 24, 2013 - 1:21PM

    What a load of rubbish! People who are expecting PTI to regurgitate its manifesto, and debate the subtleties of their policies, should perhaps remind themselves that this was a jalsa, not a press conference. Please let us get over our collective cynicism, and stop judging PTI with different yardsticks than with which we judge other parties.


  • saima
    Mar 24, 2013 - 1:24PM

    ^ @ayesha, imran khan is constantly talking and making spolicies to remove corruption from the top to the grass root levels.. this should naturally mean to you that 100% merit based system Mr Khan believes in..!!


  • Ahmed
    Mar 24, 2013 - 1:27PM

    I was a jasla not a conference when IK would’ve read you policy papers.. they have already had those, you can get those policy papers if you want


  • Moonis
    Mar 24, 2013 - 1:31PM

    Express Tribune should know better than to publish such subjective rubbish.Recommend

  • bilal
    Mar 24, 2013 - 1:32PM

    i am sure it’s different from roti kapra aur makan. people are dying because of hunger, electricity, water and thousands of other issues created by the government. please speak for a change.


  • Salman
    Mar 24, 2013 - 1:51PM

    ET standards are questions label when they allow biased articles Recommend

  • Muneer
    Mar 24, 2013 - 1:51PM

    Your first line refers to “The only things new … was the palpable hope for change among a significant proportion of the participants … .”

    Then you refer to this as “politics as usual”.

    Mr. Umair Rasheed the “palpable hope for change” is what PTI is all about. You need to do your homework before writing such an article and Tribune editors should reflect on what the article is presenting before publishing it.


  • MJT
    Mar 24, 2013 - 1:57PM

    To what I have heard from people who were actually there, the PTI Jalsa was fabulous. I think IK has the best team around while the other two big parties have weak teams as far as managing the affairs of the country and taking it to the right economic path is concerned. We need to take this country out from the mess it is now and into a new bright future and only the best amongst us can do it. If we continue electing the same old people in the same old manner, then nothing will change.


  • Mushtaq
    Mar 24, 2013 - 2:00PM

    we have suffered PPP/PMLN/ANP/MQM govt. why not give IK a chance, for me its not too much to ask for??? we have nothing to loose, as things cant possibly go worse. at most i fear another status-quo, which BTW is guaranteed if i go with other parties. A possible change is knocking at our doors and we are confused weather to answer the call or no. i dont wanna get fooled by same people again, this time my vote is for a change.


  • Saqib Nabeel
    Mar 24, 2013 - 2:10PM

    Imran said that he would always speak truth. He can never speak truth. Thanks to ALMIGHTY ALLAH who showered rain and did not allow this liar to complete his speech. ALLAH bless Pakistan. Imran’s politics will harm Pakistan and will be beneficial for PPP. PTI supporters do not have mind.


  • wajahats
    Mar 24, 2013 - 2:14PM

    @ ET – there is reason why this section has the heading “Top News” and the section below is called “Opinion”. Labelling it opinion won’t help either, just put it where it belongs – This is not the first time this is happening, it is becoming a routine at ET


  • Riaz Khan
    Mar 24, 2013 - 2:24PM

    IK would a disaster much worse even if NS & AAZ are combined together.


  • Ali
    Mar 24, 2013 - 2:27PM

    How biased are you, ET have been my favourite please be neutral if you cant support truth………. comments are showing the level of your acceptance …. no matter everyone in media goes against us we will sweep, IA


  • Haroon Mukhtar
    Mar 24, 2013 - 2:43PM

    Only hope is Nawaz Sharif. Please don’t vote for PPP by voting for PTI. PPP will be the only beneficiary for every vote casted in favour of PTI.


  • Smith
    Mar 24, 2013 - 2:47PM

    Only, PML-Naan. all the way


  • Khurram Jamshed
    Mar 24, 2013 - 3:17PM

    Useless and senseless article, one of the comment exactly answers the writer that it was Jalsa not a session to brief the policies of PTI. on the other sufficient effort to let common people aware about the policies were already conducted by PTI through different forums.

    we expect better and unbiased from Tribune being a quality news forum.Recommend

  • Ali
    Mar 24, 2013 - 3:30PM

    Imran khan is a joke his position in his party is like “andho main kana raja”.
    He can’t full fill any promises may Allah save Pakistan and Punjab from him.

    emphasized text


  • Mar 24, 2013 - 3:39PM

    Pessimism breeds negativity.

    Why can’t we for once be hopeful and optimistic about Imran Khan and his vision for Pakistan?


  • Adnan Ahmed Sial
    Mar 24, 2013 - 4:13PM

    Mr. Whatever, I am sure you are living in a fools’ paradise. This is the system of Pakistani politics, and you cannot change the things as you want unless you come into power. However, PTI showed policies and also abide by its promises which never ever happened during PPP-PML(N) era. So, be brave compare and analyse whose aims are high.


  • Someone
    Mar 24, 2013 - 4:24PM

    Rubbish editorial from ET. The article lacks depth and somehow seems to discredit the reason why the middle class/urban vote bank is behind Khan and “rhetoric”, as the article implies, is certainly not one of those reasons. ET, get a grip on your editorial standards.


  • Someone
    Mar 24, 2013 - 4:26PM

    @Ali: I think the phrase “andho main kana raja” applies more aptly to the ignorant masses who are going to vote the same old status quo parties back into power. I hope you are certainly not one of them… if you are, then…. you got my message across :)


  • Adham
    Mar 24, 2013 - 4:31PM

    It’s an opinion column, it’s not supposed to be objective. The writer is just expressing his view.


  • Ali tanoli
    Mar 24, 2013 - 4:40PM

    Imran khan is lahori shezada.


  • Zunaira
    Mar 24, 2013 - 5:17PM

    In the worst case even it has policy or manifesto matching the desires of middle class, then let be it! We have seen,and tried many having complete manifestos only for these poor classes and we have experienced what they deliver !
    Middle class also deserves to have “their desires” fulfilled for once at-least!


  • ss
    Mar 24, 2013 - 5:37PM

    would it have more substance had he promised “ROTI, KAPRA aur MAKAN?


  • A common man
    Mar 24, 2013 - 6:24PM

    Running a country and providing all the basic needs of the masses is no rocket science. You need just one thing: Honesty! and if anyone has that by the tons, its PTI.

    Plz keep your opinion in the section where it belongs and dont report it as news. ET, plz bring a change in ur own house first than talk abt change in Pakistan!


  • Mian Ashfaq Ali
    Mar 24, 2013 - 6:32PM

    I will vote for him due to this hope that I have in him


  • Haider
    Mar 24, 2013 - 7:03PM

    Great.. Another biased view from Express Tribune


  • fhaa
    Mar 24, 2013 - 7:26PM

    it will be interesting to know why is express tribune partial towards imran khan..isi pls let us know


  • Common man
    Mar 24, 2013 - 7:45PM

    Everyone says refer to the website for details about reforms. I want to know exactly what proportion of people can access the internet in this country. And from among them, how many have the capability to go to the website and read and understand pages and pages of manifestos.


  • Farooq
    Mar 24, 2013 - 9:59PM

    The only hope for Pakistan is Imran Khan. May Allah give him victory in upcoming elections. AMEEN.


  • Farhat
    Mar 24, 2013 - 10:01PM

    At least there is someone who can talk to his people without a bullet proof glass like tahir ul qadri, Zardari and Nawaz Sharif.


  • A Pakistani
    Mar 24, 2013 - 10:03PM

    As a neutral Pakistani, I am glad to see someone talking to his workers in open and in rain. I think he deserves a chance to govern this nation. May Allah help you IMRAN.


  • Bilal Ahmed
    Mar 24, 2013 - 10:07PM

    Although I am out of the country, and I surely know that I would not be able to vote this time. But in the hearts of my heart I was happy to see this jalsa. May Allah give success to Imran Khan and help him to change the country.


  • Rehmat Ullah
    Mar 24, 2013 - 10:09PM

    Imran Khan, Zindabad.Recommend

  • Tatlah
    Mar 24, 2013 - 10:44PM

    Simply RUBBISH


  • Waleed Akbar
    Mar 24, 2013 - 11:54PM

    Great article. Well written, precise and objective. Something pti jayalays lack


  • Hassan
    Mar 25, 2013 - 1:07AM

    I was very optimistic about Imran Khan, however, he has lost my vote by joining hand with JI, whose sole purpose to see Pakistan as a police state and subjugate people of Pakistan to their version of Islam. I always thought he was a progressive and a liberal who would restore some sanity in terms of both economical and social development.


  • Salma
    Mar 25, 2013 - 5:41AM

    the writer wrote about all these giving comments above – how irrelevant they are for the poor of Pakistan; and by their comments they show they are.


  • Mar 25, 2013 - 9:08AM

    Your start up says, the Khan Tsunami rally was based on hope and the usual, so what? The problems are manifold and promises to rectify and solve them are few and far in between. Imran Khan has proven in practice and deeds that he means what he says.
    In the nation’s life time there have been so many talkers, cringers, and corrupters that nothing in that arena remains to display. What remains is work, study and honesty. And not to forget, last but not the least……….accountability.
    He may be green in statecraft but give him a chance and let us see how he delivers. Deliver he will. Also, remember the leaders and future is decided by the people of Pakistan and not by external stimuli. Salams


  • Max
    Mar 25, 2013 - 9:38AM

    @Author: Umair have u ever even voted in an election? The jalsa was a success by any standard. Just seeing a political leader standing in the rain without any protective glass was a success in itself.

    As for substance, IK has already thrown the gauntlet to owners (can’t really call them leaders) of other parties to have an open debate with him on any channel, on the pattern of the US presidential debates. But guess what, no political bigwig has the courage to accept his offer.


  • MAD
    Mar 25, 2013 - 10:42AM

    Can quite frankly tell you that there isnt much substance in the content of this article either.


  • Hafeez
    Mar 26, 2013 - 12:09AM

    True. Political realities faced everyday by poor working class cannot even be imagined by PTI policies. A fact: IK said in his jalsa that I won’t make a promise to increase minimum wage. I respect though that he accepts things that he cannot change. But then he also knows that war against terror is very much our own now, though he doesn’t want to admit it simply to get Right’s votes.


  • imran
    Mar 26, 2013 - 3:30AM

    I would have expected this kind of article from Talat Hussain, Musthaq Minhas, or some other right winger. But not you. I’m surprised.


  • sami
    Mar 26, 2013 - 4:49AM

    I wish if some of us do a little research, PTI is the best and by far is long way ahead of giving clear plans, writer have a look at this, i hope a new article based on this now. http://elections.insaf.pk/Flipbook/ Naya Pakistan Complete Plan/blue print.



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