The hapless Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has been mauled, gored and trampled by the Judicial Commission bull. The party now lies curled up in the dust, whimpering like a child who just got his milk bottle snatched.
Imran Khan and his merry men and women are well and truly beaten. But is this a fatal blow to a doddering party or can it still salvage its dignity and electoral prospects before the next elections?
All depends on Imran Khan. From the colossus that he was in Lahore on October 30, 2011 to the defeated person that he is seen after the Judicial Commission lashing, Khan is yet again on the edge of the precipice. A quick scan at his political innings will reveal the following:
1996-2011: Struggle and final crescendo at the Lahore jalsa. This marked the highest peak of Khan’s struggle and on that balmy evening in Lahore in front of hundreds of thousands of people, he stood proud as a new hope for Pakistan.
2011-2015: The transformation of an ideology into a party and its trials and tribulations in the messy political arena marked this phase. As October 30, 2011 established the peak of the first stage, the release of the Judicial Commission report on July 23, 2015 marked the lowest ebb of the party and its sole leader.
2015-2018: This is the third stage that now stares Khan in the face. He can either rise again to the very highest point in the 2018 elections, or be trounced humiliatingly and confined to the dustbin of Pakistani politics, where he will find himself in the company of the Pakistan People’s Party.
The third stage begins now. And for Imran Khan to win again, he should embark on a 10-step rehabilitation programme. Here goes:
1) Crush the bloody civil war within the PTI: It is the world’s worst kept secret that the PTI is divided into two broad camps. These factions are led by electable luminaries and supported by a band of lower minions. These factions hate each other’s guts. They spend most of their waking hours undermining the other camp. It’s a war that is bringing the party to ruin. And Khan is to blame. Yes, he should have put an end to this bloodletting right at the start. Now he has no choice. He must step in and do whatever it takes to crush this civil war. Otherwise he can forget about 2018.
2) Ruthlessly reshuffle his team: Khan should know who has brought him to this humiliating stage. He should be brave enough to accept his own mistakes and errors, but he cannot remove himself. So he should get rid of those who advised him along this ruinous path. Take no prisoners. Bring the culprits in front of the firing squad, and be done with them. Then bring in those who represent all that is noble and ideological in the party.
3) Define the ideology again: What’s your ideology Mr Khan? I’m not really sure anymore because for the last two years I have only been hearing and seeing dharnas, protests, personal attacks and accusations of rigging. Today, all this is nothing more than a heap of stinking garbage. So return to the roots. Talk about transforming this nation from the status quo-ridden, to a dynamic service-oriented set-up that propels Pakistan into a new era of modernity and prosperity. But to do this, Khan will need his best and the brightest on the team, not the recycled faces that ooze opportunism and status quo.
4) Curse of the ‘electables’: Yes, you need to win elections, but there has to be a balance between the so-called electables and those who define the soul of an ideological party. Khan has succeeded in gathering under his banner all kinds of electable scoundrels who represent the worst this rotten system has to offer. He has done so because he wanted his ideological zeal to translate into votes. But then the balance got skewed. Today the electables are defining his party. That’s terrible. Khan cannot take on the PML-N by aping the PML-N.
5) Who has your ear Mr Khan? Only he knows who pushed him into the rigging game. Only he knows who acted as a bridge between him and some uniformed people. Only he knows who prodded him into agitation, dharna and the disastrous U-turns that followed. Only he knows who promised him solid evidence of rigging when none existed. Mr Khan, ask yourself some really deep questions, and figure out who is poisoning your thinking. Then hang that person by the nearest tree.
6) Justice Wajih is on to something: Go visit him. Alone. Sit with him through the night and listen to what he has to say. Listen with an open mind. Then apologise to him. And make amends.
7) Fire CM Pervez Khattak: He may be your friend, but he’s an unmitigated disaster for Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and for Brand PTI. K-P is all you have got to show for your competence, and by handing over the province to Mr Khattak, you set yourself up for failure. It’s still not too late. Send him home and get someone dynamic to run the province. Shahbaz Sharif is beating you hollow in governance.
8) Transform K-P and showcase it: What will you run your 2018 campaign on? K-P is your calling card. The anti-Nawaz campaign has ended in disaster, so the voters will judge you not on what Sharifs have done, but of what you have done (or not). If you cannot transform K-P, how will I trust the country to you?
9) Focus on regaining your personal stature: Your image has taken a battering. The inconsistent policies, the flip-flops and U-turns, the unsubstantiated and wild allegations, all these have painted your image as a person who does not have the gravitas to rule a country. You need to be seen as a mature, consistent leader who weighs in responsibly on macro-issues. You have your work cut out for you.
10) All that matters now is 2018: You have got to keep your eye on the ball. Nothing should now divert your attention away from 2018. Nothing. You have got to realign all your priorities so that everything converges on to a single-point agenda: winning in 2018. If you lose focus again, you are done for.
Know this: The PTI has been a blessing for Pakistan in many ways; but a curse for itself. Change now, or prepare to retire without winning the Pakistan Cup.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 26th, 2015.
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