Tahir-ul-Qadri’s Long March ended with an anti-climax. The revolutionary zeal of the protestors was rewarded with a compromise. As the dust settles on another vital episode in Pakistan’s foremost soap opera, the character who will come out strongest is Imran Khan.
When PTI decided to boycott the 2008 elections it was subjected to endless abuse by supporters sick and tired of the incumbent regime. These people saw the party as a ray of hope amidst a horizon laced with crooks and criminals. They felt betrayed by the party’s stubborn refusal to budge. It was conveniently forgotten that these “elections” would be held under the aegis of a PCO judiciary unlawfully appointed by a military dictator. Furthermore, this judiciary was responsible for the passing of the NRO, granting amnesty to the biggest criminals of Pakistan. This leads us to a wider malaise infecting the nation: the addiction to quick fixes and fleeting pleasures. The commonly held notion implied that simply getting rid of PML-Q and Pervez Musharraf would somehow solve our problems.
What followed was extremely predictable yet scarcely believable. Musharraf was ousted to wild celebrations, just 9 years after being greeted in the same manner. He was replaced by Asif Ali Zardari, otherwise known as Pakistan’s biggest thief. Since then the journey has been increasingly downhill, towards hell itself. How could we expect anything else from the products of NRO? We lament the presence of tax evaders and hardened criminals in our parliament but after the sham elections of 2008 expecting anything else is absurd.
PTI’s refusal to join Qadri has been vilified as an opportunity missed to topple the government. People tend to forget PTI’s real mission; changing the political culture of Pakistan. Imran Khan has spurned numerous opportunities to come into power, always insisting that a kursi is not the recipe for change. Change will come through an actual transformation of the political process, not just a cosmetic makeover which ensures a mere changing of faces. It has been 16 long and arduous years in the making. The Long March is a fitting demonstration of this change. Where once politics was the jurisdiction of power brokers, it has now become the playground of the masses. PTI has been at the forefront of this political revolution through its stubborn insistence on the politics of right and wrong rather than left and right, and its refusal to play by the accepted rules of a sick political system.
Qadri’s protests against the government were completely valid. Indeed, his call for disobedience was seductive and tempting, luring us in with visions of a future sans Zardari and his cronies. In our hazed sensibilities we forgot what we had been waiting for all along; elections. Qadri demanded, at first, the dissolution of the parliament, which would probably have resulted in a delay in the elections and the lengthening of the interim government’s tenure. In our state of lust we deserted both hindsight and foresight. We overlooked our experience from 2008 and failed to recognize that being in a state of limbo is hardly an ideal situation. We need clean elections though an impartial Election Commission and interim government. If these are guaranteed then civil disobedience will follow. This was something PTI had been repeating for quite a while, well before Qadri.
A great leader is blessed with foresight, the ability to predict the future by analyzing the past. Imran Khan is, without doubt, Pakistan’s greatest in this sense. Equipped with hindsight, the masses start to realize his wisdom. When it became clear that the aftermath of the 2008 elections was calamitous, he became by far the most popular leader of the nation, the voice of the oppressed majority. History demonstrates that he will emerge from the latest criticism stronger than ever.
Just as it became clear after 2008 that PTI was the only party committed to real democracy, Qadri’s betrayal of the revolutionary fervor of the masses and the future that unfolds will serve the same purpose. This time the backlash against the charlatans who call themselves politicians will be more severe. With every act of manipulation and betrayal, increasing numbers will turn towards PTI. As long as the party persists with its politics, the tipping point will eventually arrive. In the past 16 years PTI is the only party with a consistently increasing support base. It is also the one party with a consistent, principled approach towards politics. History tells us this trend will continue.
It is time we inculcate in ourselves the perseverance needed to create systems that provide long term prosperity and stability, free form the whims of individuals. Short term fixes though improper channels will not take us forward. We must finally understand that squeezing out the pus may soothe the body but it shall never cure the sickness of the soul.