Monday, September 29, 2014

Daily Times Editorial Sept 30, 2014

PTI’s Lahore rally While the original Islamabad sit-in may be seeing dwindling numbers after one and a half months, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf’s (PTI’s) decision to take the agitation to other cities all over the country seems to be paying off. Compared to the Islamabad rally even at its peak, the Karachi rally a few days ago was bigger, and the Lahore rally on Sunday bigger still. Does this mean the lost momentum in Islamabad is being regained through the new strategy of spreading the agitation all over the country? That question may be answered in the days to come since the PTI has announced its intention to hold rallies in Mianwali, Peshawar, etc, in the next phase of its campaign. While the PTI can take comfort and even satisfaction away from Minto Park in Lahore, it is still possible to question the politics and end result of the agitation. First, to give credit where it is due, many issues of concern to the common man that were not being highlighted by our democracy have been raised by the PTI in its rallies and otherwise. This has sparked off a response from a people fed up of being ignored and their problems not addressed. However, the jury is still out whether this is a critical mass. The trend generally amongst the public appears to be that having pointed out some failings of the system and sparked off a debate about these and other issues in the public space, the PTI would be better served, and would have the opportunity to play its role better in national life if it revisits its strategy and some of its demands. Amongst the latter, the insistence by Imran Khan that Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif must resign is one of those unattainable demands that have arguably painted the PTI into a corner from which there is no retreat and seemingly no way out. Making a virtue of necessity, Imran Khan continues stubbornly to stick to this demand, to the extent of saying his party’s agitation will not end unless the PM goes home. “Go Nawaz go” may be an attractive slogan for the PTI’s enthusiasts, but apart from its diehard supporters, the PTI has not managed to grip the imagination of the vast majority of people through it. The reason is that most people, even if they agree with the PTI’s complaints about the election process in 2013 and Nawaz Sharif’s style of governance, do not find the demand for his resignation reasonable. Election complaints can and should be dealt with through the judicial commission the government has offered and which the PTI in principle has accepted. The audit of the 2013 elections, unlike the one in Afghanistan’s presidential polls, need not be a total one nor consume as much time. It should focus on the seats about which there are complaints of alleged rigging and/or anomalies in the polling process. Ideally, the PTI wants this audit completed within 45 days, a tough but not unattainable target. At the same time, the conundrum about the resignations of PTI’s parliamentarians has travelled in similar style from the National Assembly to now the Punjab Assembly too. The Punjab PTI MPAs insist they want to be called by the Speaker of the Punjab Assembly collectively to ascertain their resignations are voluntarily offered and not due to any pressure, in similar fashion to the standoff with the National Assembly Speaker. Analysts see this as a sign the PTI is not confident of the individual elected members’ commitment to the resignations strategy. Travelling out of the system after winning seats makes little sense, while leaving the question of the PTI-led ruling coalition in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa dangling in the air. The enthusiasm of the PTI’s members and supporters in their rallies aside, the politics of the PTI, stripped of verbiage and hype boils down to defining ‘change’ as the claimed ability of the PTI team to manage the existing political, economic and social system better than anyone else through reforms and better governance. It in no way implies any revolutionary reframing of property relations (land, wealth, etc) or offer much in the way of sops to the poor. The transmogrification therefore of the “Go Nawaz go” slogan into “Go system go” as Imran has recently stated in his speeches is nothing but empty and misleading rhetoric. The PTI’s movement is no revolution, at least in the accepted meaning and definition of the term.

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