Imran Khan: the next PM?

Imran Khan and his Tehreek-e-Insaf can come into power if his party’s decks are unified — it is the undeniable lesson of history

Imran Khan: the next PM?

Imran Khan’s current team has formulated an election strategy that will ensure his elevation as the 20th Prime Minister (PM) of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Electives have been identified, who will contest elections on Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) tickets using their own resources to get elected and will then elect Imran Khan as their leader in the National Assembly. Imran Khan has extensive experience in cricket team selection and building it into a winning combination. In politics, this is an interesting approach which relies totally on the capability of the electiveswhich have never played with neutral umpires. Over the years, PML-N has been able to formulate an effective election mechanism to win elections; PTI candidates will be up against this roguery.

Politics in Pakistan has been dominated by Lahore launched parties (PPP, PTI, MP, etc). Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto mobilised the voters and created a nationwide (West Pakistan) organisational structure. Due to his progressive agenda, the entire left and labour supported him. Ayub Khan’s electable without the supportof the state apparatus had to bite the dust, the will of the people prevailed in the 1970 elections. His government was rightly termed as ‘Awami Hukomat’ (People’s Government). By the next elections in 1977 ZAB fell into the trap of the electable despite his personal popularity. It was disrespect of the ballot by a few influential that sparked the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) movement that not only toppled him but was also responsible for Zia’s deadly martial law.

With elections not too far away, Imran Khan seems relaxed and confident on the success of this strategy. Coming into power is a pre-requisite to introduce achange that he desires. It will be very interesting to implement an anti-status-quo agenda through the electives if they manage to make it to the parliament. In the political arena, IK is a ray of hope for the nation. He stands for accountability and clean politics. His coming into power will result in a significant shift and much-needed process correction.

The strategy of the electives has two significant challenges. Firstly, can it ensure electoral victory; and secondly, will IK be able to deliver with a non-performing team who have a track record of status-quo politics? Electability is tied with manipulative democracy which has been the domain of PML-N. Will PTI electives be able to prevail over the ruling party rogues, only time will tell. As a leader, IK has to decide which course to follow. It seems he has been convinced to take the electability route.

After ZAB, Imran Khan is the most popular national leader who has to be turned into electoral victory. Till October 2011, PTI emerged as a voice of the masses. Its organisational structure was growing. It was the first political party to have a shadow cabinet, think tanks and a very effective first 100 days’ plan. IK is committedto creating a welfare state, and policies were formulated to support this vision. Policy presentations were arranged which were followed by open debate and discussion. Youth were trained and encouraged to lead. It was Imran Khan’s approach to have elected leadership for which Inter-Party Elections (IPEs) were also held.

Today, PTI has two decks, upper and lower. The boundaries between them are very clearly defined. Some lower deck members have managed to sit on the upper deck, but their voices are not heard. It is the upper deck that runs the show. In the recent March on Islamabad, the two decks were unable to put a combined resistance. Sheikh Rashid with his Tonga Party’ stole the show with his wily demonstration of street politics.

Electives belong to the upper deck of the party. If by any chance the upper deck electivesprevail over the roguery of PML-N how will they govern? Will they employ the ‘Shahbaz Sharif model’ and operate through the Baboos who have been loyal to the Takht-e-Lahore for decades? The upper deck will then be isolated. IK continues to be a link between the two decks. Despite the isolation, the lower deck continues to look upto their Kaptaan.

For Kaptaan to lead the crusade for ‘Naya Pakistan’ he needs complete support of the party. Both the upper and lower decks have to operate in unison. In KPK, despite the best efforts of IK, the upper deck government has not been able to perform to its full potential. Approved party policies have not been fully implemented in the province which could have resulted in a complete turnaround. Party unity is severely strained which is not a healthy sign.

Electives do play a role in certain constituencies due to their influence and lineage but are unable to deliver at the national level as their appeal is only local and confined as they lack mass appeal. Change is inevitable as status-quo is no longer an option. As a party, PTI has all the ingredients for success. Once it enjoyed an overwhelming support of the masses which was demonstrated on October 30, 2011, at Minar-e-Pakistan, where once Quaid stood to present the resolution for the new homeland. It was here that Kaptaan announced the revival of Quaid’s Pakistan which he termed as ‘Naya Pakistan’. He is both close and far in realising his dream. It is a test of his leadership. ZAB emerged as the first elected Prime Minister of Pakistan, and his political legacy lives on. On the other hand, Air Marshal Asghar Khan had his days but will be remembered as a spoiler of democracy. His Tehreek-e-Istiqlal is nowhere to be seen. Imran Khan and his Tehreek-e-Insaf can come into power if his party decks are unified — it is the undeniable lesson of history.


The writer is Ex-Chairman, Pakistan Science Foundation. He can be reached at