Gen Mirza Aslam Beg
Sunday, November 20, 2011 – On the cricket field, Imran Khan’s bouncers carried the element of much expectation. If the batsman ducked, the ball would go waste into the wicket keepers hand and if he instinctively swung at it, he would get a six, amidst the roar of the crowd. If he flicked the ball carelessly, he may well be caught mid-field, to the wild jabs and gestures of the bowler and his team mates. Such is the phenomenon now in the political arena after 30th October jalsa of Imran Khan, inLahore. The critics say that the jalsa was organized by the ‘Establishment’, in the same manner, as the cricket pitch was prepared for him by the competing host, the team was selected and trained by the selectors/ coaches and Captain Imran was expected to lead the team to victory. He did lead them to victory, but can he lead his political team to victory, is the moot question?
Imran launched his party in 1996, and its activities remained at a low key, but suddenly, the 30th October jalsa, created the impression of a ‘Third Force’ emerging on the political scene, similar to the Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) emergence under Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in the 1960s. However, the political environment in 1960 was different. There was a political vacuum, because the Muslim League had lost its élan. Bhutto gave a new ideology and a new slogan to the masses. He picked-up new faces, who were competent. He himself was a seasoned politician, a statesman and a visionary. Now there is no political vacuum, rather a political swell exists, where space is limited. Imran Khan is attracting mainly the youth and the old faces who could not find place in other parties. Possibly, they cannot be the catalyst for change, for the gigantic tasks set by Imran — targeting the Americans, the Army, ISI, Nawaz Sharif, the corrupt of the country, the Thanedars and Patwaris. Too many ‘hard nuts to crack’ and too big a task to handle. However, ‘Imran factor’ is there raising political expectations, which needs to be examined.
There has been a constant struggle for political power between the Right and the Left in Pakistan. At present the Right is represented mainly by the Muslim League in Punjab, and the Left rules at the centre and the three provinces. Imran Khans’ party is emerging as the third force, mainly in Punjab and will affect the vote bank of PML (N), benefitting the left, particularly the PPP. The Americans would feel comfortable with the emerging situation. The Pakistani nation wants a change earlier than 2013 and is exerting pressure on the politicians, the establishment and the judiciary to act as the catalyst, who will need the support of ‘a compliant political force, such as the emerging third force.’ The scenario fits-in perfectly into the sequence of events starting with the exemplary jalsa, the media hype, and the mad rush by the political sinners to be “cleaned, dry-cleaned and to pass through Imran khan’s Bahishti Darwaza.” – Chaudhry Shujaat.
The struggle between the right and the left, also highlights the conflict between the secular and the non-secular forces. The non-secular forces appear to be on the retreat because, they do not consider it necessary to impart even very basic religiouseducation to their children, who are loosing their identity, acting like robots, ready to absorb any alien ideology fed into them. This youth, with no identity of its own, forms the majority and provides street power to the Left, demanding secular Pakistan as in Bangladesh. Would Imran Khan follow the political agenda of this force, is doubtful. The fight against the Corporate Greed is the global phenomenon, which could provide enough space to Imran Khan to implement his agenda for the under privileged of Pakistan. The privileged in Pakistan, constitute about five percent of the population but exercise control over ninety percent of the wealth and resources of the country. The money barons, feudals, smugglers, the cheats, the bureaucracy in power, financial institutions and corporate organizations, form ‘the nexus’, known for its greed and exploitation of the majority – the ninety five percent, under-privileged Pakistanis. If Imran has the agenda to fight the ‘corporate greed’, both the young and old would follow him, with the befitting slogan: “Occupy I.I. Chundrigar Street.”
Pakistan is passing through a very critical period of its life. The political turmoil, bad governance, rampant corruption, decaying national institutions, political and ideological conflict and the fear of the Greek Tragedy likely to hit Pakistan in the very near future, present a very dangerous trend, demanding a careful handling by the political forces and the twoinstitutions, namely the judiciary and the armed forces, who have maintained their cool despite provocations. The provocations as revealed by an American businessman Mansur Ijaz, have exacted the first reaction from the Services Chiefs, who boycotted the Presidential dinner for the Turkmenistan President, on 14th November. An ominous trend indeed, similar to the services chiefs’ boycott of the reception for the Indian PM, Mr. Vajpayee in 1999.
The Greek Tragedy is soon going to hit Pakistan, warns Dr. Ashfaque H. Khan, the eminent economist:“The critical ingredientsthat brought Greece to the brink are very much present in today’s Pakistan …..If the status quo is maintained and business as usual policy continues, the country may witness a similar situation within the next two years….. Pakistan faces a serious debt crisis, it will have little resources to repay …Investment is down to a 40-year low, economic growth has slowed to an average of 2.9 percent…. Fiscal indiscipline is widespread with budget deficit averaging 6.5 percent of GDP. The public debt has more than doubled in four years as compared with the cumulative rise in debt for the last 60 years; Double-digit inflation has persisted for over 48 months,…Balance of payments is now entering a danger zones.”
Unfortunately reckless policies are being pursued to appease the voters. The Government is non-serious, as the economic fall-out threatens national security. The European Union, and the financial institutions of the world have put in place, 1.4 Trillion US dollars to bail out Greece. Who will bail out Pakistan, no one knows. Imran may have a plan. Watch Imran Khan on the TV network. He appears very confident and hard-hitting in his remarks. His body language has changed. He is ruthless in his retort to criticism, not sparing even the very respectable scholars and analysts like, Mr. Ataul Haq Qasmi, who rightly commented: “It is surprising, how the tone and tenor of Imran Khan has changed into that of the worst of a feudal tyrant, despite the fact, that the power he clamors for, is no where in sight.”
Imran Khan’s bouncer, has given hope to many – ‘Sab umeed se hain”, including the ‘Great Khan’ (Title given by Jamaima Khan). Let them revel in their dreams, soon to realize, that:“Sab thath parra reh jayega jab laad challega banjara.”
—The writer is former COAS, Pakistan