Consult with me on Maven
Consult with me on Maven

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

My take on PTI Jalsa - the unpublished version

PTI Jalsa: A Game Changer or Game Spoiler?
Prof. Ijaz Khan
By pulling a huge crowd in Lahore, Imran Khan has evoked a lot of interests and generated a heated debate on Media as well as outside it besides strong reactions from mainstream political parties. With room for variations one side is proclaiming it as the commencement of the much needed change, while the other side rubbishes it on one or other pretext.
The important issue is not what he said, but the crowd that he attracted.
He did pull an impressive crowd is something no one can question. Whether it was 100,000 or 10,000 strong or somewhere in between, it was definitely big. Quite large percentage of the crowd did come on its own and were not brought by the various provincial assembly/ national assembly hopefuls. Belittling that because one disagrees rather one does not find anything serious left or right in his stance will get us nowhere. Money is and had been spent on all big crowds whether those are/were of PML N, PPP, MQM, ANP, JI or anyone else. So, that is also not the issue. Welcoming him just because he may put a dent in PMLN's support is again not a sound political attitude or the real impact of his ability to pull a big crowd in Lahore.
The issue is his attraction for the young and of the a-political middle class, fed up with what it is seeing and is being shown. If it had meant he has involved more youth/ people in politics, it would have been welcome, even if one disagreed with his stands. The problem is, it does not mean their getting involved in politics. It means further de-politicization of politics, the continued impact of direct and indirect military control of the state and policy making. Besides youth, others attracted by him are mostly those who could not find a space in other parties and are joining him with expectations to replace through him, the local heavy weights of their respective constituencies. They are also not the problem. The oft repeated claim of establishment support is also not the real issue.
The issue is that a vast majority, mostly youth believe that he is going to bring change. They are genuinely disenchanted with the politics of the mainstream political parties. Again whether they are justified in their disenchantment or not is not the issue - they are disillusioned is the issue. We do understand in politics perceptions are more important than fact.
Establishment is the only section that can be satisfied with his show. It knows he is not a challenge to it in any way - neither to its policies nor to the personal privileges and corruption. Whether he is able to get to power or not (a very remote possibility) with its support is not an issue for it. He has made various populist noises without any viable plan, idea or conceptual basis, to frighten the Establishment.
The issue is: His popularity will pave the way for their direct intervention or further indirect protection of their control of decision making. It’s a wake-up call to all the genuine political workers and the mainstream political parties. Those who do not consider democracy to be a viable option for strengthening this federation for whatever reason, whether ideological, lack of understanding or personal greed and vested interests will be doing and saying what they are. It is again irrelevant whether Imran Khan is personally conscious of the impact of his Crowd pulling or not.
The challenge for genuine political workers is that the challenge for democracy has been posed from the streets this time around, normally the refuge of the pro democracy forces. Just blaming the detractors of democracy for conspiracy or logically and intellectually challenging this new challenge will not do. This challenge is not based on any intellectual depth or direction any way. It is more of a game spoiler than a game changer.

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