The victory of PTI in the 2018 elections is like a breath of fresh air in an otherwise putrid miasma of status quo politics. While PTI, representing the youth of the country, has emerged a clear winner, the champions of the traditional brand of politics – the PPP and PML-N – have tasted defeat even in their home base. PPP lost in Lyari, while PML-N lost crucial seats in Takht-e-Lahore.
The PTI has bagged a thumping verdict and is poised to form the government at the centre as well as in the provinces of Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. PTI may also be part of a coalition government in Balochistan, while its nominee could be the leader of the opposition in Sindh. This gives PTI a nationwide reach and identity in sharp contrast to the past when Pakistan’s major political parties have been reduced to provincial outfits.
Remarkably, many big names which have dominated national politics for the last 40 years have disappeared from the scene. They include ANP chief Asfandyar Wali Khan, JUI’s Maulana Fazlur Rahman, former Interior Minister Ch. Nisar Ali Khan and JI Chief Sirajul Haq. Such old stalwarts as Mehmood Khan Achakzai, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Dr. Farooq Sattar were defeated in their traditional strongholds. Faisalabad, a bastion of PML-N, rejected symbols of traditional Punjabi politics such as Rana Sanaullah, Talal Chaudhry and Abid Sher Ali. Another significant feature of the elections is the failure of the religious parties to win the confidence of the electorate.
The outcome of Election 2018 represents a new phenomenon, a new dynamic in the country’s political landscape. For a large number of people, especially the youth, disgusted with corruption and skullduggery of the ruling political class, the emergence of a new leadership is a dream come true. The people chose Imran Khan and his team over the discredited lot of politicos who have held the destinies of millions of people hostage in their vice-like grip for decades. Indeed, the people voted against rampant corruption and gross misrule — and in favour of a progressive and enlightened polity in which their rights will be safeguarded.
A motley group of opposition parties have joined hands to thwart the emergence of a new political order in Pakistan. At a deeper level, it is a battle for survival for them as they fear that their brand of self-serving politics may be on its way out forever. They reflect the forces which have traditionally ruled Pakistan by misusing whatever instruments they had at their disposal, including religion.
The challenges facing the PTI government are enormous. As a result of widespread corruption, rampant misrule and Mafioso-style politics benefiting a small elite, the State has weakened and the economy is in tatters. It is going to be a massive task of reconstruction from the base upwards. Institutions have to be rebuilt and merit has to prevail to put an end to the pervasive culture of nepotism and favouritism.
In his victory speech, Imran Khan laid out his vision of the new society he will strive to build in Pakistan. During the half-hour address, Imran Khan dedicated most of his time to discuss domestic policy issues and agenda for his upcoming government. He talked about the common people and about their basic needs – health, education, jobs and appointments on merit. Citing the example of Medina’s social welfare state, Khan vowed that his government would spend most of the budget on uplifting the poor and destitute. In this context, he cited the figure of 50% people in Pakistan living below the poverty line and 25 million Pakistani children remaining out of school. He also pledged to make accountability the keystone of the governance structure and pledged that his party would be held accountable for their deeds first, and then others.
He emphasised that public money in the form of taxes would not be wasted on useless schemes but would be spent on the welfare of the downtrodden classes. Further, his government would reduce unnecessary expenditures and promote simplicity and austerity in all sectors. Imran Khan will not live in PM House which will be converted into an educational or public welfare institution. All governor houses will also be treated in the same way.
Regarding foreign policy, he stressed the need to have friendly relations with all neighbours, and resolution of all outstanding issues, including the “core issue” of Kashmir, through dialogue. In the case of U.S. and all other world powers, he said that bilateral ties would be based on the principle of “mutually beneficial” relationship.
Imran Khan spoke from the heart and elicited a warm response from all sections of the people, even from those who did not vote for him. He looked humble and sounded sincere. In a country where the perks of governance include immunity from accountability for misuse of office for personal gains, his pledge of an accountable government and austerity touched a chord in every heart.
Let us wish him well in his great enterprise to create Naya Pakistan.