Election 2024 — Against or For Imran Khan?

Election 2024 -- Against or For Imran Khan?

By Irum Saleem

   Known columnist Abbas Nasir has said it was the Election against or for Imran Khan and nothing else.

   “One social media user said it was a remarkable victory; it was, after all, almost “a century scored without a bat”; it appeared an all-encompassing comment as the snail-paced trickle of the Feb 8 election results started to paint a picture of the PTI voters’ anger and defiance at all that the party and its leadership has had to face,” he writes in Dawn on Sunday.

It has been clear since the arrest and jailing of Imran Khan that the ‘reset to 2016’ had been initiated. The party was thrown in the ring with one hand tied behind its back to face the might of its ferocious and powerful adversaries. The most comprehensive plan appeared in place.

Exactly a week ago, in these very columns, we’d also observed: The only outside chance, the slimmest if you like, of it failing will be on polling day. What if the rage of the supporters at what they see as injustice to their leader manifests itself in their voting in droves for the candidates endorsed by the party? How many votes can be tossed in the rubbish bin for one reason or another?

The voters turned out in enough numbers to have given the ‘independents’ (read: mostly PTI) almost a century of seats, despite all obstacles in the run-up to polling day; and issues in tabulation and announcement of the results. A number of results are likely to be disputed in election tribunals and courts.

For months and months, PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif had been demanding a so-called reset to 2016, while placing the onus of doing that wholly on the political engineers. When the time came, it seems, he placed way too much faith in them rather than campaign with vigour. The party almost appeared lethargic, disinterested

This election was always going to be a vote for and against Imran Khan. The PML-N campaign did not address that or succeed in selling itself as a viable alternative for the future to a near-decisive number of voters. It abandoned its ‘vote ko izzat do’ slogan which had resonated with millions across the country.

That strategy blew up in the PML-N’s face. As he made his ‘victory speech’, Mr Sharif looked frail, tired, even defeated, despite using brave words. It also marked a sad departure from the Charter of Democracy-transformed democrat who refused to block (despite the numerical possibility) PTI’s path to power in KP after it emerged as the single largest party in 2013.

“Whether he is also prepared to lead a coalition government already being called PDM-2 or let his younger brother preside over a conglomerate of disparate political entities shepherded by the establishment to strictly implement the Special Investment Facilitation Council-led economic revival plan will become clear over the coming week and a half,” Abbas Nasir says.

The main takeaway for me from this election is that even normally subdued TV channels were quite openly discussing the elephant in the room, unlike as recently as the 2013 elections, but the question remains whether this ‘freedom’ will last or the screws will be tightened again.

The failure to contain the PTI and the influence of its leader may well mean that this apparent media freedom turns out to be temporary and it could well be business as usual before long. Of course, anyone planning such a move must also realise the power of the social media and the smartphone penetration in the country.

The past may be another country as the election demonstrated. But we aren’t known to learn from our mistakes. It is true that you can ‘manage’ the electoral process — but only to a point and no more. As we discussed last week, and as was demonstrated by the voter this week, that is the beauty of democracy.

And yet this beauty remained largely away from the grasp of the electorate in not just the remote reaches of Balochistan but also in the country’s biggest metropolis of Karachi. How systematically for two consecutive elections the people in these two places have been largely disenfranchised is mind-boggling.

I guess this is your fate when you only count as a tool in the hands of the engineers to be used at will in order to tilt the balance in someone’s way, to propel them to high office or to dethrone them when they have outlived their utility or become too big for their boots.

One can cry oneself hoarse repeating that all such manipulations are pretty nigh impossible without one or more political parties/ entities acquiescing in the best of times, and conspiring actively on other occasions, but nobody who matters pays any attention.

So our reset to 2016 has happened or, in the interest of accuracy, is very nearly there, at this stage. Is that something positive? I think not. The year in question marks the point where uncertainty, bitterness and anger gripped the country as a visibly contrived majority was handed over the reins of the country or, more accurately, made a junior partner.

Election year 2024 will also mark the point where the majority or at least the largest single entity was excluded from the process by brutal force. Ergo, those made junior partners will face a similar crisis of credibility as the system that was put in place in 2018 did. That’s real progress!

Not sure if the ‘keep doing the same thing expecting a different result’ was Einstein’s definition of insanity or someone else’s but it is pretty accurate. Pick your clichés — ‘turning back the clock’ to ‘back to the future’ or another one. And it will be valid.

The only thing I do have the power to do is to tip my hat to those whose bat was taken away and yet they scored, more or less, a century. Pak Destiny

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