Dharna and Warna

Daily: Daily Times
Date: 01.10.14

On September 28, 2014, it was expected that the political gathering (or jalsa) arranged by
the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) of Imran Khan would set alight the electricity bills of its
supporters to signify the protest civil disobedience movement, which is an extension of the
dharna (sit-in) it has been managing for more than 40 days at D-Chowk in Islamabad.
Similarly, it was also expected that PTI’s supporters would set aflame other utility bills
including sewerage, water and gas after heaping them under the shadow of the Minar-e-
Pakistan, Lahore.

Secondly, it was expected that the word “change” would be considered first in introspective
terms. That is, the change PTI supporters yearn for would be owned and practiced by them
first. To make Pakistan corruption-free, the PTI would announce that its supporters, from
now onwards, would neither bribe anyone nor be bribed by anyone while performing their
roles in whatever position in society; both as consumers/clients and
executives/administrators, PTI’s members would not be part of any corrupt practices to
materialise the mantra of change coming about (
tabdeeli aa gai hai). Otherwise, change
cannot occur.

Thirdly, appreciating certain isolated events such as the agitation of passengers against
the deliberate delay of the PIA flight from Karachi the other day to accommodate two
politicians, or the agitation of students and teachers against the belated arrival of Hamza
Shahbaz and then his delivery of a speech irrelevant to the occasion in the University of
Punjab the other day are no doubt signs of awareness, precisely against the VIP culture
that is just one part of the whole cultural scheme. To affect the culture altogether, change
needs to come from inside an individual. Against this background, it was expected that the
PTI would announce that, from now onwards, its supporters would go to their offices on
time, work throughout the day with dedication and leave their offices only when they are set
to close. It should have materialised the concept of change coming about (
tabdeeli aa gai
hai
); if not, the word “change” is just another deceptive slogan.

On September 28, Khan tried to make the gathering a spectacular one. He often gets
dazzled by the size of the gathering and that is understandable. However, it is not
understandable why he starts claiming his electoral popularity on the basis of such.
Perhaps Khan considers that each household in Lahore is represented through each
person attending the gathering. Secondly, Khan considers that every person attending the
gathering is of voter age. Attached to this point is the delusion that the size of the gathering
is automatically equal to electoral vote casting. Khan sees no disconnect in this
relationship. Thirdly, all people attending the gathering are not necessarily PTI’s voters.
Fourth, there is no difference between his popularity and the PTI’s popularity. Khan
believes that both are equal.

However, the electoral result (in Lahore) compared to the volume of the political meetings
held by Khan before the elections of 2013 speak otherwise. Fifth, this is not the end of the
story: Khan does not listen to anyone and thinks that he, being the captain, has a superior
sense of understanding. Subsequent to such a gathering, if any election were held and his
party lost a seat in Lahore, Khan would be quick to utter the word “rigging” and lay the
blame for the cheating on this person or that. The sense of absolutism in Khan is becoming
a real headache for many. Sixth, even if it is assumed that the size of the gathering is a true
reflector of the PTI’s electoral popularity, it can be said that the PTI is late by one year. The
PTI should have demonstrated such strength immediately before the 2013 elections to cash
in on it. Seventh, the PTI has so far proved that it has mastered the skill of agitation politics.
Khan’s overreliance on the tactics defined by ex-Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) activists is marring the
political face of Pakistani politics.

This was the story of the
dharna. The story of warna (i.e. or else) is no different. The other
day, the leader of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), Dr Tahirul Qadri, who is fond of
giving ultimatums of the worst order every second day, found the smell pungent outside his
luxurious container in Islamabad. The foul odour that compelled him to cover his nose with
tissue paper must have brought him back to the reality that life is miserable out in the open.
Secondly, Dr Qadri must have realised that Pakistan was not receptive to the type of
revolution he was longing for. Third, if a revolution is not possible by even coopting a
legitimate political party, the PTI, it is not possible at all. Fourth, in Pakistan, there are more
people in favour of democracy, parliament and the constitution than opposed to them. Fifth,
nobody listens to a party falling short of political legitimacy. Sixth, the route to change the
system passes through the legitimate means that take time to travel and not the short cuts
that his party tried to predicate it on. Seventh, the doors of any such revolution he dreamt
of are closed now. Dr Qadri must be ruing the day he fell victim to the temptation that he
was a ray of hope if he repeated the show he had staged in Islamabad just before the
elections of 2013.

While the PTI is making last ditch efforts to buttress its popularity, especially in Punjab, the
PAT is fast losing hope for the expected outcome of its further sacrifices. Both the PTI and
PAT must have learnt by now that politics is the art of the possible and not of the
impossible. It is now clear that both will never join hands with each other in future to launch
any political struggle. Similarly, it is now clear that the possibility for any violent change in
Pakistan is over.

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