Amir Zia: Fast Deliveries On Hard Pitch
Fast Deliveries On Hard Pitch
By Amir Zia
The News on Sunday
January 1, 2012
Karachi may not promise Imran Khan a slice of electoral seats in the near future, but many in the city welcome him as a hope for tomorrow
So it is just not Lahore where Imran Khan can be a big crowd puller. He and his team managed to bat with equal ease in Karachi as well, pulling a huge crowd in front of the mausoleum of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah on December 25, 2011. This performance must have raised a few eyebrows in the rank and file of traditional political forces in this teeming port city, where politics, crime and violence often go hand-in-hand.
Tehreek-e-Insaaf in Karachi — the domain of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) since mid-1980s? Besides the MQM, it is only the Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) which has a history of maintaining strong electoral pockets and a few guaranteed national and provincial assembly seats in Karachi. The rest of the major political parties are seen as flyweights in the hurly-burly of elections despite their heavy weight leaders and organised force of workers.
While Imran Khan’s rally definitely managed to attract people from all the ethnic groups and economic backgrounds and mobilise even a section of the chattering apolitical middle and upper middles classes, it still does not guarantee electoral success in Karachi or other urban centers of Sindh — at least in the short-term.
There are reasons for this. The foremost is that the MQM remains solidly entrenched in the political and social fabric of this city and is likely to dominate the next elections despite rising ethnic polarisation in which several other rough tough players have emerged on the scene with an aim to create or expand their turf here. However, the MQM vote-bank in the densely populated low and middle-income neighbourhoods is likely to stay intact. In the past, this vote-bank remained glued to the MQM despite several onslaughts of the establishment and attempts to divert voters to other state-sponsored groups and leaders.
The PPP, despite the resentment of many of its workers and supporters in its traditional strongholds, also has the capacity and ability to bounce back at the 11th hour. The ruling party can ward-off attempts aimed to dent its base mainly among the Sindhi and Baloch dwellers of Karachi, where it also has pockets of supporters in other ethnic groups including the Urdu-speaking people.
The inexperience of Imran Khan’s team, which comprises political straw-weights holding key offices of the party at the Karachi and Sindh level, also remains a big minus for Tehreek-e-Insaaf. So far, none of the seasoned politicians from Karachi or interior of Sindh have joined the Tehreek-e-Insaaf — contrary to the recent trend in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provinces.
However, Imran Khan’s charisma and the recently found tailwind will help his party to glean support from the small vote-banks of Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), the Pakhtun nationalist Awami National Party (ANP) and religious parties (list of all political parties in Pakistan). Imran Khan as a new factor in Karachi should be worrying these three forces more rather than the major political parties of Sindh. With a right kind of team and hard work, Tehreek-e-Insaaf can create a small electoral niche for itself at the cost of these secondary political forces. This in itself would be no mean achievement for Tehreek-e-Insaaf, which attracted only a handful of people in May when Imran Khan staged a sit-in against the Nato supplies in Karachi.
Imran Khan’s December 25th rally also marked his departure from the confrontationist stance he used to take against the MQM. While many analysts and even some of Imran Khan’s supporters appear unhappy and critical of his new non-confrontationist posture, which many read as a reconciliatory mood, it indeed is a step in the right direction.
It is always healthy for a political system and a good omen for democracy when political parties bring a kind of equilibrium in their relationship despite political differences and ideological divide. The MQM has also responded positively to the Tehreek-e-Insaaf’s grand entry on its turf. This spirit and goodwill must continue in the larger interest of the city.
What one does not expect from Imran Khan’s party is strong-arm and unlawful tactics. The MQM, despite its controversial past, has also matured over the years and is trying to expand base beyond the urban areas of Sindh. This provides an opportunity that all the major political parties and stakeholders in Karachi, which also include the PPP, the ANP and the PML-N, must redefine rules of engagement in this violence-prone mega-polis and contribute to bring peace and stability here.
Tehreek-e-Insaaf, being an unconventional force, can assist in achieving this end by putting the right issues on the forefront and facilitating the process of dialogue, discussion and reconciliation. The agenda for peace in Karachi must include all political parties closing their doors on criminal elements and desisting from the politics of extortion, encroachment and other unlawful activities.
The focus of debate for the future of Karachi must be on issues that hurt the common people, disrupt peace, and aim at getting rid of mafias which dominate each and every aspect of its life — from transport to provision of water and illegal encroachments to sponsoring all sorts of crimes. In the crime-ridden and corruption-infested world of today’s politics, the desire to play by the book might appear too naïve for pragmatic politicians, but the time for this kind of change has now become inevitable. Political parties can work as a catalyst to hasten the process of change or emerge as obstacles and eventually be thrown out of the way.
Imran Khan, who has been taking a high moral ground against corruption, may find many allies among the traditional urban middle class political forces, who want to change the status quo in a democratic and peaceful manner.
Imran Khan is building and the election winners he is wooing — mainly from the past members of former president Pervez Musharraf’s regime to that of PPP and PML-N dissidents — are triggering criticism from various quarters. However, most of these new comers in the Tehreek-e-Insaaf appear to have relatively clean records compared with some of the corruption-tainted and controversial figures in other political parties. Will he be able to attract politician of substance in Sindh as well, particularly Karachi? For this he will have to work hard.
Imran Khan’s political slogans of ensuring justice in the society, installing an efficient and clean government and his yet undefined concept of establishing an Islamic welfare state may appear too simplistic and even contradictory, but they remain music to the ears for many Pakistanis, who feel that they have been repeatedly betrayed by other mainstream parties. There remains a strong desire for peace, development and economic progress among majority of the Pakistanis. For many Pakistanis, Imran Khan is articulating the reform agenda.
One can differ with Imran Khan’s political position on various issues and they definitely remain open for debate and criticism, but the former champion captain has finally started to make waves in the murky waters of Pakistani politics. Karachi may not promise him a slice of electoral seats in the near future, but many in the city welcomed him with open arms and as a hope for tomorrow. And Karachi’s support and goodwill remains critical if one aims to conquer the national electoral battle. Will Imran Khan be able to fulfill the great expectations? This may be too early to predict at the start of his new innings, given the huge target he has to achieve.