I’m not an old experienced hand at politics. But I am now seasoned enough to have a learned that the hardest thing about any political campaign is how to win without proving that you are unworthy of winning” — Adlai Stevenson I
So Imran Khan stood his ground and made history. He stared down all the elements against him – alone. He was unflinching in the face of deceit, treachery and betrayal — neither losing his composure nor his sense of decency. He displayed no frustration during this ordeal of an election where nerves were tested and resolves challenged. He was not flustered, remained unruffled and was not intimidated by the one-sided show. A smaller person would have wilted in the face of the array of State machinery and government apparatus aligned against him.
I regret to say that I, too, proved to be among those smaller people, who gave up when they saw no light at the end of the tunnel. People such as myself looked for conflict and confrontation and when we did not find any, we were disappointed and disillusioned. Imran was proven right with his Statesman approach of avoiding physical conflict and instead galvanizing people into a force to be reckoned with. Never before has a hostile government been allowed to continue, illegally through a judicial license, and permitted to conduct an election of this nature and magnitude, where a conflict of interest was so blatantly served. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) conveniently looked the other way so that the many violations — that were duly reported — were neither investigated nor addressed. The ECP fiddled with the voters’ lists and tried its utmost to make it as difficult as possible for the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) voters to cast their vote. The living were declared dead and denied the right to vote, while the dead were declared alive and voted with impunity. What a shame!
In violation to the defined protocol, the Punjab government posted officials of their choice on key positions with an intention to interfere in the election process. They shamelessly ordered the arrests of the prominent PTI leaders, arranged for others to be attacked on the streets and yet, banned many from entering the province. They ensured that transport was denied to the PTI voters and their movement hampered and disrupted.
The Punjab government and its hand-picked officials even encouraged their touts to stuff ballot boxes with bogus votes. I for one was neither surprised nor shocked at the blatant attempts of rigging these by-elections by the sitting government. I was sure that these elections would be conducted in a highly biased environment and I know I was right on all counts. I was also certain that with all these shenanigans, the PML-N would secure a huge victory and declare themselves the legitimate choice of the people. I was sure that the people — weak, helpless, fatalistic and disheartened — would surrender themselves to the elements and resign themselves to providence in recognition of their own irrelevance and insignificance; doomed to be nothing but inconsequential pawns in this great fraud.
However, I could not have been more wrong about my own country fellows – men and women. The masses rose like the phoenix from the ashes, and under the clarion call of moral assertion, patriotism and principle, they spoke with one voice and ousted an aberration that ought never to have been there. They rejected an artificial coalition, they dismissed a government that was never theirs. They reacted and responded towards this charade where the single largest party was reduced to a minority in the National Assembly by artificial means and engineered methods. Yes, the people have spoken, They have had enough.
Now, a day after these by elections — the 18th of July — I am amazed at some people who are appreciating, what they are now calling a free and fair elections. These elections were neither free nor fair.
The administration was overwhelmed by the masses who prevented fraud, scheming and deceit by sheer presence and the momentum of humanity. It is for the first time in Pakistan that the people themselves influenced the results. Such a thing happened in 1970 with Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rehman, but he never had to encounter the kind of opposition and hurdles as the PTI did, and the leader from the then East Pakistan won because the elections were actually fair and free. Though a belligerent Bhutto, who had lost the elections, could not live with this and manipulated whatever he could to prevent Mujib from taking away the premiership. But here is a different case; it was the people who prevented an election from being stolen.
Yet whereas the people spoke, it was Imran Khan who by his sheer character, determination, and reputation, carried the people with him to victory. He gave them purpose, resolution and persistence. People sensed being part of the game to contribute to a national cause. Yet, most of all, Imran showed all that what an honest, selfless leader, and a determined and courageous leader of a nation looks like. Who would not follow him specially when the alternative was a band of convicted felons and people accused of theft, fraud and scams?
The manipulation, conspiracies and intrigues of the government were simply overwhelmed by the massive support that the PTI had. The sea of humanity at the polling stations, prevented the government from stealing these by-elections. People of the government who have conceded defeat and accepted a PTI victory ought to be commended and it is now prayed that the country should get on and move along as one people and one nation. Let’s hope that now a general election is announced as early as possible so that a formal unified government can take its place to run the country and the uncertainty ends.
The new government, when in place, must set about putting the economy right on a war footing, define a clear direction for the foreign policy and specify the priorities for national security. Also in time, in the interest of history and to some extent, some accountability, a white paper must be constructed to illustrate how things unfolded and brought us to where we are – divided, bankrupt and almost isolated. It’s a matter of national importance that matters be identified so as to begin the process of reforms that this country needs so badly.
In fact, the new government, when it takes over, may like to establish a reforms committee for the purpose. It will help in restructuring the judiciary, the police, the constitution, accountability where needed, administrative units, education and many more issues of vital national importance. With the envisaged huge majority in parliament the new government, when elected, would be able to make radical changes and take difficult decisions with relative ease.