PTI’s Thanksgiving

On the 1st of November, Chairman Pakistan Tehrik e Insaf  (PTI) announced that his party would celebrate thanksgiving on the 2nd of November; a date previously set for locking down the country’s capital in protest against the Prime Minister and his family’s alleged corruption. Unlike several other parts of the world this particular thanksgiving is not for a good harvest, to be honest I am not so sure what PTI and its Chairman is thankful for and to whom exactly.

It seemed, from his short speech, that Khan was thankful to the Supreme Court for taking notice of the Panama Leaks and seeking reply from several respondents including the Prime Minister and his family. If this was the case, PTI could have celebrated thanksgiving on the 21st of October; a day after the Supreme Court had taken notice of the Panama Leaks issue and sent notices to all concerned parties. The Supreme Court, on the 1st of November, only allowed more time for submitting replies that it had actually sought on the 20th of October. So why did Imran Khan wait for his workers to be scared, arrested, harassed, refused entry in to Punjab, get injured, gather in open fields surrounding his residence in Bani Gala and have a cat and mouse play-date with the police, before announcing thanksgiving and calling off the lockdown?

So probably it was not the notices. Maybe Khan was thankful to the Supreme Court for forming a Judicial Commission to probe into the allegations of corruption brought to light by the Panama Leaks. But the thing is no such commission has been formed. Supreme Court, in its order dated 1st November, has only hinted at the possibility of forming said commission. Is PTI going to celebrate thanksgiving for a hint then?

There is one other possibility; that PTI ‘s Chairman and leadership is actually thankful for being given an opportunity to save face; not a very solid and convincing one, but a reason to call of the lock-down. Due to the government’s stern handed policy to deal with probable protestors, PTI’s workers did not turn up in numbers expected and necessary to lock-down the capital. The attempt to come out on the streets of Islamabad, or to leave Bani Gala for that matter, may have been thwarted successfully causing grave embarrassment and phenomenally weakening the party’s assertiveness. If this is the real reason behind the conversion of a lock-down into thanksgiving, then the blame lies partly with lack of political acumen of the leadership and partly with the failure of workers in responding to the leader’s call. The government arrested a few and managed to create a perception  that anyone who leaves for Bani Gala from any part of the country is at risk of being arrested, lathi charged and tear gassed. This perception made the PTI workers – most of whom are not familiar with the actual woes of a political struggle let alone a revolution – abstain from making an attempt to reach Islamabad.

I for one do not believe that locking Islamabad down was a prudent solution to the current predicament, but followers of Imran Khan and PTI did, and yet all it took to back down from their ‘revolutionary’ stance were a few arrests. The reason I do not agree with the politics of lockdown is that if this precedent is set, what would stop a religious party or an alliance of religious parties from locking down the capital – with a much larger number of devoted and violent followers coming not only to please their leaders but also Allah – for demands like the establishment of sharia, or a specific dress code for women? Any other entity, who is able to gather a crowd large enough, would be encouraged to apply similar tactics for any and all demands no matter how unreasonable, illegitimate or devastating. But insafians believed this was the only way, they believed that this is the moment of glory to make everything better in Pakistan, to sacrifice a few hours of freedom for the future generations. Yet, they did not leave the comfort of their homes for their leader, and thus lost a fight, and with it, all right to criticize the Party chairman for taking the alleged “u turn”.

PTI did, for a while at least, give a lot of people a lot of hope. Not just the insafians, but many from other parties or neutrals expected PTI to bring the long awaited “change” (tabdeeli). In days when PTI was gaining momentum and popularity, there was no knowing where it would end and what it could and would achieve. But thanks to clever and expert handling – most of the times inadvertently aided by PTI itself – and inability to learn from past mistakes, the hopes both from outside and inside the party are dieing. Scraping from the edges and working its way to the core, the party and its leadership seem to be ridding themselves of the popularity, fervor, vigor and ambitions they once held and promised.