Welcome Transitions

Welcome Transitions
The PTI Election Tribunal (ET) headed by Justice (r) Wajihuddin Ahmed has reported that the PTI intra-party elections held in 2013 were “fraudulent”.

The 60-page report points out core problems in the whole exercise. Tickets were badly distributed to poor candidates because of corrupt practices by central party leaders; millions of voters registered through the given phone numbers were not included in voter lists because of incompetence and inefficiency in the PTI’s Central Office; the central command of the party did not obey the guidelines for regional, provincial and central parliamentary boards to be set up to process and decide the names of party’s nominees for tickets for the general elections, preferring instead to direct party ticket aspirants to file their nominations with the Central Office directly; the UC-level election was manipulated by aspirants of district and provincial posts, assisted by aspirants of party tickets for general elections; the process of candidates’ assessment and allocation of tickets was carried out by a couple of groups in a ‘hush hush’ manner; people who became party members through telephone help lines were disenfranchised during intra-party polls; the top posts of the party in the provinces and center are all nominated; that Jehangir Tareen’s role was highly objectionable; and so on. The ET has ordered Imran Khan to dissolve all posts and hold new elections.

This is in sharp contrast to Mr Khan’s earlier claim that these party elections were “unprecedented and historical”. He is furious that the Report was leaked and shows the squabbling party leadership in bad light. He has reacted by replacing Justice ® Wajihudidn’s tribunal with a new one led by Tasneem Noorani.

The error of his self-righteous ways is dawning on Mr Khan.  After the failure of the longest “dharna” in history last year to try and dislodge the government, with a wink and nod from sections of the military establishment, Imran Khan has finally agreed to an unprecedented compromise with the PMLN on the matter of the judicial commission to determine the fairness of the last general elections. He has desperately backpedalled from his position that the elections were deliberately and premeditatedly stolen from the PTI by a gang of powerful conspirators. That has prompted the PMLN to put a clause into the TORs to exactly that effect: if this specially “designed and systematic” conspiracy is not proved, then, despite any irregularities, the election wasn’t stolen, and there is no compulsion to dissolve the assemblies and hold mid-term polls.

Imran’s about-turns are getting to be predictable. Earlier, he insisted that the Pakistani Taliban were simply “misguided Muslims” provoked by US drones who should be talked to; now he admits they are brutal terrorists who should be stamped out militarily. Before long the PTI will doubtless take back its resignations and return to the National Assembly.

But this is not necessarily a sign of weakness or opportunism. Recognition of ground realities and necessary adjustment can also be a sign of political maturity. Consider.

Indeed, Imran’s attempt to focus on the elections in AJK, provincial local bodies and the developing political vacuum in Karachi instead of trying to compel regime change are steps in the right direction. Hopefully, he will also acknowledge the harm done to his party by “lotas” and “electables” and oversee a new and transparent intra-party election that brings genuinely new and untainted PTI supporters from grass roots to positions of responsibility so that they can help the party positively impact the next general elections in 2018. He also needs to get cracking in running a good government in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa so that he has an enviable track record to flaunt before cynical voters.

Imran Khan is not the only one having second thoughts. Nawaz Sharif is also working hand in hand on core national security issues with the very military establishment with whom he has expressed bitter grievances in the past. His obsession with the trial of General Pervez Musharraf has also ended. All this augurs well for the stability of the country.

The most important development, however, is a radical change in the strategic perspective of the military establishment regarding both internal and external affairs. This is entirely due to the new army chief Gen Raheel Sharif and a crop of new corps commanders who are in the process of re-evaluating security doctrines and responding to new realities.

The MQM is the only political player that is still resisting the broad based transitions in the country. It is crying foul against the clean-up operation in Karachi when this military-led operation has the support of all of Pakistan much like that against the Taliban. The sooner the MQM comes to accept the fact that its fearful blackmailing hegemony in Karachi is untenable from a national security viewpoint and won’t be tolerated, the better.

These multi-faceted military and political transitions in Pakistan are most welcome and should be supported. We need to put our house in order rather than constantly blaming others for our woes.

Najam Aziz Sethi is a Pakistani journalist, businessman who is also the founder of The Friday Times and Vanguard Books. Previously, as an administrator, he served as Chairman of Pakistan Cricket Board, caretaker Federal Minister of Pakistan and Chief Minister of Punjab, Pakistan.