Containing the Container

The time has come

In the checkered political history of Pakistan only two parties were launched by ideologues. In November 1967 it was Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party ( PPP ), while Kaptaan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf ( PTI ) was launched in April 1996. Sardar Farooq Ahmed Khan Leghari, after being knocked out of politics by the Establishment-launched Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, formed his Millat Party in August 1998. Almost all other outfits were incubated at the Freemasons Lodge of Democracy located at 33 Davis Road. These events took place in the city of Lahore which was rightly termed by Bhutto as the Leningrad of Pakistan. While both Bhutto and Kaptaan struggled their way to power, Leghari Sahib merged his party with the Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid-e-Azam) led by the crafty evergreen Chaudhry Brothers of Gujrat who also happen to control the Muslim League House on Davis Road after ousting the Sharif Brothers of Gawalmandi, Lahore.

In the words of Lee Iacocca, the legendary US business leader; “Where is our outrage? Throw the bums out “. Kaptaan get the ‘ Container ‘ going, the ideologues are willing and ready to fight for real change this time around. After being deposed from power many fallen leaders have entered the political heartland of Pakistan, some to a hero’s welcome, while others in disgraceful retreat

It seems Kaptaan has come full circle and is now getting ready to take on the system with the help of the party ideologues as the electables surrounding him have not been able to deliver the promised change. Who will ‘Contain the Container’? Kaptaan is indeed a fighter, he has been blamed for some U-turns, but no one cannot be bought or arm-twisted to submit. Barring a few Co,mrades, amongst the corruption-riddled parliamentarians on both sides of the House, he stands out. Only ideology can drive change.

Bhutto came into power with the help of the ideologues, so was able to deliver. Eventually he got rid of them, which led to his downfall. When he was cornered, his family went looking for them but it was too late by then. The Quaid-e-Awam could not be saved. Kaptaan launched his movement with the help of the ideologues but came into power without them. Change is not the domain of the electables. Those who have strengthened the status quo cannot deliver change, so it is back to the ‘Container’ and the ‘Ideologues’. Comrade Ahsan Rasheed and Ms Saloni Bokhari are not there to regroup the ‘Soldiers of Change’ but most of them will certainly respond to the call of change only if the tried and failed turncoats are not on the roof of the ‘Container’ this time.

While a lot has been written about the political journey of Bhutto and his eventual fall, not much has been documented about the rise of Kaptaan. As I closely worked with Comrade Ahsan Sahib, the main architect of the rise of PTI in Punjab, I consider him to be the Chou-en- Lai of the party. Kaptaan rightly acknowledged his services in his inaugural speech to the nation. He organized ‘Think Tanks’ where policies were formulated and then presented to the Chairman followed by open discussions. There was a 16-member Shadow Cabinet, mostly of qualified experts in their field. The First 100 Days Plan was also deliberated upon. Dr Arif Alvi as General Secretary operated from Karachi, while Kaptaan ran the Central Office in Islamabad and Ahsan Sahib worked from the Punjab office located in Model Town Extension. In Punjab, the party was organized at the grass root level. While Kaptaan was the leader Ahsan Sahib was the Manager. I am not sure how much he opposed the entry of the opportunists into the party but he did try his level best to strike a balance in the best interests of the movement.

The mammoth Lahore Jalsa of 30 October 2011 was a major lift-off for the party. Electables came in droves. By the next gathering at Mazar-e-Quaid on 25 December  2011 the stage was loaded with old and failed faces of the past who have always been the part of the problem not the solution that the party aimed for. That night, Ahsan Sahib had arranged a dinner at the Sheraton Hotel for both the ideologues and the electables.

Javed Hashmi had come on board, the right leaning elements within the party were euphoric about his entry. As we were driving to the hotel one of them started praising the heroics of Hashmi Sahib. I patiently listened and then finally posed a simple question, “Why did he join the Zia Cabinet?” There was silence, I could see the smile on the face of Ahsan Sahib. Later on my hunch proved right, Hashmi Sahib as President proved more disastrous for the party than all the other past and the present lot that remain to hijack the movement for real change.

The dinner proved to be the proverbial ‘Last Supper’ for the old guard of the party who had worked hard in building the movement. One by one, most of them were cornered, Ahsan Sahib survived but cut to size. As Public Sector Enterprises (PSEs) were important for Karachi, it was decided to issue a policy statement. Originally it was discussed that a clear message would be delivered, “No Privatization” but later on it was toned down to “Turnaround of all PSEs “. A committee was formed to formulate a policy on the way forward. Members were flown to Karachi on a private aircraft, lodged in a five-star hotel, but the policy was never presented or discussed. Ahsan Sahib was fighting his battle with cancer, the party was polarized with Javed Hashmi leading the right wing and Shah Mahmood Qureshi the rest by default, both having no roots in the party. I tried my best to convince Ahsan Sahib to take on both the newcomers with the help of the ideologues as most of us knew their game of self-interest. Within the party, Ahsan Sahib was made to lose the position of President Punjab while Dr Arif Alvi was pushed out as General Secretary by Pervez Khattak. In the provincial elections of 2013, there was a conspiracy to keep Ahsan Sahib out to block his chances of becoming the Chief Minister. A similar sinister game was played in Multan in 2018, as a result of which Usman Buzdar managed to get this coveted position again bypassing the old guard.

I am repeatedly asked about the team and policies of the party which, in my opinion, was most prepared ever to lead the much needed change movement till the entire line-up was hijacked by failed and discredited electables who have always managed to retain power but with no delivery.

The list of the Shadow Cabinet Members is with me together with the policies that were framed but never implemented, and the First 100 Days Plan also met the same fate. Yes there are certain electoral realities which can only be countered through ideology as was done by Bhutto and Mujib in the 1970s. Change requires directional realignments which have not been done. The bureaucracy is used to a pay-for-service approach, ‘No gain no pain’, otherwise they keep their eyes closed. The system is non-functional and fully choked. It is a perfect example of the blind leading the blinding into darkness and chaos.

In the words of Lee Iacocca, the legendary US business leader; “Where is our outrage? Throw the bums out “. Kaptaan get the ‘ Container ‘ going, the ideologues are willing and ready to fight for real change this time around. After being deposed from power many fallen leaders have entered the political heartland of Pakistan, some to a hero’s welcome, while others in disgraceful retreat.

In 1977 when Bhutto landed in Lahore after being released from detention, the crowds were unending. From the airport to the Shadman residence of Nawab Sadiq Hussain Qureshi where he was staying, there was a sea of people. Occasionally he would come on the porch to wave, finally around midnight a request was made for the dispersal of his well-wishers who wanted to have a glimpse of their leader. After losing power, Nawaz Sharif traveled on the GT Road to rally his supporters but the show was disappointing. Indeed ideology lives on while power fades away. The Kaptaan’s welcome will be more like Bhutto’s as he too believes in change.

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Dr Farid A Malik
Dr Farid A Malik
The writer is ex-Chairman, Pakistan Science Foundation. He can be contacted at: [email protected].

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