Why is PTI popular?

Going according to merit is the root cause of the PTI’s popularity

Currently, a flurry of news is heard that there will be zero tolerance for the May 9 miscreants, May 9 would be observed as Black Day, and May 9 violence was planned and orchestrated. Similarly, opinions are bandied about trying miscreants under this or that Army Act.

Nevertheless, there is another side of the story. On May 9, people (as malefactors) vented their grievances against the State for oppression and for following colonial policies. People hate high offices making decisions and imposing the same on them. Just have a look at the following example.

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Associated with the PML(N), Malik Muhammad Rafique Rajwana remained Governor of Punjab (May 2015 – August 2018). As the Governor, Rajwana was also the Chancellor of the government-run universities, including the University of Health Sciences (UHS), Lahore. A (prospective) PhD student had grievances against the quality standards and research practices produced at the UHS and he had filed a written complaint. On 6 February 2017 at 1330 hours, Governor (or Chancellor) Rajwana invited the complainant for personal hearing, as per the law, at the Governor House Lahore. To hear the version of the UHS, Governor Rajwana also invited a representative of the then Vice Chancellor Professor General (retd) Mohammad Aslam. In the meeting, the University’s Registrar, Asad Zaheer, represented the VC UHS.

Right at the outset of the meeting with the complainant, Governor Rajwana said that he had read the whole case and there was no need for any further discussion. The Governor further said that he was ready to adopt all the points mentioned by the complainant and that he was ready to implement the suggestions in order to reform the system. The Governor also said that any system needed its flaws to be pointed out for improvement and someone had to do this job. The Governor expressed gratitude to the complainant for doing the job at the cost of his own time and money. The Governor also said that, though he had grown old, he was ready to improve himself by listening to a person younger to him and that there was no harm that a prospective PhD student was demanding improvement in the system before he started research as a PhD scholar.

When the Governor closed the meeting, Registrar Asad Zaheer invited the attention of the Governor towards the status of the VC UHS and offered the Governor an invitation card to chair a convention in the university. This was the turning point. Later on, to the utter dismay of the complainant, Governor (Chancellor) Rajwana dishonoured his own word by declaring in writing that he was not entitled to decide on the matter.

Nevertheless, the case lingered on. Associated with the PTI, Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar became the next Governor of Punjab (September 2018 – April 2022). The same case was presented before him. Governor Sarwar invited the complainant for a personal hearing on 23 September 2019 at 1200 hours at the Governor House, Lahore. From the UHS, a team of the Registrar office attended the meeting.

Governor Sarwar said that he had read the case thoroughly and that he would decide the case on merit after seeking the opinion of a third party, which could be the Higher Education Commission Punjab or the King Edward Medical University. Hearing this point, the team from the UHS Registrar office raised a hue and cry and laid emphasis on the status of the VC UHS– to pressurize the Governor to reject the complaint straightaway. Governor Sarwar refused to budge and said, “Look! I am here to serve the people. Though I am also a representative of a political party, I should not be forced to offer favour to the powerful. I am not afraid of any consequences. I should not be forced to violate any merit or law. I am not a part of any clique, and I don’t want to be. I want to work by my conscience.” With that, the meeting ended. Governor Sarwar honoured his word and did not submit to the force exerted by the UHS.

The stance of Governor Sarwar was admired by PhD students, who saw in him a person of integrity who did not submit to any pressure or enticement, and who followed merit strictly, irrespective of the consequences. Students saw a huge difference between the approach of a Governor associated with the PML(N) and a Governor associated with the PTI. By implication, there had been many more incidents where Governor Rajwana might have acquiesced but where Governor Sarwar did not yield to pressure or enticement.

The basis of unflinching loyalty of the youth (and people at large) with the PTI lies such incidents of following merit. No one from the public can hold Governor Rajwana answerable to his dishonouring his uttered words and this was the strength of the Governor owing to which he disrespected his words without any fear. 

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Apparently, such incidents take place in the confines of high-walled offices, but they get narrated in society to help its members think about the viability of one political party or the other. People make up their minds accordingly. The youth get impressed by political representatives who respect merit and law.

The basis of unflinching loyalty of the youth (and people at large) with the PTI lies such incidents of following merit. No one from the public can hold Governor Rajwana answerable to his dishonouring his uttered words and this was the strength of the Governor owing to which he disrespected his words without any fear. Inaccessibility to the public to the state officers and vulnerability of the public to the same high offices engender resentment which is vented by tearing apart and burning down any symbol of authority, as happened on May 9.

The point is this: the Army Act of any kind may put some people behind bars, but it cannot address the root cause. Can the Army Act of any kind hold people like Governor Rajwana accountable or appreciate Governor Sarwar for his deeds. The answer is in the negative.

Deceiving the public and siding with the powerful is a norm in society. People, especially the youth, abhor this nexus. Cheating the public is a crime; cheating the public with impunity is a bigger crime. Is there any law to correct this wrong?

In society, malaise is not superficial to be dealt with any Army Act; instead, malaise runs deep in society. Radical changes are required in the high offices which are notorious for being not answerable to the public. If the State wants to avert any next May 9, it has to make laws through which people could hold high offices answerable.

In short, the PTI is popular because its representatives took care of the sentiments of the youth and of those who wanted a change in society to challenge the high offices which were out of their access. Any effort to ban this party will be otiose.

Dr Qaisar Rashid
Dr Qaisar Rashid
The writer is a freelance journalist and can be reached at [email protected]


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